As a business owner you are probably familiar with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) that was passed in 2005. It relates to all kinds of things with your business from the building you operate in, the services you offer, the employee training you provide and more. Can your company afford to face fines of $50,000 ($100,000 for corporations) for each day that an offence occurs? That can add up pretty quickly and the government has hired roughly five hundred new compliance officers over the last year to enforce the AODA.
A little known fact about the AODA is that it also relates to your company website. Shocked? Surprised? Wondering how accessibility relates to a website beyond needing a computer and Internet access? Well keep reading to learn more and find some useful tips to help you prepare and plan how your website can be in compliance.
What do you mean my website has to be in compliance?
All government and business related websites fall under Part II Information and Communications Standards in the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. In this section, the Act outlines three different levels of accessibility standards geared towards websites based off of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 created by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
Depending on the size and sector of your business there is a few different upcoming deadlines to have your website in compliance.
What does that actually mean for my website?
There is three levels on the WCAG 2.0 Guidelines; Level A, Level AA, Level AAA. They all contain increasingly more advanced guidelines that must be met to be in compliance. It starts out with simple things such as having page titles, alternative text on images, and the ability to change the font size.
As the levels progress it requires advanced accessibility options such as being able to stop or pause moving objects, providing subtitles on any video content, text transcripts for any audio content, among many other things. For all the details for each level of compliance please visit the official WCAG 2.0 Website.
So, what’s my deadline?
As for the deadlines to be in compliance they are as follows:
Government Related Deadlines:
- January 1, 2012 – All new websites from The Government of Ontario and the Legislative Assembly must conform with WCAG 2.0 Level AA
- January 1, 2016 – All websites from The Government of Ontario and the Legislative Assembly must conform with WCAG 2.0 Level AA
Public Sector Organizations and Large Organizations
- January 1, 2014 – All new websites must conform with WCAG 2.0 Level A
- January 1, 2021 – All websites must conform with WCAG 2.0 Level AA
What is it going to cost me?
That’s impossible to say without doing an analysis of your current website and what level of compliance you want to meet. Every web developer is different so do some research and find one that meets your needs the best and has the capability to meet all levels of compliance.
You said you had some useful tips or hints?
Here are a few tips and hints, plus all the links you might want to learn more about the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
– The biggest suggestion that can be made is if you are in the process of having a website developed or planning on it soon, speak with the web developer and ask if they are developing with these accessibility guidelines in mind. You might as well be proactive about it because you never know when the AODA could change to include small business.
– Research the different levels of compliance and work towards one that is in your budget and progress further over time if necessary. Make sure if you are having a site built now that expandability to meet these needs is possible without a complete redesign.
– Meeting accessibility guidelines has its upside. Several of the elements required in compliance are also key elements that major search engines look for when indexing, so your website could see a boost in its search engine rankings.
Here’s a list of excellent resources to further your knowledge of accessibility on the web:
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act – http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/source/regs/english/2011/elaws_src_regs_r11191_e.htm#BK15
How to meet WCAG 2.0 – http://www.w3.org/WAI/WCAG20/quickref/
WCAG 2.0 Checklist – http://webaim.org/standards/wcag/WCAG2Checklist.pdf
If you have any further questions regarding accessibility and your website please don’t hesitate to contact us today and we will do a complimentary accessibility assessment with you.