AODA Compliance & Updates to Web Accessibility Standards

August 15, 2019 BY JACLYN LEDUC
Updated: August 19, 2019

Ontario, Canada offers some of the most comprehensive web accessibility standards in the world.

What is the AODA?

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) was instated in 2005 with the intention of creating a barrier-free Ontario by 2025. The AODA regulates accessibility standards across government, public, and private sectors, with requirements affecting five different areas of business: customer service, employment, information and communications, transportation, and design of public spaces.

The AODA standards aim to eliminate obstacles for people with disabilities in public and private life.

An Accessible Ontario by 2025

According to the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services, 1 in 7 Ontarians has a disability. This number is expected to increase, with disability affecting 1 in 5 of the population by 2036.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act was passed to set an accessibility standard in which no person with a disability is prevented from fully participating in all aspects of society because of his or her disability. This means removing barriers, whether they be physical, architectural, technological, or informational. A policy or procedure that does not make the appropriate accommodations can also be considered a barrier.

Importantly, the AODA sought to include people with disabilities in the creation of official accessibility standards so their needs can be adequately met and their voices heard.
Three years after the AODA, Ontario passed the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service (Ontario Regulation 429/07), which focuses on creating accessible infrastructure in Ontario.

This was followed in 2011 by the passage of the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (Ontario Regulation 191/11), which sets standards for electronic communications.

 

 

New AODA Requirements for 2020

With such a substantial overhaul to enact by 2025, the AODA has set a series of phases toward full compliance. Each phase brings forth new requirements under the law. The following requirements will be active under the AODA in 2020:

 

Produce Accessible Educational and Training Materials
January 1, 2020: Any organization that produces materials for educational and training institutions must be able to provide accessible or conversion-ready formats of supplementary educational or training resources.
Make School Library Materials and Resources Accessible
January 1, 2020: All educational and training institutions’ libraries must provide accessible or conversion-ready formats of digital or multimedia resources and materials.

Read on for AODA requirements regarding WCAG compliance and regulations for education, private businesses, and government.

WCAG Compliance

The AODA references Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 for specific standards to achieve.

Those organizations which are covered by the AODA’s web accessibility standards must ensure all new websites or content meet at least WCAG 2.0 Level A.

By 2021, such organizations’ websites should be fully WCAG 2.0 Level AA compliance.

It’s important to keep a close eye on the AODA, as updates are phased in over time to ensure that accessible practices are comprehensive and up-to-date.

What Does This Mean for Online Video

The AODA and online video

If an Ontario-based organization uses online video at all, it must be made accessible. For video to be fully accessible to individual with disabilities, it must have closed captioning for deaf or hard-of-hearing viewers and video description for blind or low-vision users.

Non-visual audio content must be accompanied with a transcript.

The media player in use must be keyboard accessible, meaning a user can navigate the controls without using a mouse.

Note that all websites and web content published after January 1, 2012, with minor exceptions, will be required to comply with WCAG 2.0 Level AA by January 1, 2021. All websites and web content from The Government of Ontario and the Legislative Assembly must have conformed with WCAG 2.0 Level AA as of January 1, 2016.

How the AODA Applies to Education

The AODA covers three different types of educational organizations:

Schools and Universities

Private schools with 50 or more employees and all public schools are subject to AODA regulations for web accessibility.

For these institutions, any new websites or digital content published after January 1, 2014 must be accessible, and all archival or existing web content must be accessible by January 1, 2021.

These educational institutions must provide educational and training resources and materials in accessible formats upon request.

For example, if a deaf student cannot listen to a recorded lecture, they may ask to have the file captioned or request an ASL translator.

Schools must train educators in accessibility awareness and how it relates to teaching.

 

Educational Publishers

The AODA extends to any publishers of educational materials, such as private textbook publishers, eLearning courses, university presses, and school boards.

As with schools, the rules apply to private organizations with 50+ employees and all public sector entities. All their new web content must be accessible, with all existing and archival material accessible by 2021.

 

Libraries

Large private libraries (50+ employees) and all public libraries adhere to the same deadlines as schools and educational publishers when it comes to making their websites accessible.

How the AODA Applies to Private Businesses

The AODA set accessibility standards for private organizations bases on company size. Companies with under 50 employees don’t have specified web accessibility requirements, but larger organizations do.

Large organizations (50 employees or more) must:

  • Update their websites and web content accessibility according to the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0.
  • Provide accessible formats and support for electronic communications as quickly as possible and at no additional cost when requested by a disabled person.
  • Create an accessible feedback process with accessible formats and communications supports upon request.
  • Make public emergency information accessible upon request.

 

 

How the AODA Applies to Government

As of January 1, 2016, all websites from the Government of Ontario and the Legislative Assembly must conform with WCAG 2.0 Level AA.

Municipal government bodies and public sector organizations in the province must make all their web content WCAG 2.0 Level AA compliant by January 1, 2021.

Any new websites or digital content published since January 1, 2014, must be at least WCAG 2.0 Level A compliant.

Penalties for Non-Compliance

Section 21(4) of the AODA states that those in violation of the regulations may be ordered to pay a fine and/or comply within a specific timeframe.
The charts below, sourced from Blaney McMurty LLC, outline the financial penalties of non-compliance with AODA.

 

Penalties for Individuals and Unincorporated Organizations

 

Impact of Contravention*
Contravention History*MajorModerateMinor
Major$2000$1000$500
Moderate$1000$500$250
Minor$500$250$200

 

Penalties for Corporations

 

Impact of Contravention*
Contravention History*MajorModerateMinor
Major$15,00010,000$5,000
Moderate$10,000$5,000$2,500
Minor$2,000$1,000$500

*A contravention is an action that violates a law, treaty, or other rulings.
 

In cases where the impact of contravention and contravention history are both determined to be major, the above amounts may be treated as a daily penalty to a maximum of $100,000 for corporations or $50,000 for individuals or unincorporated organizations.

AODA Compliant Employment, Training, and Hiring Practices

AODA Compliance

The AODA requires that all employers adhere to hiring, training, and management practices that do not discriminate against people with disabilities. The following digital or physical processes must be made fully accessible:

  • New employee recruiting, vetting, and hiring
  • Internal communications
  • Performance assessments and management
  • Development and advancement
  • Workplace emergency response information

Employers should maintain documentation for individual accommodation plans, as well as a return-to-work process for temporary disabilities.

Deadlines for organizations to comply with these standards have already passed:

  • January 1, 2016: Organizations with 50 or more employees
  • January 1, 2017: Organizations with less than 50 employee

Exceptions

Ontario’s government clarified that the AODA web accessibility requirements do not apply to internal (intranet) websites, nor to content published before 2012.


Now that you’re all up to speed with the AODA, you can begin or continue to make your content accessible. Get started today!

Get started with video accessibility, learn more.

 

This post was originally published in June 2016 by Emily Griffin and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

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