Accessibility for employee-exclusive digital content

Published March 22, 2023

When discussing digital accessibility, the focus is usually on having a user-friendly and inclusive site to engage with current and potential customers or clients — but it’s important to consider accessibility for employees.

Legally, employees are not required to mention disability while being considered for a job, on a resume, cover letter or other application materials, or during the interview. It is considered a disability if a person has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, such as walking, hearing, seeing, speaking, learning, or performing manual tasks.

With that in mind, you can have someone on your staff with a disability. For employees to adequately do their jobs and excel in their careers, there needs to be equity in the digital realm. There have even been lawsuits against employee-specific software companies.

  • In 2020, The National Federation of the Blind sued Epic Systems, claiming its software is inaccessible to blind users, violating Massachusetts law (this law applies to state and local government employers and private employers with 15 or more employees). While Epic was found “not liable,” the case was still able to shine a light on the shortcomings of accessibility.

  • Another 2020 lawsuit accused Automatic Data Processing Inc. (ADP), a human-resources software company, of failing to make its products accessible to people who are blind or have low vision. They eventually reached a settlement.

These two lawsuits show that employee-only products and software must also be accessible. Especially with accessibility lawsuits rising to over 3,500 cases in 2020 — almost ten lawsuits filed every business day (UsableNet). Lawsuits aren’t just time-consuming and costly; they can also damage your business's reputation. 

Common trends seen in these lawsuits include barriers

  • Poor color contrast

  • The use of color alone to give information

  • Lack of text alternative text on images

  • No captions on videos

  • Inaccessible online forms

  • Lack of keyboard navigation

Here is guidance to keep in mind when creating employee-exclusive documents, apps, or portals:

    • Always include the alternative text: Always add descriptive, straight-to-the point language to any pictures, charts, or graphs.

    • Have an accessible layout: Be mindful of color contrast (minimum recommended color contrast is 4.5 to 1), use easy-to-read sans-serif fonts size 12 or higher, clearly label links, and avoid relying on color to convey meaning for those who are color blind or visually impaired.

    • Use headings: This is a great way to break up points and sections in your document for all readers, especially those using screen readers. 

    • Make lists: Use bullet points or numbers to break up content. This also helps make complex or heavily detailed content easier to read and digest and works well for those using screen readers. 

  • Use an accessibility checker: Software programs like Word have built-in accessibility-checking features that will flag any accessibility-related inconsistencies in your document with an explanation of the issues and how to fix them.  

  • Facilitate a customizable experience: Offering an alternative style sheet so users can enlarge font size if needed without breaking the page layout. The site also needs to be keyboard accessible since blind and visually impaired users do not use a mouse to browse a site. 

Set your employees up for success by keeping accessibility at the forefront of your mind when creating a document as a guide, reference sheet, or just a general way to get a digital message across to employees.


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