In 2019, over 19% of new employees had disabilities, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Labor reported that almost 56% of employed people ages 16-64 have some type of disability. Taking these staggering statistics into account, it is highly likely that there will be at least one employee in your office who has a disability. Because of this, it is extremely important to follow ADA guidelines to ensure that all employees are equipped with the proper tools and recommended accessibility options to be comfortable and successfully complete their jobs. Without taking the following steps and regulations into consideration, employees are unable to enter an equal opportunity workspace, making it more difficult for them to go about their daily tasks. The following are areas of compliance that your office must uphold.
QA, also known as Quality Assurance, is a necessity for producing high-quality software applications. Maintaining a robust QA process helps ensure quality compliance within your company and enables your business to uphold its desired standard for the quality of work produced or service provided. With proper software QA standards in place, your employees, both with and without disabilities, are protected — as these guidelines help to proactively prevent mistakes or defects that may negatively affect customers and their opinions of the overall quality of your product or service.
The ADA, known as the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, prevents discrimination based on any disability. These standards extend into the workplace. Also, the ADA reaches into the realm of electronic information technology, including websites, which must be fully accessible to people with disabilities. This wide scope applies to:
- State and local government
- Public and private sectors
- Building codes
When complying with ADA regulations, it is also recommended to follow Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) because their initiatives will help make your website user friendly to visitors with a handicap or impairment. WCAG aligns with ADA standards in order to be better understood by all employees with a disability.
Through cooperative efforts from other countries, WCAG was established to help make web content more accessible to employees with disabilities. We all share the common goal of providing website accessibility to all who need it. Therefore, when constructing a new website or software application, developers must consider how they can effectively produce and communicate information such as text, images, and sounds to those with disabilities. WCAG is best suited for the following professionals:
- Web content developers
- Web tool developers
- Web accessibility evaluation tool developers
- Mobile accessibility developers
Hearing Impairment Compliance
When an employee suffers from a hearing impairment, they often may not hear or be able to understand the necessary information to do all aspects of their job. In fact, the Hearing Health Foundation has reported that an estimated 24% of people in the workplace have some type of hearing loss. In line with the ADA, a few reasonable accommodations should be made to help those with hearing loss. These are:
Assistive computer software: Specific to telecommunications, you can offer a relay service to provide text transcription of phone calls. This will be especially useful for work-related videos and meetings for which a hearing-impaired employee cannot be present.
Assistive listening devices: This can be achieved with a personal FM system, which will enable your hearing-impaired employees to hear anyone speaking by placing a receiver against their ear.
Work area relocation: Based upon their physical location in your office, those with hearing impairments may be unable to work efficiently in a noisy setting. You may need to move them to a quieter location for better focus and productivity.
Vision Impairments Compliance
While some visual impairments have been acknowledged by the ADA, others have not. In fact, the corrective benefits of both eyeglasses and contact lenses are considered when establishing a visual impairment. There are approximately 285 million visually impaired people in the world, and 39 million of them are blind. Below are a few suggested accommodations for companies to implement:
Screen reading software: For those who are unable to see much of the computer screen at all, there are software programs that help employees read more clearly off the screen. This will not only help with seeing text, but also with comprehending it.
Magnifiers: For those who can see most of the text on a computer screen, but still need that extra boost, magnifiers can be put in place to help enlarge the text on the screen. This will make it easier for your visually impaired employees to conduct their daily tasks without experiencing eye strain.
Braille displays/embossers: Not only should Braille be placed in most public facilities, but it should also be present on technological tools such as computer monitors and desk areas.
Color Blindness Options
Although vision impairments are taken into consideration under the ADA, color blindness has been overlooked. In fact, appellate courts and the ADA have not found color blindness to directly affect work productivity. However, other courts have investigated the situation because it has prevented potential employees from being hired. With seeing color sometimes being essential to a job, like one in the fashion industry, there are many who are unable to work efficiently in certain environments. An estimated 5-10% of the U.S. population is colorblind. Though not federally mandated, web developers should consider using the following guidelines to accommodate colorblind employees:
Only use color when needed: Not every aspect of a website or business software needs to include color. In fact, most text does not require color. By making the font black, most colorblind employees will be able to effectively interact with the text.
Accompany color with symbols: For software that must use color, place symbols next to text or pictures. That way, colorblind employees will not miss out on the conveyed message. This will allow them to take part in meetings, interact, and offer input.
Utilize patterns and textures: If color is necessary for the illustration of a chart or graph, utilize patterns and textures as well. This enables colorblind employees to decipher the difference, especially when it comes to examining data.
Carefully contrast colors: For companies that must utilize color because it is essential to their business, carefully contrast the color shades to make it easier for your colorblind employees to decipher the difference when placed side by side. Colorblind employees can differentiate darker shades from lighter hues.
Though some guidelines like the ADA are federally mandated and some are just recommended, ensuring your company makes the necessary accommodations for your employees with disabilities should rank as a high priority. Maintaining process compliance and full disability accessibility will encourage an equal opportunity workplace in which all of your employees can thrive.