The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) was introduced in 2005. Since then, businesses and organizations in Ontario have been required to change certain practices at their physical locations to assist people with disabilities.
In addition, as of January 1, 2014, guidelines for website compliance became mandatory, forcing Ontario-based organizations to ensure their sites are compliant with the new standards or face substantial fines.
What is AODA?
AODA is a provincial government effort to make Ontario fully accessible to people with disabilities by the year 2025, by gradually phasing in changes relating to how businesses and organizations treat their customers/patrons, hire new employees, and how those employees do their jobs.
AODA regulation has a large component related to digital compliance, but also includes rules covering:
- Customer service
- HR, training, retraining, and return to work programs
- Internal and external communications
- Emergency and public safety information
One of the most important elements of compliance is related to websites. Businesses and other organizations – including non-profits, educational institutions, municipalities, and public sector organizations (among others) – have to comply with various regulations that fall under the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. This includes:
- Content regulation
- Navigation regulation
- Requirements for hearing/visually impaired people
The purpose of these guidelines is to make the internet accessible for everyone, including those with visual or hearing impairments. For most businesses, complying with these regulations will be integral to providing a positive user experience for all visitors.
By the end of 2017, Ontario-based organizations with more than 20 employees are required to file an accessibility compliance report.
As of January 1, 2017, organizations of all sizes in Ontario are required to make their public information accessible when asked.
As of January 1, 2014, all public sector organizations, and private and non-profit organizations with 50 or more employees, are required to comply with the following:
If you launch a new public website or your existing site undergoes a significant refresh, the site and any of its web content published after January 1, 2012, must conform to the World Wide Web Consortium Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Level A.
A significant refresh is defined as ”changing more than 50% of the content, design or technology of the website”.
And by January 21, 20121, organizations with 50 or more employees are required to make all websites and web content accessible, meeting WCAG 2.0 Level AA standards, except for rules regarding live captions and audio descriptions.
Meeting WCAG 2.0, Level A
To meet WCAG 2.0, Level A, an organization’s web presence must:
- provide captions and text alternatives for images and multimedia
- use strong contrast between text and background, and make text resizing available
- create content that can be presented using assistive technologies (such as screen readers) without losing meaning
- use structured content and make it keyboard accessible
- avoid CAPTCHAs (user challenges involving distorted letterforms) and give users enough time to read and use content
- avoid time limits when asking users to provide a response or information
- avoid blinking images
- avoid the use of colour indicators
- help users find and navigate content by making links specific (not ‘click here’)
- help users avoid and correct mistakes by making error messages specific
- make tables and charts accessible to assistive technology.
Meeting WCAG 2.0, Level AA
To meet WCAG 2.0, Level AA, an organization’s web presence must:
- provide captions for all live audio content in synchronized media
- provide audio descriptions for all prerecorded video content in synchronized media
- ensure text and images of text have a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1, excluding large text, incidental text and logotypes
- offer the ability for text to be resized without assistive technology, up to 200% without loss of content or functionality, except for captions and images of text
- use text to convey information rather than images of text (where the technologies being used can achieve the visual presentation), excluding customizable text and essential text (e.g. logos)
- ensure a web page within a set of web pages can be found in more than one way, except when the page is part of a process
- ensure all headings and labels describe their respective topic or purpose
- ensure any keyboard operable user interface has a mode of operation where the keyboard focus indicator is visible
- allow the language used in the content to be programmatically determined, excluding names, technical terms, words of indeterminate language, and "words or phrases that have become part of the vernacular of the immediately surrounding text"
- implement navigation that appears in the same relative order each time it's repeated within a set of web pages, except when changes are initiated by the user
- ensure components with the same functionality in a set of web pages are identified consistently
- suggestions are provided to the user for correcting an error, if an input error is automatically detected and suggestions for correction are known
- For web pages that that process legal commitments or financial transactions and that modify or delete user-controllable data or that submit user responses, the form must be at least one of the following prior to submission: reversible, checked or confirmed
Penalties for Not Meeting Accessibility Guidelines
The Ontario government isn’t taking these accessibility standards lightly. Failure to comply with the AODA web accessibility rules can result in fines of $50,000 per day or part day for directors and officers and fines of up to $100,000 per day or part day for the corporation.
Note: This article was originally published in 2013. It has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.