Making Onboarding Accessible for People With Disabilities
Learn how you can help every new hire feel welcome by creating accessible onboarding materials and building a culture of inclusivity.
When organizations shifted to remote or hybrid work models during the COVID-19 pandemic, it removed some of the barriers — from busy office environments to the cost of daily commuting — that have traditionally made it harder for people with disabilities to find steady employment.
In recent months, people with disabilities have reported not only getting more job offers, but ones with better pay and increased flexibility. This is an important step toward a more inclusive workforce, but it does raise a big question for employers.
How accessible is your onboarding experience?
In this post, we share tips on how you can help every new hire feel welcome by making your onboarding materials accessible and building a culture of inclusivity. (As an added bonus, focusing on these areas can also pay dividends for existing employees.)
1. Make Sure All Onboarding Materials Are Accessible
There’s always a little extra stress on the first day of a new job. Not only are you trying to memorize everyone’s name and decipher a dozen acronyms that everyone keeps using, but you’re also trying to learn about your company’s positioning, customers, industry, and competition.
Often, this is accomplished through a library of self-serve resources — from sales decks and internal wikis to training videos and PDFs. But what if all of these assets are missing alt text for graphics and visual aids, or captions for any audio content?
Here are four tips to help you create more accessible training materials:
1. Add Image Alternative Text to All Visuals
When it comes to designing slide decks and presentations, most best practice guides tell you to use plenty of graphics and visual aids.
Unfortunately, images, graphics, charts, GIFs, and videos aren’t all that helpful for people with visual impairments, if they aren’t backed by descriptive image alternative text, or alt text.
Adding alt text to each of your graphics can help make sure that key information — whether it’s a logo strip of current customers or details on market sizing or annual revenue — aren’t lost to people who cannot perceive images visually.
2. Add Captions to All Video Content
For all video content, make sure that you provide captions and, as needed, audio descriptions of what’s happening on screen.
Audio description provides information about relevant actions, characters, scene changes, and on-screen text that is not described or spoken in the main soundtrack. These descriptions are inserted into natural pauses in the video’s dialogue, and can make video more accessible to people who are blind or have low vision.
3. Set the Reading Order of All Slide Content
Some people with visual impairments use screen readers to read the information on a slide. By default, screen readers will read objects on a slide in the order they were added — which is not necessarily the logical reading order.
You can avoid confusion by setting the order in which objects on a slide are read. The name of this function varies depending on the tool you’re using, but it’s often called something like Reading Order (PowerPoint) or Arrange > Order (Google Slides).
4. Be Careful About Overcrowding Slides
If you catch yourself shrinking text or playing Tetris just to make all of the info on a slide fit, it’s a good sign that your slide is overcrowded. This can be a problem for every reader, but it’s especially problematic for people with dyslexia (by far the most common learning disability) or low vision.
As a general rule, we recommend using sans serif fonts that are 18 pt or larger and making white space a priority. Click here to learn more about what businesses get wrong about designing for dyslexia.
2. Make Accessibility a Day One Priority
In the age of remote work, HR teams have worked overtime to build — and maintain — strong company cultures.
However, these policies and programs aren’t always built with accessibility in mind. Here are two things you can do to make sure that every new hire feels supported:
1. Audit Your Tools for Accessibility
Most organizations today rely on video conferencing software and collaboration tools like Slack to not only manage day-to-day work, but also build relationships.
You can help promote a culture of inclusivity by auditing your tools for accessibility and sharing accessibility best practices with your entire organization.
For example, any video conferencing software you use should include features like live captioning, text-to-speech translation, and recording capabilities.
Additionally, you can help foster a culture of inclusivity by encouraging employees to follow accessibility best practices, whether it’s saying names before speaking on a video call or adding alt text to any images you share on a messaging app.
2. Give People an Easy Way To Request Accommodations
As more organizations begin to implement return-to-work programs, it’s important to give people an easy way to request accommodations.
It’s equally important to remember that not everyone with a disability wants to disclose it publicly. Depending on the size of your organization, you may want to establish policies that let people go directly to HR with any requests.
Want to learn more about what it’s like to request an accommodation? Check out this post by AudioEye’s Mariella Paulino, which discusses how technology has helped change the conversation around accommodations.
Ready to start building digital accessibility into your organization? Here’s a list of resources from AudioEye's Accessibility Evangelist Alisa Smith, CPACC:
- Working Together: Deaf & Hearing People (free online course)
- How to Host Effective and Accessible Online Meetings
- JAN-Job Accommodations Network, a federal program offering free accommodations advice for employees and employers
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