How to Provide Website Accessibility for Ontarians
Is your website AODA compliant? Are you scratching your head asking “What is AODA compliance?” We get that a lot, which is why we decided to create this comprehensive guide to help public sector organizations and website owners in Ontario, Canada understand Ontario’s accessibility compliance standards and how it applies to their site.
In this guide, you will learn what AODA means and whether your site is following AODA website compliance and accessibility requirements and also how to generate website accessibility compliance reports. If your site is flagged for non-compliance, this article will help walk you through the accessibility policies and regulations defined by the Government of Ontario, as well as the timeline for compliance deadlines and consequences that could befall your organization.
What is AODA Compliance?
The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act or AODA for short was established in 2005 to ensure that all Ontarians had equal access to resources, including online resources. The goal of these important web content accessibility guidelines is to remove any barriers that people may encounter due to a disability, both mental and physical when consuming websites and web content.
There are 6.2 million people in Canada who have a disability that can create difficulties accessing resources daily. Ontario’s goal is to have equal accessibility for all residents across all public and private service spaces by 2025.
The AODA does not replace the Ontario Human Rights Code that is already in place or WCAG accessibility standards, but further ensures that any public sector organizations, businesses or non-profits that have 50 employees or more adhere to accessibility law and honour disabled people’s rights by making explicit guidelines.
Why is AODA Important?
AODA is essential to create equal opportunities for all people living in the province of Ontario. In the past decade, online resources have become increasingly more popular to find information. People with a need to know use the internet to search for jobs, find information on laws and regulations, research information, and more.
Websites can be quite challenging to use and navigate if you have a disability that impairs vision, hearing, or motor skills. These barriers mean that these individuals cannot access the tremendous amount of information found on company websites, thus drastically limiting their resources. This is the fundamental need for the existence and enforcement of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act,
People with a disability that limits or hinders their facilities or ability to receive services or access information from public and private websites are not afforded the same opportunities. This disparity does not comply with human rights, equality laws and guidelines.
What are the AODA Standards?
The standards and regulations for AODA compliance differ depending on your company’s size and the information or services your business provides in the province of Ontario. These regulations require businesses and organizations in the private and non-profit sector with 50 or more employees to make sure they perform a compliance report and adhere to the Ontarians with Disabilities Act by January 1, 2021.
All websites must follow the regulations provided by the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines also known as WCAG 2 0. These guidelines help companies and website owners create websites and web content that is widely accessible to people with disabilities. A good example would be including larger text or a text resizer and accessibility for screen readers to provide audio playback for vision-impaired people.
If you want to make sure that your site is following these regulations and is AODA compliant, you can enter your URL into this website offered by the World Wide Web Consortium to asses web accessibility. The website will do a free diagnostic accessibility report within 36 hours of submission to help you assess your website compliance. The AODA website also has an audit option for those that require a full accessibility compliance report, but it will cost you a few bucks. You can get a free quote for your business here.
AODA regulations fall into three different categories:
- Information and Communications;
- Customer Service; and
- Employment Standards.
Information and Communications
Any public communication on your website, including videos, PDFs, and apps, must be accessible to people with disabilities when requested and with no added cost. This includes enlarged text size, audio descriptions, the ability to skip to content, pause and rewatch video content, and keyboard accessible navigation.
If your business provides goods or services, these resources must also be equally accessible to people with disabilities under the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. This includes e-commerce websites and online shopping. Your website must be understandable and easy to navigate by customers.
Any chat services must also be in regulation and provide technological assistance for people with difficulty typing, seeing, or using a mouse.
Employees of businesses and organizations in the province of Ontario must be notified of these changes and informed that your website will now meet AODA compliance and provide accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities. Employees must have proper training, so employees know how to access and make these changes to the website.
These accessibility requirements also include employees who have disabilities. This means any technology used to create or manage your business website must be usable to employees with disabilities.
AODA Compliance Checklist
The Ontario Government website includes a guide on how to make your website and main content accessible in all browsers. Below is a high-level checklist to give you an idea of what your website will need to meet the accessibility requirements and pass a compliance test.
- Non-text content must have text alternatives, including pictures and videos for users.
- Time-based media must have the ability to be paused or stopped by users.
- Options for visual and audio features for all content and presented in a simple manner.
- All content must be understandable without relying on colour or design. You must minimize background sound in audio content as much as possible.
- All web page content must be keyboard accessible.
- Timed-content must give users enough time to read and comprehend the material.
- Avoid visuals that are known to cause seizures among individuals.
- All links, menus, and titles must be self-explanatory and have explicit purposes for users.
- All text must have the option to be enlarged for easy readability.
- Web pages and related technologies must be predictable and clearly state their purpose.
- Support and assistance must be available to help or correct any mistakes or errors.
This list is not fully comprehensive, and more information can be found on the Ontario government site to ensure your site meets proper compliance as outlined by the accessibility directorate.
When Will AODA Compliance Go into Effect?
The first deadlines have already passed! As of January 1, 2014, all significantly refreshed websites and web content posted after January 1st, 2012, must meet the WCAG Level A compliance standards.
AODA compliance for all websites will go into effect on January 1st, 2021, and follow WCAG Level AA standards. Any website content published after 2012 must also be revised to follow AODA regulations by this date.
The AODA regulations are mandatory for all websites that fall under the website type and size requirements. Websites that do not adhere to these compliance regulations may face up to a $100,000 fine for each day they are out of compliance.
Find an Accessibility Solution
AODA compliance is an essential step to equal accessibility for Ontarians, including residents with disabilities. This drive for compliance opens up many online resources that may not have been available for people with disabilities in the past. For more in-depth information about the AODA regulation, see the AODA website.
To learn more about how we weave accessibility standards and best practices into our custom web design process, contact us today.
Originally published at https://parachutedesign.ca on October 18, 2020.