Did you know the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006) recognizes Web accessibility as a basic human right? The Access for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), mandated by the Ontario government, ensures all Ontarians have the right to web access.
The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)
Any successful Ontario business knows that accessibility for all customers is not only imperative for success, but also mandatory by law. The same is now true for online business, thanks to the AODA. Just as brick and mortar businesses have accessibility ramps, elevators, and priority parking, for example, the AODA will mandate online accessibility standards that will enable users with changing needs and disabilities greater access to the Internet.
When does this come into effect?
It already has. Starting this year, all Ontario-based websites published or refreshed after January 1, 2012 must conform to the World Wide Web Consortium Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Level A
A, AA, AAA?
Yes. There are three levels of compliance ranging from A (basic) to AAA (super intensive). Currently, Ontario websites are mandated to baseline at the AA level, which means that all pages on a site will have to meet Level AA or better when run through an online auditing tool such as http://achecker.ca/checker/. This tool is hyper-strict about accessibility, so it will list both “warnings” and “critical” issues if you run a page through it.
AODA compliance means thinking carefully when writing copy and building sites about conforming to certain standards of best practice—putting the correct content inside the correct markup tags, structuring words and phrases carefully with an eye towards how they might be read.
Basically, this means that an AA-compliant website should have:
- No images without descriptive text behind the scenes
- Limited use of “pictures of words” or images that include text ON images. Use styled HTML & web fonts instead.
- No ambiguous language in links, calls to action, etc.
- A high-contrast color mode for the vision impaired
- H1, H2, H3 tags are for logical divisions only, not for style
- Tables with special behind-the-scenes attention
- The option to magnify text
- 100% navigability using only a keyboard
- No CAPTCHAs and enough time for users to read and use content
- Verbose form error descriptions
What Will I Have to Do?
The AODA Compliance Wizard is a great auditing tool to check your website’s compliance with the accessibility law. It’s free, and takes less than five minutes to complete.
Making your web content (at least) Level AA today will reduce the amount of changes your website will require down the road, as well as increase accessibility now for all users. Newer or smaller sites, especially those up to date on current trends and best practices, can be retrofitted fairly easily, and for minimal expense. Larger or older sites will take more time, so best to start putting some time aside for updates soon.
Not from Ontario?
Even if they’re not mandatory for your business, AODA standards are a best practice for everyone in the long run. While accessibility focuses on people with disabilities, it also benefits older users and mobile device users. Users with age-related accessibility needs are a growing customer base for most organizations, and one with high spending power. The AODA allows for overall accessibility for all web users by converging social, technical, legal and financial factors into a single act.