If you own or operate a business or an organization in the province of Ontario, you’re likely aware of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). You may already have taken steps to meet its requirements for accessibility in some or all of the five areas it addresses: information and communications, customer service, transportation, employment and design of public spaces. But what you might not know is how the AODA applies to your website and other digital properties.
It’s important to choose an individual or company with expertise in AODA Compliant website. Although the AODA became law more than a decade ago, not all web developers are knowledgeable about what’s necessary and how to implement it.
The AODA came into effect in 2005, and it applies to Ontario’s public and private sectors. The goal is for the province to become fully accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. That includes web accessibility. “By law, you must make new and significantly refreshed public websites accessible if you are: a private or non-profit organization with 50+ employees; or a public sector organization,” states the Government of Ontario. “The organization that controls the website must meet the accessibility requirements.”
How To Meet AODA Requirements?
There are three areas under the AODA that require digital accessibility: information and communications, customer service and employment standards. Here’s how your company or organization can work towards meeting its obligations:
1. Information and Communications
Under the AODA, all public-facing information must be accessible, including (but not limited to) websites, videos, apps and PDFs. If, for example, a transportation agency circulates a PDF brochure of its routes and schedules or municipality posts a video with public safety information, these materials must be made accessible for people with disabilities upon request and at no extra cost.
2. Customer Service
Businesses and service providers must ensure that people with disabilities have an equal opportunity to obtain, use and benefit from their goods or services. If you have an e-commerce site, it has to be accessible, so customers with disabilities are shop online freely. Similarly, if your site includes web self-service options such as live chat, chatbots or virtual agents, those technologies also have to be made accessible under the regulation.
The AODA also stipulates that you must provide your goods and services in a manner that respects the dignity and independence of people with disabilities. For example, your website could offer assistive technology to customers who have difficulty typing or using a mouse, so they can browse your site with ease.
3. Employment Standards
Workplace information must be accessible. This includes notifying employees and the public that your company or organization will accommodate the needs of individuals with disabilities. You must also ensure that employees have the information they need to perform their jobs and make general information about your organization available to all staff. This includes updates sent in a PDF, training videos and job application portals.
This also includes providing accommodations, such as assistive technology, to employees who need it. For people with physical disabilities, tools such as voice recognition, hands-free navigation and keyboard alternatives can allow them to control various functions without using their hands.