Why Learn About Web Accessibility
For those studying the materials here from Ontario, Canada, we’ll provide occasional references to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). For those outside Ontario, you might compare AODA’s web accessibility requirements with those in your local area. They will be similar in many cases, likely based on the W3C WCAG 2.0 Guidelines. The goal in Ontario is for all obligated organizations to meet the Level AA accessibility requirements of WCAG 2.0 by 2021, which, ultimately, is the goal of most international jurisdictions.
The AODA provided the motivation to create this resource. All businesses and organizations in Ontario with more than 50 employees (and all public sector organizations) are now required by law to make their websites accessible to people with disabilities (currently Level A). Many businesses still don’t know what needs to be done in order to comply with the new rules. This materials here aim to fill some of that need.
The AODA has its roots in the Ontario Human Rights Code, introduced in 1990. It essentially made it illegal to discriminate based on disability (among other forms of discrimination). The development of the AODA began in earnest in 1994 with the emergence of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act (ODA). Its aim was to legislate the removal and prevention of barriers that inhibit people with disabilities from participating as full members of society, improving access to employment, goods and services, and facilities. The Act was secured as law in 2001.
With the election of a new government in 2003, the movement that brought us the ODA sought to strengthen the legislation. The Accessibility Standards Advisory Council was established, and the AODA was passed as law in 2005, and in July of 2011 the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (IASR) brought together the 5 standards of the AODA covering Information and Communication, Employment, Transportation, and Design of Public Spaces, in addition to the original Customer Service standard.
The AODA sets out to make Ontario fully accessible by 2025, with an incremental roll-out of accessibility requirements over a period of 20 years. These requirements span a whole range of accessibility considerations — from physical spaces to customer service to the Web, and much more.
Our focus here is on access to the Web. The timeline set out in the AODA requires government and large organizations to remove all barriers in web content between 2012 and 2021. The timeline for these requirements is outlined in the table below. Any new or significantly updated information posted to the Web must comply with the given level of accessibility by the given date. This includes both Internet and intranet sites. Any content developed prior to January 1, 2012, is exempt.
|Level A||Level AA|
|Government||January 1, 2012 (except live captions and audio description)||January 1, 2016 (except live captions and audio description)
January 1, 2020 (including live captions and audio description)
|Designated Organizations*||Beginning January 1, 2014, new websites and significantly refreshed websites must meet Level A (except live captions and audio description)||January 1, 2021 (except live captions and audio description)|
|*“Designated organizations” means every municipality and every person or organization as outlined in the Public Service of Ontario Act 2006 Reg. 146/10, or private companies or organizations with 50 or more employees, in Ontario.|
For more about the AODA, you can review the following references.