A recent decision in favor of an individual with a disability who claimed that the website of Winn-Dixie - a large supermarket chain in the southeast - is not in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) will have far-reaching implications for retail as well as recruiting websites.
The visually impaired individual uses Winn-Dixie to purchase groceries and prescription drugs, and wants to use its website for refills and to find coupons. He can't see the computer screen but uses a screen reader software that tells the user details of each website and provides the user with keyboarding prompts. His software is unusable on the Winn-Dixie site.
The federal judge's decision in the Southern District of Florida found that the supermarket's website is heavily integrated with the physical store locations and therefore subject to the ADA. The decision found that Winn-Dixie violated ADA because the website is inaccessible, denying full and equal enjoyment of services and goods that are available to sighted customers.
Winn-Dixie Decision Extends to Recruiting Websites and Job Boards
This decision, if upheld, holds major consequences for U.S. retailers. They must upgrade their websites with technology to make them accessible to individuals with disabilities.
Website accessibility issues have been around since 1973, when Section 508 of the United States Workforce Rehabilitation Act required that electronic technology used or developed by the federal government be accessible to those with disabilities.
The ADA also has requirements that digital applications are accessible to individuals with disabilities upon request. But consider these facts about employing the disabled (data from HRDive.com):
- 20% of Americans have a disability.
- Only 20% of people with disabilities who are of working age are employed.
Individuals with disabilities are a rich source of talented and skilled workers who are underemployed. This group is underutilized in part because recruiting websites and electronic job boards are not always accessible.
Digital recruiting and hiring has overtaken traditional methods such as hard copy applications and newspaper job listings. But to reach individuals with disabilities, job sites must complement and work with tools such as voice assistive technology and other website access features.
Employers must keep accessibility in focus, not only to reach out to workers with disabilities who will enhance their workforce but also to comply with both Section 508 and the ADA. The need for accessibility extends past the hiring processes and also includes workplace physical accessibility, interviewing techniques, onboarding and intranet access.
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