I WAS recently told about a visually-impaired person who wanted to apply for a job online.

They spent hours if not days trying to navigate web pages and attempting to create job profiles on sites that weren’t fit for someone with a visual impairment. After years of fruitless searching and applying, they eventually gave up and sought in-person advice. What should have been a straightforward task was instead hugely challenging, incredibly frustrating, and mentally draining. And for thousands of disabled people trying to find employment, it’s a problem they face every single day.

UK accessibility laws state every website should meet four key criteria – they should be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. However, too often I hear stories of disabled users unable to access websites because they aren’t compatible with screen readers, or fail to provide alternatives, like transcripts or audio descriptions.

Passion4Social recently carried out audits on the websites of businesses and organisations across Scotland and the UK, with the average business scoring 2.7 out of 5. There is a huge amount of work to be done, and it’s proving a barrier to disabled people finding routes into employment.

Around one in five working-age citizens in the UK have a disability, yet figures show there is currently around a 30% gap in the number of disabled people in roles compared to those who are non-disabled. With more people searching for job opportunities online than ever before, the business case for online accessibility has never been so clear. Ensuring websites are usable and accessible will help attract a more diverse talent pool and, as a result, businesses will undoubtedly reap the rewards.

Having more disabled people in posts can help businesses understand the needs of their whole workforce, while allowing people with a disability to thrive. With their input, the risk of inclusivity blind spots and biases become smaller and internal cultures strengthen. We’re also seeing increased demand for online and digital learning to develop employees in their roles.

Our Accessibility for All project began in October, and already we are working with organisations to help them tap into this undiscovered reservoir of talent. But while it’s great to see companies take initiative and invest in development, we can’t progress as a working society without going right back to basics, and ensuring online sites are accessible to everyone.

Businesses have a responsibility to make their digital offering as inclusive as possible. There really is no excuse any more – the pandemic highlighted the need for improved digital inclusion and while we did see advances in many areas, there is still a long way to go. We can’t afford to become complacent, because diversity, employment and innovation are key to solving the workforce challenges we face.

The Scottish Government is committed to providing everyone with the same employment chances, and creating accessibility online is the foundation of all of that. It’s the only way Scotland’s workforce will become representative of the people within it.

Katy Morrison is a Leadership Coach and Equality, Diversity and Inclusion lead at Connect Three, a Glasgow-based leadership company