From the desk of Beth Loy, Ph.D., Principal Consultant/Technical Specialist
Many employers are using online applications systems these days and many try to make sure that these systems are accessible to applicants with disabilities. However, even with built-in accessibility features, there will be times when an applicant with a disability will not be able to use the system and will need an accommodation from the employer. When this happens, the applicant needs to know how to, and who to, ask for an accommodation.
What’s the best way to make sure applicants get the information they need regarding accommodation requests? One of the best ways is to include a statement within the application system explaining to applicants how to request an accommodation. The statement should be on a primary page, such as the first page of the system, and within 2 clicks of any other pages off the primary page. In other words, put the statement on the first page and on lots of other pages so it’s easy to find. The statement should be accessible before any job descriptions can be accessed.
And what should the statement include? It should include a general statement about reasonable accommodation, a contact person or department’s name, and multiple ways of contacting that person or department.
Here are some sample statements as a starting point:
If you are a qualified individual with a disability or a disabled veteran, you may request a reasonable accommodation if you are unable or limited in your ability to access job openings or apply for a job on this site as a result of your disability. You can request reasonable accommodations by contacting _________ (person or department) at _________ (phone, tty, fax, email, etc.).
Applicants with disabilities may contact (company or agency name) coordinators via telephone, fax, e-mail, and other means to request and arrange for accommodations. If you need assistance to accommodate a disability, you may request an accommodation at any time. Please contact the (company or agency name) at (contact information).
What should applicants do if they can’t find an accommodation statement on an employer’s online application system or the employer doesn’t include information about how to request an accommodation? One thing applicants can do is contact the company directly and talk to someone in human resources. They should explain that they are trying to apply for a job, but cannot access the online system because of a disability. If they have a preferred method for submitting an application (e.g., getting a paper copy, having someone read the online application and fill in the answers, etc.), they should let the human resource representative know what they prefer.
Online application systems are probably going to be around for a while, at least until some new technology replaces them. Employers covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). and/or Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act have a duty to make sure applicants with disabilities have an equal opportunity to apply for jobs. Making the online system accessible and then prominently displaying an accommodation statement is a good way to start meeting that duty.