Introduction and Explanation
I am noticing what may be a new and problematic trend in the way that Web sites which offer career listings are displaying their search results, which can have a negative impact on users of screen readers. I often visit these Web sites to copy links to job listings on some of the mailing lists to which I’m subscribed.
In order to provide a familiar comparison most of us have likely navigated search engines with a screen reader. As an example, when you perform a search on Google you probably know that you are able to navigate the results page by moving from one heading to the next, which is accomplished by pressing the letter H when using the majority of screen readers. As each search result contains a heading tag you can simply press the letter H to move from one search result to the next. Pressing shift+h allows you to navigate in reverse. This is not the only way to navigate a page containing search results but it is probably one of the most efficient methods which can be used.
For years, the majority of Web sites which specialize in job listings used the same markup on their results page. I have used these sites for over a decade and many of them allowed heading navigation to be used. This was, as you can imagine, extremely convenient as you could easily and quickly move from one search result to the next.
Indeed is a well-known site which allows you to search for, browse and apply for open positions. It had always used headings to separate one job listing from another, allowing a screen reader user to quickly navigate from one job listing to the next.
A few weeks ago I noticed that heading navigation was no longer an option when navigating the search results on this Web site. The links themselves were accessible and my screen reader could speak them with no difficulty but headings had disappeared in the search results. This is problematic for several reasons.
First, they do allow filtering options to be navigated by heading. Therefore, pressing H to move forward through headings will take you to options such as salary estimate, job type, location, company, etc. At the time of this writing the last heading on an Indeed.com search results page is Experience Level. If you press H again you will either be told that no more headings exist or, if you’re using JAWS with its default settings enabled, you will be wrapped back to the top and your focus will be placed at the first heading on the page, which will be a level 1 heading containing the beginning of the main content. Users who are not expecting this behavior will find this a bit surprising and somewhat disconcerting.
Here is how you have to locate the first search result on the page with its current implementation. First, you have to navigate to the last heading on the page, which is Experience Level. The quickest way to do this is to press ctrl+end to move your virtual cursor to the bottom of the page and then press shift+H, which moves your cursor to the last heading on the page. Next, move down by several links and you will eventually find the link containing the first job listing, above the words “page 1 of xxx jobs” where xxx contains the amount of total pages containing your results. You could also move to the top of the page and search for the word “page” which would likely take you to the “page x of xxx jobs” text. The point I’m trying to make is that neither of these options are obvious, intuitive or efficient and screen reader users should not have to do this in order to efficiently navigate a page containing search results.
At the risk of belaboring this point even further navigation is also not efficient because, since I can no longer navigate by headings to jump from one result to the next, I am now forced to navigate from one link to the next and each job listing is comprised of four links, such as the job title, the name of the company, the page containing reviews of that company and a link for saving the job. The link containing reviews is also poorly labeled, with a title like “3.6”, which I assume is the average of the amount of ratings the company received. It goes without saying that I should not have to navigate four links to move from one search result to the next and I felt that contacting Indeed Support was in order.
Contacting Indeed Support
I sent Indeed a tweet and asked them to reinstate heading navigation.
“@Indeed You recently removed headings which were located at the beginning of each job listing in the search results. This change makes navigation with a screen reader a bit more inefficient. Would you please reinstate headings to allow for heading navigation?”
Here is the response I received from @indeedsupport.
“@DavidGoldfield Hi David, you could visit our website through an incognito/private window and it will bring up the previous layout. ^DR”
This response is, in my opinion, almost laughable and is hardly what I would call a reasonable solution. I wrote back with the following response, comprising two separate tweets.
“@IndeedSupport 1/That’s good to know but most users aren’t going to think of launching your site in incognito mode just to have an interface that uses heading navigation. Can’t you offer this as an option? It makes it easier to navigate from one search result to the next.”
“@IndeedSupport 2/Most Web sites displaying search results group each result by heading. I’m sorry but it just isn’t reasonable to tell a screen reader user that they must launch a site using incognito mode in order to have this capability.”
Here is their response.
“@DavidGoldfield We appreciate you sharing this feedback with us, David. While our team does not have a way to change the layout we can assure you we will pass this feedback over to our team internally. ^TC”
I think that what they were trying to convey was that the support team was unable to change the layout of the site but that they would send my feedback to the appropriate team that could make the necessary change.
Careerbuilder Is Even Worse
I decided to visit other sites containing job listings just to prove that similar Web sites list their search results by headings. I was in for a bit of a surprise.
Not only did the search results for Careerbuilder not contain headings to separate one listing from the next but the actual links for the job listings were not consistently being identified as links when using JAWS. When I move link by link using JAWS 2020 with the “any link” hotkey (undefined by default) I was unable to locate the links containing a label with the job listing. If I moved line by line the links were identified when I moved to them with up arrow but navigating with down arrow just read the link as nonactionable plain text. The “any link” hotkey did locate links to the job listing page but those links were not properly labeled. No headings existed to separate one search result from the next.
Monster: An Example of A Results Page Done Correctly
Thankfully, Monster’s search result page is nicely laid out, allowing me to move from one search result to the next with heading navigation. JAWS detected a read-only field for entering a job title on the main page prior to the actual edit box for entering this information which did confuse me but, overall, the site is navigable.
What Can We Do?
If you feel that these issues are important I am asking that you contact Indeed and Careerbuilder to alert them of these problems and to let them know that heading navigation needs to be reinstated on search result pages to ensure quick and efficient navigation for users of screen readers. While we need to keep these messages polite and respectful we also need to remember that these are not feature requests and our messaging should indicate the necessity of heading navigation. Accessibility is a necessity and not a feature or an option. Here is some contact information for these sites.
Contact Form (which also contains no level 1 heading to quickly move to the main content)
Contact Form (also containing no headings) https://www.fuzeqna.com/careerbuilder/consumer/question.asp
I have not visited other career Web sites to see if their results pages are using headings. It is possible that Indeed and Careerbuilder are in the minority when it comes to this oversight. However, even if this is true these two sites are major, well-known players in the job listings space and it is critical that blind job seekers have proper access to them. I am hoping that if enough people contact these organizations to respectfully express their concerns this problem may well be quickly and satisfactorily resolved.