Web Accessibility in Ontario Now Mandatory: What You Need to Know?
The Internet has been used by most of us in everyday life since it was invented. It has got numerous advantages, whether you are using it for leisure or for work/school. It has been a great help also during the COVID-19 pandemic since most people are anchored to the comfort of their homes. The internet is now being used for work, education, shopping, entertainment and more.
We probably cannot imagine our lives without the Internet; however, much of it is not accessible to people with disabilities. Over 22% of Ontarians have a certain disability, which is most likely to rise over the years, given the population expansion. These facts cannot be ignored. Web accessibility Ontario is a huge step forward.
There is a very new AODA requirement that came into effect on January 1st, 2021, which applies to large private sector organizations with fifty (50) or more workers. Under the Information and Communication Standards, organizations must make their websites, as well as mobile applications, accessible.
This means that it is mandatory for the various organizations to ensure the accessibility of any web content they own. Also, if the content is not their own, but they have control over it as a third party, this content must be accessible as well. This applies to all web content created in the year 2012 or later.
Websites must be compliant with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Level AA. This is an international standard that gives web developers particular guidelines on how to make their websites accessible to users with disabilities. To learn more about web accessibility Ontario rules, please read below.
What Does Web Accessibility Mean for Your Website?
The website’s appearance, content, functionality has to meet WCAG 2.0 AA standards. If you already have a website, you can keep the same web address, but certain changes have to be made such as a new look and feel, user experience, easy navigation, responsiveness, significant updates to the website’s content. If you are planning to have a new website, your web developer should be aware of these rules and make your site fully accessible.
Important Web Accessibility Ontario Aspects
The reading level of the web content should aim for the reading level of a 12-year-old. Since learning disabilities are very common among Canadian youth, using basic language and plain, but informal content is a must. Sentences have to be written short, yet in the active voice.
The heading tags (h1, h2, h3, etc.) allow users to quickly and easily navigate throughout a website and its content. To better understand the content hierarchy, assistive tools and technologies focus on heading tags.
Images have to contain alt tags (alternative text). For people who use assistive technologies, the alternative text explains the context of the image.
It’s better to use phrases, not hyperlinked texts. For example, people using assistive technologies will often navigate from link to link on one page and for them, the hyperlinked text could be presented out of context. If there is a hyperlinked button Click here, it could be difficult for a reader to understand the context. Better use the phrase such as “Find out more about ‘Company Name’.”
Audio and Video
Audio and video files must have captions because, without it, a website could be excluding many Canadians who identify as being hard-of-hearing. It’s important to allow them to read along at the same time as watching the video content.
In order to comply with WCAG Level AA guidelines, it’s now mandatory for foreground and background colors to have a 4.5:1 contrast ratio as many people live with low vision or color blindness. Websites with a high color contrast design layout are clearer for most visitors, however, you have to ensure colors are not too overwhelming.
Why is Web Accessibility Ontario Important?
Web accessibility is important for many reasons. It’s helping the economy and community in the way that now more people are able to access relevant information. For example, employment information access makes it possible for people with disabilities to contribute to the economy and society. The most important aspect is that the AODA provides all people with equal power as they learn, play, work, shop, research and enjoy the many benefits of the Internet. This being said, the AODA gives everyone equal power as a part of society in general.