This July marks the 32nd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) becoming law. Title I of this civil rights law prohibits employers with 15 or more employees from discriminating against applicants and employees based on a disability. It also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodation to qualified applicants and employees.
The majority of the U.S. workforce has not known a world without the ADA and it is easy to take its protections for granted, even as that world evolves. As we celebrate the anniversary of the ADA, organizations should pause to determine if there are any accessibility or program access issues for job applicants or employees. In today’s digital age, this includes reviewing websites (career portals to intranet tools) and live and online meeting invitations and delivery formats as well as looking at other processes and procedures through the lens of inclusion for people with any type of disability. Here are some examples of steps to take on the journey toward full inclusion:
- Appoint someone as an ADA Coordinator/Ambassador.
- Review/update all digital properties, including 3rd party software platforms for usability and accessibility levels.
- Develop/deploy/socialize your organization’s process on where to request accommodations and how your interactive process is handled. Define variables for decisions, research, trials, and how/when employees can expect communications to occur.
- Request feedback from all employees regarding current accessibility and access to programs (roughly 80% of disabilities are “non-apparent,” therefore, many workers with disabilities may be in your organization and could benefit from an accommodation, yet they do not know how or where to ask).
- Prior to meetings, offer to honor any requests for reasonable accommodations. Always offer to accommodate. Give a deadline to reply and know how to schedule external vendors such as an American Sign Language Interpreter, a CART captioning provider, or a designated notetaker.
- Develop and use captioning standards for meetings, trainings, and videos. Decision points exist regarding choice of auto captions, professional transcribers, open or closed (user-enabled) captions. Pick a method of including captions to increase overall accessibility. Be ready to be flexible to alter your standard, if/when a reasonable request for an individual accommodation is issued.
- Deploy practices for accessible communication such as:
- Utilize accessibility checker features found in MS Office applications;
- Label all images with alternative text descriptions;
- Check online response forms for usability/accessibility standards (or offer an alternative means to the “online registration” tool);
- Check readability statistics to ensure content is generated at a level that matched the reading level of the intended audience;
- When conducting web-based meetings or training, offer a means to request an accommodation ahead of time in all invitations to meet.
- Train managers and human resources personnel regularly on basic awareness, etiquette/sensitivity as well as ADA requirements so that handling of accommodation requests can be seamless.
- Host employee awareness demonstrations such as “service animal etiquette,” how to use various types of assistive devices, info sessions on differing communication requirements for those who are deaf or hard of hearing (device demos of public access tools like the CapTel phone, the UbiDuo, Video’s on basic ASL, etc.)
We invite you to our upcoming webinar featuring Janet Fiore, CEO of The Sierra Group, creator of the DisabilityRecruiter© Certification, and champion for disability inclusion and employment practices consultant since 1992. Janet will be joined by Julia Mendez Achee, Senior Consultant with Biddle Consulting Group, Inc. to discuss “The ADA and Your Workforce: Accommodations and Digital Accessibility”. Register for this July 13, 2022 event.
Have questions? A Biddle Consulting Group representative will be happy to discuss any questions you have about this post or other AAP/EEO compliance concerns. Call us at (800) 999-0438 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you to our expert and special guest co-author, Janet Fiore, CEO of The Sierra Group.