The 2021 AODA website compliance requirements are the new standard that websites and web content must be optimized to comply with by law.
Established in 2005 by the Government of Ontario, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) is a framework that is designed to make all aspects of public life accessible to people with disabilities. As you can notice, this technical standard for web compliance is focused on the Ontario region of Canada.
Under the set of regulations for accessibility, any entity that provides goods, services, or facilities and has more than 50 employees in Ontario must comply with AODA. The government of Ontario, the Legislative Assembly, and all public sector organizations are included in it, too.
Why Was AODA Founded?
The AODA web content accessibility guidelines in Ontario were first adopted in 2005 as a framework designed to make all aspects of public life accessible to persons with disabilities by 2025. In line with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), it aims to improve upon the 2001 Ontarians with Disabilities Act because of several reasons.
First of all, Ontario reported that around 15.5% of its population (1.85 million people) live with disabilities. Knowing that disabilities increase when people age, the province projects a 23.4% senior population by 2036. AODA aims to provide a path to full digital accessibility by 2025 and improve the way Ontarian organizations do business with this rising population.
Also, the AODA embarks on changes for organizations in five business sectors, including:
- Public Space Design
- Customer Service
- Information and Communications
The web accessibility guidelines planned for every organization in line with the AODA follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) set up by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). These standards require every business entity to have an accessibility plan in place and make websites accessible to wider audiences as part of the WCAG 2.1.
Similar To ADA Accessibility, The New Ontario Law Forces Websites And Web Content To Change
The AODA web accessibility standard applies to all businesses and non-profits which:
- Are based in Ontario, Canada
- Have at least 50 or more employees
- Are classified as public sector organization
- Have control over their website’s appearance, functionalities, and content
In short, all website content published after January 1, 2021 (which was the deadline) should meet the applicable WCAG 2.0 criteria for specific content. WCAG 2.0 is made up of different guidelines with three levels of digital accessibility and success criteria that include A and progress to AA and AAA based on their stringency.
AODA basically defines an “internet website” as a collection of related web pages, images, videos, or any other digital assets which are relative to a common Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) and open to the public. Here, “web content” means information that may be found on a web page or web application that includes text, images, forms, and sounds.
The WCAG 2.0 Conformance (AODA Requirements)
We are listing the WCAG 2.0 A and WCAG 2.0 AA requirements of the WCAG below, where the WCAG 2.0 is the chief accessibility measure. Here is the WCAG 2.0 Level AA checklist to make your website accessible according to the AODA requirements.
- 1.1 Any non-text content must have text alternatives (with few exceptions). This is the basic step in making the content accessible.
- 1.2 There should be text or media alternatives for prerecorded time-based audio descriptions and video content (including transcriptions, captioning). For AA, the rule covers prerecorded media and captioning for live media, too.
- 1.3 Adaptable content should display without structure or information loss in a simpler and more accessible format with an organized flow of webpage components. This makes the websites accessible for people with disabilities.
- 1.4 Audio playback and volume controls for automatic audio, as well as text and images of text that meet contrast ratio requirements. For AA, the text must be resizable to 200% without any assistive technology.
- 2.1 All webpage functionality should be available from a keyboard
- 2.2 Every user should be given enough time to read and use content via audio and video playback controls.
- 2.3 Flashing visual content should be eliminated or reduced.
- 2.4 User navigation and page orientation should be simplified using descriptive page titles and navigation order. For AA, multiple navigation methods with headings, subheadings, self-explanatory link text, and visible keyboard focus indicators should be used.
- 3.1 Content language should be determined programmatically. For AA, you should programmatically determine each passage or phrase (making the content accessible) except for names and specific terms.
- 3.2 There should be no change of context when an interface component receives focus or a component setting changes. For AA, you should design the webpage navigation uniformly.
- 3.3 You should identify all automatically detected user input errors and describe them in text-accessible format with instructions and labels. For AA, input for legal commitments or financial transactions must be verified and confirmed.
- 4.1 Make sure to design for current and future user technology compatibility. This includes assistive technologies (AT) and augmented reality (AR) by validating markup language and ensuring that full functionalities can be determined.
For now, the WCAG 2.0 Level A is the one every organization should have in mind. The Level AA compliance is good to have as well.
The WCAG 2.1 standard is not a required one, but any organization, regardless of its sector, can “future proof” itself by elevating it to WCAG 2.1 to meet the AODA accessibility compliance.
How To Comply With AODA’s WCAG 2.0 Guidelines
To comply with the 2021 AODA website compliance accessibility requirements as a business entity, you will need to access the different WCAG 2.0 AA rules for each guideline and ensure that your websites and web content meet the WCAG 2.0 AA guidelines.
How To Know If Your Website Complies With AODA
Companies with more than 50 employees and public sector organizations should use automatic assessment, assistive technologies, and user testing. They need to review the key milestones and changes, know how to prevent accessibility issues, and use an online accessibility checker to check their website accessibility.
Organizations, businesses, and non-profits with 20 or more employees, as well as public sector organizations, must submit their accessibility compliance report. The deadline has been extended to June 30, 2021.
How To Fill Out The AODA Compliance Report
- Select your organization’s category
- Edit your organization’s information
- Answer the yes/no questions
- For each question, click Yes (if you comply) or No (if you don’t comply)
- Review the form and share it with others
- Include information on your primary contact and complete certification
As we said above, the compliance report should be filled out by public sector organizations, businesses with more than 20 employees, and non-profits. You can also file up to 20 organizations at once if they all have the same organization category, the number of employees range, certifier, and answers to all of the needed questions.
Once you submit the report and get started with the process, you will get a confirmation number and an accessible PDF copy of your report.
2021 AODA Website Compliance- Does Your Website Comply To the Requirements And Standards?
If you are unable to comply with the latest web content accessibility guidelines (WCAG 2.0), you are “not practicable.” There is no statute or regulation that defines what this “not practicable” means, but experts agree that factors relevant to practicability may include the following:
- The availability of goods services facilities, or
- Technological compatibility between older products and new ones that are being procured
The additional details on the level AA website accessibility guidelines show that in some cases where the software or other tools are being used to design a website, the WCAG 2.0 guidelines may be more challenging to follow. If it is not possible to do that, the AODA advises on making sure that you use software that supports accessibility for their website.
The new digital accessibility standards for 2021 AODA website compliance also explain that in some cases, it will not be possible to publish content in a way that complies with WCAG 2.0, which includes online maps, complex diagrams, and other examples. In such cases, people with disabilities could not see this information, which is why you must provide it in an accessible format upon request.
The above-mentioned ADA website compliance standards step into action from January 1, 2021, which is a past deadline. The deadline for filing a compliance report is June 30, 2021. If you don’t have a web accessibility plan and accessibility policy in place, you should start planning.
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The ADA prohibits any private businesses that provide goods or services to the public, referred to as “public accommodations,” from discriminating against those with disabilities. Federal courts have ruled that the ADA includes websites in the definition of public accommodation. As such, websites must offer auxiliary aids and services to low-vision, hearing-impaired, and physically disabled persons, in the same way a business facility must offer wheelchair ramps, braille signage, and sign language interpreters, among other forms of assistance.
All websites must be properly coded for use by electronic screen readers that read aloud to sight-impaired users the visual elements of a webpage. Additionally, all live and pre-recorded audio content must have synchronous captioning for hearing-impaired users.
Websites must accommodate hundreds of keyboard combinations, such as Ctrl + P to print, that people with disabilities depend on to navigate the Internet.
Litigation continues to increase substantially. All business and governmental entities are potential targets for lawsuits and demand letters. Recent actions by the Department of Justice targeting businesses with inaccessible websites will likely create a dramatic increase of litigation risk.
Big box retailer Target Corp. was ordered to pay $6 million – plus $3.7 million more in legal costs – to settle a landmark class action suit brought by the National Federation of the Blind. Other recent defendants in these cases have included McDonald’s, Carnival Cruise Lines, Netflix, Harvard University, Foot Locker, and the National Basketball Association (NBA). Along with these large companies, thousands of small businesses have been subject to ADA website litigation.
Defendants in ADA lawsuits typically pay plaintiff's legal fees, their own legal fees for defending the litigation, and potential additional costs. In all, the average cost can range from tens of thousands of dollars, to above six figures. There are also high intangible costs, such as added stress, time and human capital, as well as reputational damage. Furthermore, if the remediation is incomplete, copycat suits and serial filers can follow, meaning double or triple the outlay. It's vital to implement a long-term strategy for ensuring your website is accessible and legally compliant.