AODA Compliance: Website Accessibility in Ontario Now Mandatory | A Complete Guide
AODA compliance is a hot topic right now, but it can be hard to figure out what you need to do to make your website accessible.
Did you know that as of January 1st, all Ontario businesses are required by law to make their websites accessible?
If you’re unsure where to start, or if you’ve been told your website isn’t compliant, this guide is for you.
We’ve put together a comprehensive guide on making your website accessible for everyone, regardless of ability.
Our guide includes information on the different types of disabilities, tips on how to test your site for accessibility, and step-by-step instructions on making your website compliant.
What is AODA Compliance?
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, etc.
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 in general accessibility for Ontarians.
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 and AODA compliance requirements, organizations must make their websites and mobile applications accessible and remove barriers to accessible Ontario.
This means that various organizations must ensure accessible websites and web pages under the AODA requirements. Also, if the content is not their own, but they have control over it as a third party, this content must be accessible. 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 making their websites accessible to users with disabilities. To learn more about web accessibility issued by the Ontario government, please read below.
Why Does Ontario Need this Act?
When we think of disabilities, we usually consider individuals in wheelchairs or with physical disabilities – basically, only visible and apparent disabilities.
But disabilities can also be non-visible, such as learning disabilities, mental health disorders, and chronic pain. Disabilities can be temporary or permanent and can vary in severity.
People with disabilities often face barriers in their everyday lives that most of us take for granted. For example, someone who is hard of hearing may not be able to use a phone, or someone who is blind may not be able to read a street sign.
These barriers can make it difficult or impossible for people with disabilities to participate in society fully. The goal of the AODA is to remove these barriers and give people with disabilities the same opportunities as everyone else.
What Does Web Accessibility Mean for Your Website?
The website’s appearance, content, and functionality have to meet WCAG standards (2.0 AA).
You can keep the same web address if you already have a website. Still, specific changes have to be made, such as a new look and feel, user experience, easy navigation, responsiveness, and significant updates to the website’s content.
If you plan to have a new website, your web developer should be aware of these AODA website compliance rules and make your web page fully accessible.
What are Accessibility Laws?
The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, or AODA, is a set of provincial laws that aim to make Ontario more accessible for people with disabilities.
The act requires businesses and organizations to take steps to remove barriers that prevent people with disabilities from fully participating in everyday life.
The AODA includes several different pieces of legislation, including the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service and the Integrated Accessibility Standards.
You can read more about the multi-year accessibility plan and accessibility policy here.
Important Web Accessibility Ontario Aspects Under The Disabilities Act
The reading level of the web content should aim for the reading level of a 12-year-old to remove barriers. Since learning disabilities are very common among Canadian youth, using basic language and plain but informal content is necessary to make Ontario accessible. Sentences must be written short yet in the active voice to make web content accessible.
The heading tags (h1, h2, h3, etc.) allow users, especially employees, to quickly and easily navigate a website and its content. Assistive tools and technologies focus on heading tags to be AODA compliant to understand the content hierarchy better.
Images have to contain alt tags (alternative text). For people who use assistive technologies, the text alternatives explain the context of the image to remove the accessibility issues. Audio descriptions can help private organizations’ web pages set better public space standards and fill the general requirements of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
It’s better to use phrases, not hyperlinked texts, according to the digital accessibility standards.
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 phrases such as “Find out more about ‘Company Name'” than go non-compliance with the Disabilities Act AODA.
Audio and Video
Accessibility experts argue that audio and video files must have captions because, without them, a website could exclude many Canadians who identify as being hard of hearing.
It’s essential to allow them to read along while watching the video content, allowing better digital accessibility for Ontarians when viewing website content.
In order to comply with WCAG Level AA guidelines of the Disability Act and other accessibility policies for public spaces, it’s now mandatory for foreground and background colours to have a 4.5:1 contrast ratio as many people live with low vision or colour blindness.
Business websites with a high colour contrast design layout are more straightforward for most visitors. However, you have to ensure colours are not too overwhelming to comply with requirements specified for people with low vision.
Why is Web Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation in Ontario Important?
Web accessibility is essential for many reasons, and all organizations and businesses need to comply with the five standards.
It’s helping the economy and community so that now more people can access relevant information thanks to the Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
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 compliance and accessibility requirements provide all people with equal power to learn, play, work, shop, research, and enjoy the many benefits of Internet services, especially government and public sector organizations and businesses as well as employment practices.
This being said, the AODA gives everyone equal power as a part of society in general on an ongoing basis.
AODA is a great step toward the future. I hope it goes successful.
If you know about information and communication standards, it will be much easier for you to improve the accessibility of your website.
Just follow the accessibility standards requirements, Ontario Human Rights Code guidelines, meet human rights legislation and AODA standards, and your site will be fully accessible.
If you have 20 or more workers, file accessibility reports with the Ontario Accessibility Directorate every three years.
I hope this article was helpful. If you want to learn more about the public spaces standard and AODA compliance, contact Eggs Media – a web design company in Toronto, via website or business email!