AODA: Making Your Website Accessible to People with Disabilities

December 24th, 2014

You may already be aware of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. But are you aware that it will have an effect on how websites are developed?

The goal of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) is to make Ontario and Ontario-based organizations fully accessible to people with disabilities, and that includes websites and digital content.

According to Statistics Canada, 13.7% of Canadians aged 15 or older have a disability. Additionally, the Canadian population is aging. StatsCan found seniors accounted for a record highof 14.8% of the Canadian population in 2011, up from 13.7% in 2006.

AODA states all privately held or non-profit organizations in Ontario with more than 50 employees must ensure their websites and digital content conform to World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. There are three levels of the WCAG 2.0 – Level A, Level AA, and Level AAA. Your organization’s site needs to be WCAG 2.0 Level A-compliant today.

By January 1, 2021, all public organizations and companies with more than 50 employees must meet WCAG 2.0 Level AA. WCAG 2.0 Level AA includes captioning for both live and pre-recorded video and audio available online.

Find Out How AODA Relates to Your Business

The timeline for your organization to be AODA-compliant depends on the size and nature of your business or non-profit entity.

The timeline for implementation is complex because the law deals with many facets of business, of which website accessibility is one. To give you an idea, here’s a PDF created by the Government of Ontario that gives a timeline detailing requirements and compliance deadlines.

The Government of Ontario website features a wizard you can use to find out what category your organization belongs in, and which gives you a sense of the deadlines that directly affect your business.

What You Can Do Now

When you’re developing your website strategy, consider implementing the following functionality:

  • Write your content in clear language that is easy to understand
  • Use strong contrast for text on backgrounds to make it easier to read
  • Provide alternate text for images and captions
  • Mark decorative images — images that have no direct relevance to an article — as null text Tag: (alt=“”)
  • Ensure that your website is navigable with a keyboard
  • Provide text transcriptions for audio recordings
  • Provide text transcriptions and captions for videos
  • Avoid blinking images or potential seizure-inducing visual elements
  • Use clear link text (instead of “click here”, describe the link and its content)

WCAG 2.0 Accessibility Will Improve Your Site SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the practice of making your site discoverable on the web via search engines. It’s an involved process that involves leveraging your content so that Google takes notice of your site.

Complying with WCAG standards ties in with good SEO practices. For example, alternative text tags should describe images in the context of the article in which they are placed. The description shouldn’t just be a bunch of keywords stuffed into a text field at random. These tags are read aloud by screen readers. They need to make sense. Plus, Google likes it better when they do.

The more you make your site accessible, user-friendly and transparent, the higher your rankings will be. In other words, the more accessible you make your website to people with disabilities, the more Google will acknowledge your credibility.

AODA is Already Law: The Time is Now

If you factor in accessibility measures to your site at the outset of the project, the process will be far easier. There are guidelines and accessibility checklists available you can use to test your site’s compatibility.

AODA will encourage businesses to make their websites more accessible to potentially millions of additional users, making the internet a much more accommodating place for the millions of people with disabilities in Canada, and around the world.

For more information about AODA-compliant websites and how Treefrog can help, get in touch with us.

PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS IS NOT A LEGAL DOCUMENT, AND SHOULD NOT BE RELIED UPON FOR LEGAL ADVICE.


More Resources:

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0

WebAIM’s WCAG 2.0 Checklist for HTML documents

WebAIM Introduction to Web Accessibility