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AODA Ontario: What You Should Know

Viktor Mikheev / 06.04.2020132

By January 1, 2021, all internet websites and applications must comply with WCAG 2.0 Level AA - otherwise, they will have to face monetary penalties up to $50,000. Is your website ready?

 

Backstory: What Are AODA and WCAG?

 

  • AODA

In case you didn’t know, the Canadian government has been taking active steps towards ensuring the accessibility of everyday services for persons with disabilities. One such step is AODA (The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act), a statute enacted back in 2005.

The ultimate goal of this act is to make all public establishments easily accessible for Ontarians with physical and mental disabilities. Compliance deadlines depend on the size of the organization and the sector in which it operates.

The AODA is huge in its scope and applies to all municipalities of the province, as well as ministries and agencies of the Ontario government, nonprofits, and businesses. However, we are particularly interested in the part related to websites and applications.

 

  • WCAG

WCAG stands for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, which are essentially a set of recommendations for making web content more accessible for people with disabilities. First published in 1999, the current iteration is called WCAG 2.0.

WCAG 2.0 has three levels of conformance:

  1. Level A (lowest)
  2. Level AA (mid-range)
  3. Level AAA (highest)

Why Are AODA and WCAG Important?

Although these two sets of rules and guidelines have always been important, more people and organizations (especially those running a website) started paying attention to them recently.

The explanation is rather simple: according to the AODA, all public websites and web content posted after January 1, 2012, must conform with WCAG 2.0 Level AA by January 1, 2021.

The penalties for non-compliance include a fine of up to $50,000 for each day the violation continues. If you haven’t updated your website yet, you have a little more than 6 months to do so - otherwise, you might get fined for a lot of money.

You can find other important deadlines for various types of organizations in the official AODA Timeline. The deadlines are different for small organizations (1-49 employees) and large organizations (50+ employees). To count the number of your employees correctly, you must include everyone who is in an employee-employer relationship with you whether it’s full-time, part-time, seasonal, or contract workers.

AODA Ontario: What Is Happening Right Now?

As a web development company, we notice more and more requests from clients in Ontario to make their websites comply with WCAG 2.0 and AODA act as the January 1, 2021 deadline is approaching. This is hardly surprising since organizations want to make it before the deadline and avoid huge fines.

Starting 2019, every RFP we’ve received contained a mandatory WCAG 2.0 compliance section and requirement “to make web-accessible design,” which we gladly do for all of our clients. Another popular request is monitoring and evaluation of the web content of a website for compliance with Ontario AODA.

Unfortunately, not all web design agencies are competent enough to provide such services as they require special knowledge and a lot of experience working in this field. If you don’t want to risk your money, you need to choose solid web developers to make sure your website is adjusted according to the required level of accessibility.

Accessibility Website Optimization: How Does It Impact SEO Rankings?

Currently, it doesn’t. However, the level of your website accessibility will most likely impact your SEO ranking in the nearest future - much like it happened with mobile optimization, which no one took seriously at first. Well, who’s laughing now?

So, if you’re planning to build a new website or redesign your current one, it’s better to think ahead and make it web-accessible in order to retain your SEO rankings.

Using Accessibility Widgets and Plugins

Widgets and plugins are great because they help people with disabilities to improve their browsing experience during their visit to your website. However, one thing about widgets you should be aware of is that they don’t change the code of the website so, from a formal point of view, it will still be considered not accessible.

Accessibility website plugins have already been developed and are currently used on a number of content management systems. For example, you can install a Wordpress plugin but still will need to have your website checked for accessibility afterward because certain previously installed plugins and components might not be accessible by default.

This will leave your website only half-optimized, which is not enough to comply with the WCAG 2.0. Only onboarding an accessibility developer to make improvements and optimization of the content that appears on your website can make it totally compliant.

If you need to have your website assessed for compliance with WCAG 2.0 Level AA, send us a request. Learn more about our accessible web development services here.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

 

  • What if I am self-employed?

If you are self-employed, either as a sole proprietor or in a partnership, you should not count yourself as an employee in determining how many employees you have. In this situation, you and any business partner that you may have are not employees.

  • Who can I contact if my rights have been violated?

You can contact the Ontario Human Rights Commission via their website or call the Human Rights Legal Support Centre at 416-597-4900 or toll-free 1-866-625-5179.

  • I have questions related to building accessibility. Who can help me?

You can contact us! A web consultant with over a decade of experience in web development and digital marketing. We will be able to help you to make your website compliant with WCAG 2.0.

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