AODA Ontario: What You Should Know About Accessibility For Ontarians With Disabilities Act
Sergey Labzov / 04.27.20231160
As you may know, AODA stands for The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. The first review of the AODA Canada Information and Communications Standards became public in 2020.
Among other things, AODA Ontario 2023 requires that all internet websites and applications comply with WCAG 2.0 Level AA – otherwise, they might face penalties.
So what does AODA stand for in Ontario? Let’s take a closer look and see what it all means for a regular website owner.
Backstory: What Are AODA and WCAG?
The Canadian government has been taking active steps toward ensuring the accessibility of everyday services for persons with disabilities. One of such steps is AODA (The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act), a statute enacted back in 2005.
The ultimate goal of the Ontario Accessibility Act is to make all public establishments easily accessible for persons with physical and mental disabilities by 2025. Compliance deadlines depend on the size of the organization and the sector in which it operates.
The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 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 that’s related to websites and applications.
✓ AODA Requirements for Ontario
What is AODA? In short, it’s a list of requirements and regulations regarding the accessibility of everyday services. What is covered under AODA? Pretty much every aspect of a person’s life.
In terms of Information and Communications, AODA requirements demand the following: all public elements of your website, including videos, audio files, and PDFs, must be available to people with disabilities when requested and at no extra charge, effectively removing all accessibility barriers.
According to the AODA Accessibility Act, this includes, but is not limited to:
- Audio descriptions
- The ability to enlarge text
- Keyboard navigation
- Video content that can be paused and rewatched
✓ What Is a WCAG Requirement?
Let’s start off by understanding what WCAG means. 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 of WCAG guidelines is called WCAG 2.1.
This current WCAG standard has three levels of conformance:
- WCAG 2.1 A (lowest)
- WCAG 2.1 AA (mid-range)
- WCAG 2.1 AAA (highest)
✓ What Are the 4 Principles of WCAG?
The four guiding principles of accessibility WCAG are based on the acronym POUR, which means that information on WCAG-compliant websites has to be:
✓ Is WCAG the Same as ADA Compliance?
They’re similar in scope, but not in implementation. WCAG is an ISO standard that’s just out there, while ADA is a civil rights law with strict non-compliance fines.
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 only recently. One of the possible explanations is the fact that, according to the AODA website compliance Ontario, all public websites and web content posted after January 1, 2012, must conform with WCAG compliance 2.0 Level AA.
In fact, the newer version, WCAG 2.1, was released in September 2022. Although Ontario AODA website compliance does not require WCAG 2.1 yet, it might in the nearest future. If you’re not sure about your website being WCAG-compliant, you can order a WCAG accessibility audit from Zwebra.
Should I Optimize a Website for WCAG 2.2 or WCAG 3.0?
The WCAG 2.2 is the planned update of the WCAG levels that’s scheduled to be published in April 2023. WCAG 3.0 is another planned update, a huge one, but still a working draft – you can find it online, but it hasn’t been officially released yet, as of March 2023.
If you’re planning to optimize your website, you first should make sure it complies with the existing ADA/WCAG standard (which will soon be WCAG 2.2).
AODA Ontario: What Is Happening Right Now?
The current deadline for bringing all organizations in Ontario into compliance with the AODA requirements is 2025, which is not that far away from now. A lot of companies that have websites that are not yet optimized and fail to meet the AODA requirements Ontario 2023 have been rushing to fix that issue.
As a web development company, we couldn’t help but notice this trend as well. Recently, we’ve been receiving more and more requests from our clients to make their websites AODA-compliant.
Every RFP we’ve received recently contained a mandatory AODA compliance Ontario 2023 section and a requirement “to make web-accessible design,” which we gladly do for all of our clients. Another popular request is monitoring and evaluating the web content of a website for compliance with AODA policy Ontario or compiling an AODA compliance checklist Ontario.
Accessibility Website Optimization: How Does It Impact SEO Rankings?
Speaking of the importance of accessibility for people with disabilities, a question might arise: does accessibility improve SEO? Currently, it doesn’t. Is accessibility an SEO ranking factor? Not yet. However, your website's Google ADA compliance 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 when they should’ve. That’s why web accessibility is important.
If you’re planning to build a new website or redesign your current one, it’s better to think about SEO and accessibility ahead and make it web-accessible in order to retain your SEO rankings. Learn more about our services to help you make a website AODA compliant.
Using Accessibility Widgets and Plugins
Most website accessibility best practices include accessibility widgets and accessibility plugins. These tools help people with disabilities to improve their browsing experience during their visit to your website.
However, the 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.
For example, you can install one of the WordPress accessibility plugins, but you will still need to have your website checked for website accessibility features 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 2.1 standard. 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 2.1 Level AA, send us a request and our accessibility experts will be here to help you with this project.