What is AODA? Are you Compliant?
AODA stands for the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disability Act. It is a law that sets out a process for developing and enforcing standards that ensures all Ontarians have fair access to programs and services. AODA is paired with WCAG which stands for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0. WCAG are the guidelines that AODA would like businesses to follow to become compliant.
Watch the Video Series here where our CEO Jason Gervais interviews, internal AODA specialist Tracy Bento.
What Are the Accessibility Standards?
Accessibility standards are laws that the government, businesses, non-profits, and public sector organizations must follow to become more accessible. These standards help organizations identify and remove barriers (physical or otherwise) to improve accessibility for people with disabilities in 5 areas of daily life:
- Customer Service Standard: This helps to remove barriers so everyone can access good, services, and/or facilities.
- Information and communication standard: This standard helps to make information accessible (i.e. in store or online)
- Transportation Standard: Outlines ways to make travel easier for everyone.
- Employment Standard: Helps make hiring and employee support practices more accessible.
- Design of public spaces standard: This outlines how to make outdoor public spaces more accessible.
What Does this Mean for Your Website?
The following are the guidelines that will govern if your website requires accessibility measures.
By Law, you must make new and significantly refreshed public websites accessible if you are:
- A private or non-profit organization with 50+ employees; or
- A public sector organization
The organization that is in control of your website must meet these accessibility requirements (i.e. your Digital Marketing Agency). This will begin January 1, 2021. This means that all public websites and web content posted after January 1, 2012 must meet WCAG 2.0 Level AA other than criteria 1.2.4 (live captions) and 1.2.5 (pre-recorded audio description).
As mentioned previously, AODA requires you to follow WCAG in order to become compliant with the law. Following WCAG guidelines that are set out by an international committee of experts will allow you and your business to be successful in implementing AODA.
In the next section, important terms that are found in the legal guidelines set out by AODA are defined. It is important to have a good understanding of these terms so that you and your business can successfully implement the law and stay up to date with important jargon.
Defining Legal Terms
We have outlined some information/legal terms that will determine if you or your Digital Marketing Agency will have to take the necessary steps to make your website WCAG 2.0 Level AA compliant.
If you are a private or not-for-profit organization with 50 or more employees OR you are a public sector organization, you will have to consider the status of your website and its current state of WCAG compliance. Any new or significantly changed website created after 2012 will have to comply to the WCAG guidelines.
What Does Controlling a Website Mean?
This means you have control over the websites:
What is Classified as A New Website?
In terms of appearance, a new website is a site that has a new web address, or a significantly new look and feel to it. A website is not considered new if you are simply adding a new page or a new link.
What is Classified as A Significantly Refreshed Website?
In terms of functionality, a significantly refreshed website is a website that is keeping the same web address, but you are making changes such as:
- A new look and feel to the website (i.e. new colours, shapes and text layout)
- How users interact with the website (i.e. new menus and page layouts)
- A major update and change to the content of the website
What Does Content Mean?
Content means any information that may be found on a web page or web application, including text, images, forms and sounds.
What is WCAG 2.0 and How to Comply
What Are the WCAG 2.0 Guidelines?
WCAG 2.0 is an internationally accepted standard for web accessibility developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The W3C is an international team of experts that have created standards and guidelines for accessibility.
When you follow the guidelines set out by the WCAG you are ensuring that everyone can easily access your website and its content.
What are The Different Levels of Accessibility?
Each guideline in the WCAG has three levels of accessibility: A, AA and AAA. The AODA sets the standard for websites in Ontario, for any newly created or refreshed website a WCAG level A must be reached. Once you have achieved level A compliance you will need to meet Level AA compliance. At this time, in Ontario meeting Level AAA is not required.
Keep in mind, that reaching a Level AAA Compliance across an entire website is not required (and likely not achievable), but if some pages/content reach Level AAA compliance it can be noted in your Accessibility Statement.
What is an Accessibility Statement?
An Accessibility Statement is a document that outlines the accessibility levels and standards that your website reaches. This statement will also outline any areas in which you cannot reach WCAG compliance. In the cases where you cannot comply with the requirements (i.e. with a map), you are still able to post the content, but you must provide an accessible format if it requested.
The Case for Accessibility in Business
There are tangible and intangible benefits that occur when you make your website accessible. There are 4 ways in which your business can benefit from an accessible website they are drive innovation, enhance your brand, extend your market reach and minimize legal risk.
How Can an Accessible Website Drive Innovation?
Accessibility features on your website can often solve unanticipated problems. When you take into consideration digital accessibility you are creating and thinking about varied and flexible ways for users to interact with your website. These varied and flexible ways can be useful to all users (with or without disabilities). These designs are usually more human-centered and contextual, making someone’s interaction with your website more natural. This all helps in creating a more enjoyable user experience.
Using an Accessible Website to Enhance Your Brand
An accessibility commitment helps to improve and accelerate diversity and inclusion efforts that are taking place in your business. When a business is clearly committed to accessibility for all, users will feel a genuine sense of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
A commitment to making a workplace/business more accessible and genuine interest in CSR will provide a host of potential positive outcomes such as enhanced brand image and reputation, increased sales, increased customer loyalty (people want to work with ethical companies), and improved workforce diversity.
Extend Your Market Reach with an Accessible Website
Developing an accessible website opens your market reach to 1 billion people with spending power of $6 trillion. The market of people with a disability is large (roughly 15%) and is growing as the general population ages. There may also be individuals with disabilities that do not identify as a “person with a disability” (i.e. the aging population).
An accessible website can help not only those with a permanent disability but can also help users in all types of situations such as:
- Users on mobile phones, smart watches etc.
- The aging population
- Those with a “temporary disability” (I.e. broken arm or lost glasses)
- Environmental challenges (I.e. sunlight or noisy environments)
- Those with limited/slow internet connection
Having an accessible website improves the online experience of all users.
Minimize Your Legal Risk with an Accessible Website
Many governments (Ontario included) have laws in place that require digital accessibility. When a website is not compliant to these laws a business can run into legal consequences. Taking the time to make your website WCAG complaint will ensure your business is following the legal guidelines set out by the government in the AODA.