“Accessibility is not a feature, it is a social trend”Antonio Santos, Influencer on Digital Transformation, Accessibility & Digital Inclusion. 

Ever since the Internet has come into existence, our lives have shaped around it and the enormous services it provides to meet our daily tasks such as communicating to any part of the globe, shopping, entertainment, official work, education and the list is unending. But the grave issue here lies for people with disabilities. Do you think they are able to access the Internet with ease? Are the public-facing websites accessible by people with any form of disabilities?  

According to the World Health Organization, 15% of the world’s population are identified to have a form of disability and in particular almost 22% of Canadians aged above 15 years have a form of disability which affects their day-to-day life activities according to a survey made in 2017 by the Canadian Survey on Disability. This doesn’t end here and it is forecasted to rise further in the coming years. 

Despite the increased usage of internet and fast growing websites, they don’t really serve purpose for those with disabilities. If organizations provide the ability to access their websites irrespective of who is accessing it, it would benefit persons with disabilities and also reach more people. This eventually makes Digital Accessibility become the most common buzzword and has come up as one of the most important marketing trends. 

What is AODA?

The government of Ontario, Canada established a law in 2005 that is “The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)” in order to enforce  accessibility standards for government, businesses, nonprofits, and public sector organizations.

As per the upcoming deadlines under AODA, by January 1st, 2021, all the public sector organizations and private/non-profit organizations with 50 or more employees in Ontario must make their websites adhere to the WCAG 2.0, Level AA guidelines excluding the success criteria Captions(Live) and Audio Descriptions(Pre-recorded).

The reason behind why the Ontario Government is strict with the rules for an organization to adhere to accessibility standards is rather an important one. It entails providing a seamless usage of digital technology by persons with disabilities to meet their daily activities which involve accessing websites. Failing to comply with the accessibility standards, Directors and Officers would be convicted of an offense and be fined up to  $50,000 per day and for a corporation, up to $100,000 per day.

So, lets elaborate upon what needs to be done to make sure that the organizations are in sync with the target set by Ontario of making a fully accessible province by 2025 and also the websites are AODA compliant before the deadline arrives.

Submit AODA Compliance Report

The first and foremost step that all the Public Organizations, Non – Profits, and Private Businesses must do is to submit the AODA Compliance Report which confirms that the current accessibility requirements of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA is met. If the AODA Compliance Report is not submitted, it means that you have violated the norms and could face enforcement action with financial penalties. 

Accessibility Audits

An Accessibility Audit needs to be carried out to determine the current level of the website’s accessibility status by confirming the accessibility requirements of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines(WCAG)2.0 Level AA. The results need to be well documented as a report.

Training to Developers, Testers and Content Creators

A basic checklist can be prepared and proper training can be provided for the developers, testers, and content creators in order to understand the accessibility requirements. Based on the audit report if there are any accessibility issues raised as a result of the audit, these issues should be fixed and then it can be confirmed that the compliance goals are met.

There are a few automation tools to determine the accessibility of a website and practically these automation tools would not completely find out all the accessibility issues and a major part of testing needs to be done manually. 

Here is a list that explains the intent of the success criteria in which almost 95% of the issues occur in a website when tested for accessibility. 

  • Contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1 between the text and its background is acceptable for users with moderately low vision to read.
  • Name, Role, Value when set for all the user interface components it provides access to the people with disabilities who  use assistive technologies such as screen readers, screen magnifiers and speech recognition software.
  • Parsing is to ensure that user agents such as assistive technologies are able to interpret and parse the content.
  • The content that is represented in different ways need to be adapted by providing the same Information and Relationships.
  • A text alternative is presented to the user that serves as an alternative for Non – text content. 
  • Focus Order is to ensure that the content in a web page when navigated sequentially by the users, receives focus that preserves the meaning.
  • Content  needs to be operable through Keyboard by the people who cannot use devices like mouse and also for people who use alternate keyboards. 
  • Use of Color is to ensure that the users are able to access the content irrespective of the color.
  • Focus Visible is to ensure that the element receives focus that is clearly visible to the user.
  • Except for captions and images, Resize text up to 200% without any loss of content or functionality.
  • A Meaningful Sequence in which an alternative content is provided without changing the order of the content.
  • Labels or Instructions are provided for form elements which makes users know what data needs to be entered.

So, what are you waiting for? We only have a few months until January 1st, 2021. It is never too late to start off to ensure that the websites your organization owns are AODA Compliant. It is also crucial to ensure that your teams are well-trained and all the audits are properly documented.

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