In order to comply with the new Equality Act 2010 recruiters have been urged to make on-line application processes more accessible to individuals with disabilities.
It is unlawful for organisation to treat disabled candidates in a less favorable manner than when short listing or selecting, this means that every step of the recruitment process from filling out the application from to attending an email has to be easily accessible to anyone with a classified disability, this includes online recruitment.
In order to comply with the new legislations employers may have to adjust their usual website, which may also mean providing an auxiliary aid for disabled website users.
The new law lowers the threshold at which the obligation to make “reasonable adjustments” arises. Previously, reasonable adjustments were required only where a practice, policy or procedure made it “impossible or unreasonably difficult” for disabled people to apply for job vacancies online. The test is now whether a disabled person is placed at a “substantial disadvantage”. The change may make employers and website owners more vulnerable to discrimination claims from both potential and actual job applicants.
What is “reasonable” depends on the service offered, the effectiveness of the adjustment in overcoming the disability, its cost and the resources available to the service provider to make it.
Crucially, employers and website owners must ensure recruitment information is in an accessible format. For example, they may have to make content available in varying text sizes, colours or fonts, or as an audio file.
The new legislation makes it clear that service providers cannot pass on the cost of making reasonable adjustments to users, so charging a visually-impaired candidate for a Braille application form will be unlawful.
Various best practice guides will emerge as the new act beds down. One example is the British standard on web accessibility, expected from the BSI in November. The draft has helpful suggestions for compliance, such as appointing an individual or department to oversee website accessibility; involving disabled people in website development; and considering the needs of users with specific physical or learning disabilities. Although not legally binding, compliance with the standard will be helpful evidence in the event of a legal challenge.