If you have a business in Ontario, Canada, you may have heard of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, or AODA. If you haven’t, now would be a good time to do some research on the terms that are now affecting all businesses in the private sector.
Refusal to comply with the Customer Service Standards can result in fines of up to $100,000 per day for the corporation.
This act was created in 2005 with the goal of removing barriers for activities and opportunities for disabled individuals by 2025.
AODA Ontario Compliance + What is AODA?
The Ontario Government has split AODA compliance from the AODA act into different sets of mandatory standards, all being implemented and enforced by the government in phases. They are:
- 1. Customer Service Standard
- 2. Integrated Accessibility Regulation
- Information and Communications
- 3. Built Environment
Almost seven years after introducing the AODA act, it is now time for businesses to take action and make their businesses accessible to all Ontarians. The deadline for businesses in the private sector to be compliant was January 1, 2012. Public sector organizations that provide goods and services to the public had to be compliant by January 1, 2010.
In short, if your organization has at least one employee with a phone on their desk whose role involves interaction with others who do not work for your company, your business must comply.
While there are other sections of the AODA addressing elements such as accessibility within your actual office space, the focus of this article is on how these laws affect your website. The Web Content and Accessibility Guideline (or WCAG) outlines the ways in which your website must comply.
Most websites should be flexible and scalable enough to support the necessary updates to be compliant with AODA. How we all access information is a huge part of our daily lives, especially with the growing internet community.
Since this Act aims to provide people with disabilities the same ease of usability as everyone else, it is likely that your website could need some updating in order to be compliant. Below, I have outlined the WCAG elements that your website must have in order to meet AODA website compliance.
- 1.1 Text Alternatives
Providing your website's visitors with text alternatives for non-text content can facilitate the user experience for those with disabilities. Options can include larger print, symbols, simpler language, braille or audio descriptions.
- 1.2 Time-based Media
Providing alternatives for time-based media ensures that anyone who wants to access all of the information on your site has the means to do so. This can include providing audio-only versions of video content, and text versions of audio content. This allows users with a variety of visual or auditory disabilities to be able to fully access the content of your site in its entirety.
- 1.3 Adaptable
Depending on the age and quality of your current website, this could be a very easy update. Making your content adaptable enables it to be presented in different ways, such as with a simpler layout, while still providing the same information and structure.
- 1.4 Distinguishable
The style and design of your website speaks volumes to your target market, attitudes, preferences and competitive advantages.
While some fonts and colours could appear more fashionable, having easy-to-read fonts, a good colour contrast between your text and background, and a text size of at least 14 points is part of this component of WCAG. This also involves making your links and controls highly visible when they receive keyboard or mouse focus.
- 2.1 Keyboard Accessible
Having a website that is entirely keyboard accessible is very useful to individuals with motor skills disabilities. Allowing your users to navigate through your website without using a mouse facilitates the user of your website as users can avoid maneuvering a small mouse point and click on small areas to navigate your website.
- 2.2 Enough Time
Having content that is set to rotate or change automatically after a certain period of time provides a flashy look for your website, but can be problematic to those with dyslexia or other reading disabilities.
Giving users the ability to turn off or adjust the time on this feature, or warn the user that the content will change unless they perform a simple action (I.e., press the Enter key) that extends their time.
- 2.3 Seizures
Avoiding design or functionality elements that project in any way that is known to cause seizures ensures your visitors will be safe while browsing your site.
You can check any flashing elements on your site to make sure that no component flashes more than three times per second, minimizing the size of your flashing areas, and using online tools to ensure that any elements do not exceed either the general flash or red flash threshold.
- 2.4 Navigable
An intuitively structured website will involve strategic decisions designed to help your users navigate, find content, and determine where they are on your site. Making your links visually distinct, allowing users to navigate to different sections of a web page and limiting the number of links per page are good ways to follow this guideline.
- 3.1 Readable
Content that is readable and understandable is not just a way of facilitating those with disabilities; it ensures that anyone who visits your site can comprehend your product, service, or message. This relates to making sure your text is distinguishable: avoid chunks of italicized text, avoid similarly coloured background and text, using justifications only when necessary, etc.
Other aspects of this section include using clear and simple language, avoiding foreign or unusual words, and providing sign language versions of basic information on your site, such as how to contact the Webmaster.
- 3.2 Predictable
Having a consistent style provides a certain amount of cohesion to your site and overall design. This guideline requires that your web pages operate and appear in predictable ways. This includes keeping your navigation in a consistent location and notifying your users if clicking on links will open new windows or direct them away from their current location on the site.
- 3.3 Input Assistance
A website that requests its users to fill out a form and then rejecting the form without providing any explanation is a very frustrating experience from a usability perspective.
This guideline involves helping users avoid and correct mistakes. If a form was rejected because the user did not fill out a mandatory field, for example, provide a notice that an error was identified and explain to the user how to correct this error.
Make sure any instructions on your site are provided in a clear and concise way. Also make sure that you have a 'Help' link on each page where a user inputs their information.
- 4.1 Compatible
This last portion of the WCAG involves making sure that your website is highly compatible with various gadgets, including assistive technology gadgets.
Making sure the code of your website is up to coding standards, as outlined in the W3C, will ensure that your website's content can be captured and understood with the use of screen readers and other assistive technology softwares and tools.
These are high-level overviews of the various areas in which your website must comply in order to be accessible for all Ontarians. The WCAG offers much more detailed information on a technical level for implementing these changes, as well as exceptions or alternatives.
Having a website that is compliant with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act is not just an option for businesses in Ontario; it is mandatory.
Refusal to comply with the Customer Service Standards can result in fines of $50,000 per day for Directors and Officers and fines of up to $100,000 per day for the corporation. This is not just about punitive action, however; with approximately one in seven Ontarians living with a disability, this is about opening your business up to service anyone that falls within your target market.
Compiling with AODA Standards reflects positively upon your business, within your community and among your employees. For further help with AODA standards integration, contact Toronto web design and online marketing firm 9th sphere here. The Government of Ontario has put together an online accessibility compliance wizard (http://ontario.ca/accessibilitycompliance) to help find out what you have to do to comply with Ontario's accessibility law.