Information Technology (IT) Accessibility: Implications for Employment of People with Disabilities

Susanne M. Bruyère

Online technology has made significant inroads into human resource (HR) processes such as recruitment, benefits information dissemination, and training, yet many websites are inaccessible to people with disabilities. Cornell University reviewed the accessibility of job boards and corporate E-recruiting websites, and surveyed 433 HR representatives regarding their organizations’ use of information and web technology in HR processes. Survey results report that nine of the ten organizations use Web processes for job postings, eight of ten for online benefits information dissemination, and about six out of ten for online benefits self service and online employee training. Employee use of computers was extensive as well, with the majority of employees in the organizations using computers more than half the workday. However, knowledge of various assistive technologies for computer users with disabilities and of web accessibility considerations was low. Despite the low level of knowledge regarding assistive technologies and web accessibility, nearly half of the respondents reported having made some type of adaptation to make a computer accessible to an employee with a disability. Most of the adaptations were directed towards making the workstation itself accessible for wheelchair users, but also included the purchase of special input devices (ergonomic keyboards, voice recognition software, an ergonomic mouse) and adaptations for employees with visual impairments (i.e. screen magnifiers, large monitors). This information relates to Universal Design and Technology in that these and other needed computer and web/IT accessibility accommodations are ones which easily generalize to an aging workforce with increasing visual, hearing, and dexterity limitations.

Presentation Slides:
Slides 1-11
Slides 12-22

Susanne M. Bruyère, Ph.D., CRC, is Director of the Employment and Disability Institute and Professor of Disability Studies at Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations - Extension Division. She is currently Project Director and Co-Principal Investigator of numerous employment and educational disability nondiscrimination studies that focus on the potential impact of information technology (IT) and web-based applications as barriers to access for people with disabilities: a Research and Demonstration project in collaboration with the Society for Human Resource Management on employment practices covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); a Mary E. Switzer Distinguished Research Fellowship to conduct a comparative study of employer practices under the ADA and the Disability Discrimination Act in Britain; a study of federal agency equal employment and human resource practices for people with disabilities; and a study of IT use in student processes in community colleges.

Presentation from the 'Workplace Accommodations: State of the Science' conference, September 15-16, 2005, Atlanta, GA