What is AODA?
The Government of Ontario passed the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) on June 13, 2005. Businesses and organizations in Ontario are required to comply with the standards set under this act so that people with disabilities will have more opportunities to participate in everyday life.
Who needs to comply?
The AODA applies to all levels of government, nonprofits, and private sector businesses across Ontario who have one or more staff.
What are the penalties for non-compliance?
A person and unincorporated organizations can be fined up to $50,000 dollars for each day the violation continues. A corporation that does not comply can be fined up to $100,000 per day. Directors and officers of a corporation with fiduciary responsibility are liable for a fine of up to $50,000 a day.
How does this affect my website?
New AODA requirements for websites kicked-in for government entities in 2012. For private organizations of 50 employees or more (including not-for-profit organizations), the obligations started on January 1, 2014.
There are three levels of accessibility under AODA Website Content and Accessibility Guideline (WCAG). If an organization starts a new website (with a new domain name) it must be compliant with Level A from its launch (as of January 1, 2014). If an organization gives its existing website a significant refresh after January 1, 2014, it must be also be compliant with Level A. Any content on that website dated from January 1, 2012 or after must be accessible.
By 2021, all websites and web content must conform with WCAG 2.0 level AA (excluding live captioning and audio description).
How do I know if I’m compliant?
The WCAG explains how companies can achieve a website that is accessible to a wider range of people with disabilities, including blindness and low vision, deafness and hearing loss, learning disabilities, cognitive limitations, limited movement, speech disabilities, photosensitivity and combinations of these.
WCAG outlines four main principles of creating an accessible website:
Perceivable – Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive.
Operable – User interface components and navigation must be operable.
Understandable – Information and the operation of user interface must be understandable.
Robust – Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.
Remember, compliance with AODA is not optional. Following the WCAG guidelines will not only make your website and content more accessible to people with disabilities, it also makes it more usable by older individuals with changing abilities due to aging, and improves the experience for users in general.