Gear Up for AODA 2021: Ontario’s Accessibility RoadMap

Tarveen Kaur September 22, 2020
Are you familiar with the term AODA? If you are based in Canada, the chances are high that you are well-versed with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). A legal regulation passed in the year 2005 in Ontario, Canada, AODA is responsible for enforcing accessibility standards for the Government, business organizations, and public sector companies. “If disabled people were truly heard, an explosion of knowledge of the human body and psyche would take place.”― Susan Wendell, author, and professor at San Francisco University. AODA is a revolutionary law that has an ambitious objective for Ontario’s province to be accessible to all disabled people by 2025. Keeping this final goal in mind, the AODA has issued important upcoming guidelines that have to be implemented by January 1st, 2021. It states that all public sector organizations in Ontario should have 100% accessible web content that meets the mandatory requirements put out by WCAG 2.0 Level AA.
How Does The AODA 2021 Deadline Impact You?
Canada needs to push the boundaries and revamp the existing accessibility standards. According to the Accessibility World Map by Siteimprove, Canada has scored just 63/100 in web accessibility and is behind many developed countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia. If you are not certain whether the AODA 2021 deadline will make any difference to your organization, think twice. This is a comprehensive legal requirement that needs to be strictly followed by all public, private, and non-profit organizations with more than 50 employees. Businesses in Canada need to get started on their accessibility journey fast! Any organization that is found to be non-compliant after the January 1st deadline can be fined up to $ 100,00 per day. The management and executives of a non-compliant company can be individually fined up to $50,000 each day until the required design changes are made for complete web accessibility.   
How To Ensure AODA Compliance?
Barriers in a physical work environment or digital online resources can hamper everyday activities. Since one in five or 22% of Canadians aged 15 years and above have one or more disabilities, it becomes imperative to design accessible websites for all society sections. The AODA guidelines that have to be implemented by January 1st, 2021, will ensure that people with limited dexterity, mobility, vision, hearing, and cognitive abilities can navigate through digital content just like any other individual. Here are some pointers to ensure that your website meets the AODA requirements:
  • All organizations – public, private, and NGOs need to adhere to WCAG 2.0 guidelines. They need to provide text alternatives for any non-text content and use large print, braille, or high-contrast visual images for people with limited vision.
  • Companies that have not included inclusive design principles for their website may require an audit to check accessibility levels. Automated accessibility tools can help users understand the viability of web pages, mobile applications, and electronic content.
  • Accessibility diagnostics can facilitate organizations to revamp their websites and make the required compliance changes. Keyboard-only interactions, web browser plug-ins, and various assistive technologies should be checked while conducting a WCAG review of website content and framework.
  • It is vital to add captions and auditory descriptions to videos. All PDF format files and textual documents should also follow accessibility norms.
  • The International Web Content Accessibility Guidelines pillar stones should be followed – Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust. This will make websites compatible with new technologies and ensure that they provide equitable access to all users. 
  • Train content creators and web developers in the latest accessibility principles. Equip them with automated testing tools to check accessibility levels at all stages of the digital content creation process.
January 2021 is approaching fast. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act will usher a new awakening and lead to responsible compliance of WCAG 2.0 principles. Implementation of AODA will ensure the adoption of best web practices and help companies create higher quality online content and drive more organic traffic to their websites. Building an accessible web page can help businesses serve Canadian audiences better and increase your site’s online brand presence. Accessibility innovations provide excellent user experience to the disabled and people based in remote locations with slow Internet connections.  With less than a year to go, the time to act is now! Start working on AODA requirements by training your team and completing audits before Jan 2021 to gain a headstart in your accessibility journey!   

Tarveen Kaur

Accessibility Practice Lead at Magic EdTech, Tarveen is actively engaged in building new class digital accessibility solutions for education.