The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA) was enacted in Ontario, Canada. This Act was created to help increase the accessibility of Ontario's public areas by the year 2025. By creating a target date that was twenty years in the future from its inception, the Act gave plenty of time for planning, revisions, and correction of inaccessible facilities.

As of January 1, 2021, AODA compliance is required for all public websites controlled by a designated public sector organization or a business or non-profit organization with 50 or more employees. The organization that controls the website (either directly or through a contractual relationship) must meet the accessibility requirements. These requirements only apply to websites and online content published online after January 1, 2012.

AODA strives to raise the bar for accessibility for those with physical and mental disabilities, and it applies to a broad range of people and facilities. The standards of this Act apply to anyone who is an employer of Ontario residents and apply to all goods, services, facilities, employment, accommodation and buildings.

AODA also sets minimum accessibility standards for people with disabilities. Persons and organizations must follow these rules to identify, remove and prevent barriers. The term “barrier” is frequently used within AODA and is defined as anything that keeps a person with a disability from participating fully in society because of his or her disability.

What Web Standards Relate to AODA?

AODA applies to websites and web-based apps. Organizations must make their websites compliant with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Level AA. This international standard gives web developers guidelines on how to make their web pages accessible to computer users with disabilities.

What is WCAG?

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are a constantly-evolving set of standards created by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an international nonprofit that publishes what are generally considered to be the official specifications for HTML, CSS, and several other web technologies. Contributions are made by an international community of member organizations, academics, W3C full-time staff, and the public, working together to develop the WCAG. In fact, staff members at AccessWay participates in the formulation of the WCAG guidelines.

WCAG is essentially the primary how-to guide for properly coding a website to be accessible for people with disabilities. WCAG contains detailed instructions for website owners, designers and developers on how to create websites, digital content and markup through accessible approaches that work seamlessly with assistive technologies.

WCAG has gone through a series of revisions since its inception and currently stands at version 2.1. The guidelines are broken down into three levels of compliance, with increasing numbers of letter As representing higher standards. You might think of these as being like grades, with the lowest level being “average,” the next “above average” and the last “excellence.”

There are four principles that guide how the WCAG is managed.

Information and user interface components must be presented to users in ways they can perceive. This means content must be evident to at least one or more of their senses.
So, for example, in order to create a perceivable piece of information that will get through to the senses of the user:

The web page and its text must be compatible with screen readers or other assistive technology and devices
When creating content, consider that it ought to be capable of being presented in multiple ways without losing meaning
Make it easier for users to see and hear content you provide.

User interface components and navigation must be operable. This means that users must be able to operate the interface, and the interface cannot require interaction that a user cannot perform.
Some ways this can be achieved include:

Making all functionality available from a keyboard.
Giving users enough time to read and use content.
Avoiding content that causes seizures or physical reactions.
Helping users navigate and find content.
Making it easier to use inputs other than a keyboard.

Information and the operation of user interfaces must be understandable. This means that users must be able to understand the information, as well as how to operate the user interface.

Some ways this can be achieved include:

Making text readable and understandable
Making content appear and operate in predictable ways
Helping users avoid and correct mistakes

Content must be provided in numerous ways so that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies. This means that users must be able to access the content (and remain accessible) as technologies advance.
This can be achieved by:
- Using standards to guide how content is presented

If any of the four WCAG principles are not met, users with disabilities will not be able to use the web. To help developers know exactly how to make content that meets the four principles, Guidelines and Success Criteria are included that provide a roadmap for web content to become as accessible as possible.

The AI-Powered AccessWay Accessibility Widget is the easiest way to bring your website into full compliance for not only WCAG, but across all standards. It also ensures any content you add in the future is compliant as well. Making your website standards-compliant will help boost your bottom line, but at its core, it’s about making sure that the doors of your website are open to all. Fundamentally, it’s the right thing to do. Because everyone should have equal access to the internet.

The Four Principles of AODA
AODA asserts that organizations have a duty to meet the needs of workers, tenants, customers, or clients with disabilities. The right to accommodation ensures that people can work productively, live independently, and access services open to non-disabled people.

Organizations that respect the dignity of a person with a disability treat them as people who are valued and deserving of their full services. They do not treat people with disabilities as an afterthought or force them to accept lesser service, quality or convenience.

This principle relates to the freedom to do things in your own way. For example, people who may move or speak more slowly should not be denied an opportunity to participate in an activity. A staff person should not hurry them or take over a task for them if they prefer to do it themselves in their own way.

Integrated services are those that allow people with disabilities to fully benefit from the same services, in the same place, and in the same or similar way as other customers. Integration means that policies, practices and procedures are designed to be accessible to everyone including people with disabilities.

But sometimes, integration does not serve the needs of all people with disabilities. Alternative measures might be necessary because the person with a disability requires it or because you cannot provide another option at the time.

Equal Opportunity
Equal opportunity means having the same chances, options, benefits and results as others.

In the case of services it means that people with disabilities have the same opportunity to benefit from the way you provide goods or services as others. They should not have to make significantly more effort to access or obtain service. They should also not have to accept lesser quality or more inconvenience.

This principle directly applies to web accessibility.

The 5 standards of AODA.

Currently, there are five AODA standards:

The Information and Communications Standards

The Information and Communications Standards list rules for organizations to create, provide, and receive information and communications that people with disabilities can access. The standards give all people an equal chance to learn and be active in their communities.

The Employment Standards

The Employment Standard requires that employers make their workplace and employment practices accessible to potential or current employees with disabilities.

The Transportation Standards

The Transportation Standard requires transportation service providers to make routes and vehicles accessible to passengers with disabilities. Specifically, this standard requires transportation companies to inform the public about accessible equipment and features on their vehicles, routes and services.

Some ways this can be achieved include:

The Design of Public Spaces Standards

The Design of Public Spaces Standard describes ways to make communal spaces more accessible. Most of the spaces it covers are outdoors.

The Customer Service Standards

The Customer Service Standard mandates that service providers find ways to break down barriers that prevent customers with disabilities from accessing the services they need. This includes physical and technological barriers.

Two additional AODA standards are also being developed:

The Health Care Standards
This standard will apply to all healthcare organizations.

The Education Standards
This standard will identify barriers facing students in K-12 as well as universities and colleges.

While each standard has its own unique requirements in order to meet compliance, there are general requirements that apply to all of the standards and all types of organizations. These requirements include (1) training, (2) an accessibility policy, (3) an accessibility plan and (4) self-service kiosks.

For websites, a posted accessibility policy is vital because it identifies how a site has already been made accessible and any known accessibility violations that exist. You can visit AccessWay to generate to quickly create a free accessibility policy.

An accessibility plan is also important for websites because it outlines the steps your organization is taking to remove barriers to access for everyone.

AODA Fines and Penalties

In addition to establishing committees that create standards, AODA also has a mechanism for enforcement. The law specifically states it is illegal to:

Provide false or misleading information to a director or in an accessibility report.

Fail to comply with an order made under the AODA.

Block or fail to cooperate with an inspection.

Intimidate, coerce, penalize or discriminate against someone for seeking enforcement of AODA, cooperating with an inspection or providing information as part of an inspection.

Fines for noncompliance can reach up to $50,000 for each day or partial day an offence happens. For corporations, fines can rise to $100,000 for each day or partial day.

Furthermore, all directors and/or officers of a corporation must make a reasonable effort to prevent the corporation from committing an offence. Failure to do so can cause those individuals held liable to pay a fine of up to $50,000 for each day or partial day.

How To Get AODA Compliant

The AI-Powered AccessWay Accessibility Widget is the easiest way to bring your website into full compliance for not only AODA, but across all standards. It also ensures any content you add in the future is compliant as well. Making your website standards-compliant will help boost your bottom line, but at its core, it’s about making sure that the doors of your website are open to all. Fundamentally, it’s the right thing to do. Because everyone should have equal access to the internet.

To learn more about how the AccessWay Accessibility Widget complies with AODA, please get in touch. And if you can’t wait to get started using the widget, click the link below to begin a free trial.