Web accessibility has increasing significance all around the world. What is the current policy for web accessibility in Ontario? Know all about AODA and compliance with this law.
- The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) brings a clear solution to web accessibility issues in Ontario.
- AODA was largely based on WCAG 2.0, a baseline for many web accessibility laws in different countries.
- Through the AODA, the Ontario government fights discrimination against people with disabilities by implementing harsh penalties to oppressors.
What is AODA?
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) is a law that was ratified in 2005 to develop, implement, and enforce accessibility standards for goods, services, employment, accommodation, facilities, and buildings in Ontario. Persons with disabilities and industry representatives collaborate with the Ontario government to set these standards. The AODA holds the government accountable for creating accessibility standards that public and private organizations have to follow. The Act aims to achieve its goals by January 1, 2025.
Before AODA was passed, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act was in effect since 2001. As stated, its purpose was “to improve opportunities for persons with disabilities and provide for their involvement in the identification, removal, and prevention of barriers to their full participation in the life of the province.” While the Act was a major step towards accessibility for PWDs, it was very limited because it only applied to government agencies. The law also did not have detailed guidelines, penalties, and compliance requirements; it needed to be updated right after it was passed.
AODA was ratified to improve the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. The law enhanced existing accessibility policy and laid out new guidelines, deadlines, clear enforcement systems, and penalties. It set up an infrastructure that allows the accessibility policy to be easily updated. Aside from these, AODA also laid out standards for web accessibility.
AODA Web Accessibility Requirements
The web accessibility standards of AODA was largely based on the World Wide Web Consortium Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG 2.0), with some exceptions for content that cannot be made accessible. These are the following:
- Commercial software or tools, or both, used to create some features of a website are unavailable.
- The content was posted before January 1, 2012. If the website is updated, however, the rules will apply.
- Some maps and complex diagrams for people with visual disabilities. Website owners have to provide accessible versions upon request.
AODA deadlines for designated public sector organizations and large organizations:
- By January 1, 2014, new internet websites and web content on those sites must conform with WCAG 2.0 Level A.
- By January 1, 2021, all internet websites and web content must conform with WCAG 2.0 Level AA, other than criteria 1.2.4 Live Captions, and criteria 1.2.5 Audio Descriptions (pre-recorded)
Am I affected by the AODA?
It is stated in the Act that it applies to every person or organization in the public and private sectors of the Province of Ontario, including the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. All businesses registered in Ontario must adhere to the law.
Non-compliance with the AODA
There are some cases where it may not be possible to comply with the WCAG 2.0 requirements, like in the cases mentioned above. But whenever you update your website, you will have to comply. Outside of the exemptions mentioned above, an individual or a corporation will receive appropriate penalties.
In case of non-compliance, a director shall determine the amount of administrative penalty according to the following:
- the severity of the impact of the contravention
- the contravention history of the person or organization
- whether the person or organization is a corporation or an individual or unincorporated organization
The violator will be subject to a daily penalty of a maximum of $100,000, in the case of a corporation, and $50,000, in the case of an individual or unincorporated organization.
The severity of a contravention can be classified into three types:
- A minor contravention is when a website lacks some specific accessibility features.
- A moderate contravention is when a website disregards accessibility standards and lacks organizational preparedness.
- A major contravention is when a website contains non-accessible elements that could become a safety or health risk to people with disabilities.
Is there any other accessibility law in Canada that I need to be aware of?
The Ontario Human Rights Code is a law that forbids discrimination, harassment, and reprisal against any person with respect to employment, trade, self-governing profession, services, goods, contracts, and facilities. It has a broader scope than the AODA. The AODA is the main accessibility legislation of the province and could be treated as an addition to this law. Anyone who violates the AODA may also be subject to investigation by the Ontario Human Rights Commission.