What is LinkedIn?
LinkedIn is a popular social networking tool that focuses on professional contacts. It allows users to create an online personal résumé, add other people as professional connections, participate in work-related discussions and follow the events of various organisations.
As reported by Social Media News Australia in early 2016, LinkedIn remains Australia’s most popular business-related social media tool with nearly 4 million unique visitors locally and approximately 400 million users worldwide.
Why try LinkedIn?
LinkedIn is primarily used to share professional information with others online and to keep in touch with professional contacts. It can be beneficial to use LinkedIn if you wish to show your résumé to a potential employer, keep in touch with people in your own organisation or others you have worked with as part of your job. There is also the ability for your connections to recommend you, and likewise you can recommend others.
LinkedIn can be highly beneficial when looking for a job. User feedback from people with disabilities has indicated that one of the greatest benefits of LinkedIn is that it provides an easy way to put your skills online and direct employers to your résumé. In addition to keeping in touch with current and previous workplace contacts, there is also a limited free job search feature. Extra features are available for a subscription fee.
Here’s a quick tour of the most common LinkedIn features:
- Profile: this contains information about you, your current role and employer, your education and a summary of your career and professional associations. In essence your profile is an online résumé.
- My network: these are people that you have a professional connection with such as a colleague or a person that you have met through work. You can also send messages to your connections.
- Jobs: there is a limited free job search available.
- Interests: You can join a number of organisations on LinkedIn that discuss various topics.
- Extra features are available to paid members.
LinkedIn accessibility issues
The accessibility of the LinkedIn website has received a mixed response from users and testers. This was highlighted in research by Denis Boudreau (2011) who found that while LinkedIn was considered the most accessible of the popular social media websites at that time, it still had some significant accessibility issues relating to colour contrast and keyboard navigation, especially in relation to its search feature.
Today the opinions remained mixed. While other social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have seen significant accessibility improvements, LinkedIn remains challenging for a number of people with disabilities, particularly in relation to finding information and using the editing features.
There are, however, a number of ways in which issues can be overcome.
Overcoming LinkedIn accessibility issues: tips and tricks
The research conducted by Media Access Australia and feedback from LinkedIn users have provided some accessibility tips to help you get your LinkedIn account up and running.
Searching for connections made easier with Google search
Feedback from consumers with disabilities has indicated that searching for people to connect with on the LinkedIn website can be cumbersome if there are several people with the same name. This becomes less of an issue as you add more contacts, as LinkedIn can start to predict which contacts you are seeking based on location and work. However in the initial stages it can be difficult to determine which person is the one you are seeking.
An easier way may be to search for the person’s LinkedIn profile using Google. By searching in Google, you can use additional keywords to narrow down the correct person and then go straight to their LinkedIn profile. To do this:
- Go to the Google website: www.google.com.
- Search for the name of the person and the word LinkedIn with spaces between each word, e.g. ‘Joe Smith LinkedIn’. You could also add additional keywords such as the person’s occupation or location to narrow the search.
- Go to the search result of the person.
- On their LinkedIn page, select ‘Add to your network’.
Navigation tips for screen reader users
Extensive Bypass Blocks may assist with navigation. By typing 'Tab', users are able to open a keyboard controllable drop-down menu that can help to navigate around the website.
Finding professional connections if you can’t see their photo
When you search for a name, it is likely that the first search results will be people closest related to your work, or who have a contact in common with you.
LinkedIn apps for iOS and Android
Media Access Australia and users from AppleVis suggest that the official LinkedIn app on both iOS and Android is relatively accessible.
Contacting LinkedIn Support
LinkedIn provides a number of online support resources to help new users and contact information via https://help.linkedin.com/app/home. LinkedIn is also active on Twitter and can be contacted by sending tweets to @LinkedIn.
Following accessibility discussions using LinkedIn
One of the great things about LinkedIn is being able to follow and participate in online discussion with organisations on particular issues. There are a number of organisations and professional associations that look at accessibility issues and use LinkedIn as a way to communicate. LinkedIn accessibility-related resources include:
- Mobile Handheld and technology accessibility forum
- Web accessibility group
- IBM accessibility
- World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)
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