As an Ontario business owner, you may be aware of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). In recent years you may have, in fact, made changes to your policies, communications, and even your physical workspace to comply with this legislation. But did you know that AODA also applies to your company website and other digital communications?
The integrated accessibility requirements for AODA are broken down into five major categories, which are:
- Information and Communications
- Customer Service
- Design of Public Spaces
Requirements for company websites and web content are included in the Information and Communications Standards, Customer Service Standards and in some cases, Employment Standards. For many of your customers and potential customers, having a website that they can read and understand is just as important as having a physical location that is easily accessible.
AODA came into effect in 2017 intending to make products and services more accessible for persons with disabilities across Ontario by 2025. The legislation does not require instant transformation but rather requires implementation through various stages, each with its own deadline.
The next important deadline for AODA in terms of digital accessibility is January 1, 2021. As of this date, organizations with 50 or more employees in Ontario must ensure that all web content posted since January 1, 2012, meets the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA, except for live captions and pre-recorded audio descriptions.
About WCAG 2.0
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 is the accepted standard for making websites and web content accessible for people with disabilities. These standards are managed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), which consists of an international team of experts.
WCAG 2.0 has three levels: A, AA, and AAA, with A being the most basic for website accessibility and AAA being the highest standard.
Who needs to comply with AODA and WCAG 2.0?
All public sector organizations as well as private organizations and non-profit organizations in Ontario that employ 50 or more people are required to comply with WCAG 2.0 Level AA. If your organization meets these criteria, you must ensure you comply to avoid potentially costly fines.
Self-employed individuals and those who employ less than 50 people are exempt. However, with over 6 million Canadians having some form of disability, it is in the best interest of all business owners to comply with the guidelines.
Individuals with disabilities represent over $50 billion in buying power in Canada. In Ontario, there are 2.6 million people with disabilities, which represents about 24% of the population (Source: Accessibility is Good for Business). The advantage of making your business accessible is clear.
Who do these standards help?
WCAG 2.0 guidelines are meant to make websites more accessible for individuals with a variety of disabilities, including blindness or low vision, deafness or hard of hearing, cognitive disabilities, limited mobility, difficulty in speaking, and photosensitivity.
Measures may range from ensuring video content has closed captions to allowing the user to adjust the font size or alter the layout completely. Websites also need to be compatible with most assistive technologies such as screen readers, speech input software and alternative input devices, including head pointers and eye trackers.
What does my website need to be compliant?
WCAG 2.0 operates under four principles. These principles state that to be accessible a website must be:
- Perceivable – guidelines related to this include text alternatives such as large text, speech or Braille, alternatives for time-based media, ability to change the layout, and tools that make it easier for users to see and hear content.
- Operable – this includes making functionality available from a keyboard, ensuring users have enough time to read/use the content, avoiding content that may cause seizures, and providing tools that help users navigate the website and find the content they are seeking.
- Understandable – this includes ensuring that text is readable and can be understood, ensuring that a webpage operates in predictable ways, and taking measures to help users avoid and correct mistakes.
- Robust – Finally, the website must be robust enough that it can be interpreted by a wide variety of assistive devices and technologies.
Is your company website compliant with AODA and WCAG 2.0?
If you are unsure whether your website is accessible, we can help. At Rocket Digital, we are able to audit your website for accessibility as well as recommend and help you make the necessary changes if there are areas where your site falls short.
To schedule your website audit, please contact us today.