Deadline for Canadian Accessibility Law Approaches

Dan CagenDan Cagen
minute read

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires Canadian businesses’ websites be accessible by 2021

There’s yet another reason to make the commitment to creating accessible digital experiences.

In just a few months, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) will require Canadian businesses with 50 or more employees to file a compliance report, and ensure that all internet websites and web content are accessible to people with disabilities.

Here’s what you need to know about the AODA, and how you can take steps to ensure your company adheres to the law.

What is the AODA?

The AODA was enacted in 2005, with a goal to make the province of Ontario fully accessible to people with disabilities by 2025.

AODA has two key deadlines coming soon, separated by one day:

  • December 31, 2020: A business or non-profit organization with 20 or more employees in Ontario must file an Accessibility Compliance Report that confirms they have met current accessibility requirements under AODA. More information about filing a compliance report can be found here.
  • January 1, 2021: Businesses and nonprofits with 50 or more employees, public sector organizations with 20-plus employees, and all public sector publishers, educational institutions, and municipalities in Ontario must make website and web content accessible.

To be considered accessible, organizations must conform with WCAG 2.1 Level AA. To meet WCAG 2.1 Level AA conformance, the website is usable and understandable for the majority of people with or without disabilities. Some notable WCAG 2.1 Level AA requirements include:

  • Color contrast is, in most instances, at least 4.5:1
  • Alt text or a similar solution is used for images that convey meaning
  • Navigation elements are consistent throughout the site
  • Form fields have accurate labels
  • Status updates can be conveyed through a screen reader
  • Headings are used in logical order

If organizations in Canada aren’t accessible by the deadline, they can be fined up to $50,000 (CND) per day. Companies based in other countries, including the United States, are not required to meet AODA standards.

To be considered accessible [under the AODA], organizations must conform with WCAG 2.1 Level AA.

The AODA is a broader set of requirements than the United States’ Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which was published in 1990 and is largely focused on physical accessibility (such as ramps for wheelchairs), rather than digital accessibility. In addition, the AODA sets standards with which certain-sized Canadian institutions must comply, while the ADA is largely reliant on user feedback/complaints in order to implement accessibility changes (such as lawsuits against organizations like Domino’s).

How can any company ensure digital accessibility?

Organizations can start on the path to becoming accessible by using an automated accessibility tool, such as the Applause Accessibility Tool. These tools can quickly scan your web pages and find common accessibility issues, such as whether elements have alternate text or if each page contains a level-one heading.

However, all automated accessibility tools are limited in their scope, and can only uncover about 20% to 30% of issues on a website. The real benefit of using an automated testing tool is to get a top-level feel of how accessible (or inaccessible) your website is. Thoroughly testing for accessibility — such as determining whether the alternative text for an image is appropriate, or if the tab order is correct — requires manual testing.

To ensure conformance with AODA, you’ll want to leverage experts who understand WCAG and can provide an assessment of the website. That’s where Applause can really help.

To ensure conformance with AODA, you’ll want to leverage experts who understand WCAG and can provide an assessment of the website.

Applause’s team of accessibility experts conducts a detailed assessment of your websites or mobile applications to identify issues that do not conform to WCAG or other government guidelines. Applause provides a list of failures, prioritized by severity level, along with remediation recommendations, enabling organizations to resolve issues quickly.

As the AODA deadline approaches, Applause can support your conformance objectives to ensure access to your website and mobile applications consistent with current guidelines and regulations.

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