Recently I have started receiving a number of inquiries regarding the new mandatory web accessibility standards in Ontario and how they will effect both new and existing websites.

As of January 1, 2014 under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), all private and non-profit organizations with 50 or more employees and all public sector organizations will need to make their websites accessible or face substantial fines.

Here is what I can tell you.

Beginning January 1, 2014:
If you launch a new public website or your existing site undergoes a significant refresh, the site and any of its web content published after January 1, 2012, must conform to the World Wide Web Consortium Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Level A.

According to the Ministry of Community and Social Services, a significant refresh is defined as “changing more than 50% of the content, design or technology of the website.”

In order to meet WCAG 2.0, Level A, an organization’s website must:

  • Provide captions and text alternatives for images and multimedia
  • Use strong contrast between text and background, and make text resizing available
  • Create content that can be presented using assistive technologies (such as screen readers) without losing meaning
  • Use structured content and make it keyboard accessible
  • Avoid CAPTCHAs (user challenges involving distorted letterforms) and give users enough time to read and use content
  • Avoid time limits when asking users to provide a response or information
  • Avoid blinking images
  • Avoid the use of colour indicators
  • Help users find and navigate content by making links specific (not ‘click here’)
  • Help users avoid and correct mistakes by making error messages specific
  • Make tables and charts accessible to assistive technology.

The Government of Ontario has also produced a guide to help ensure your web property meets accessibility standards. The full PDF can be viewed at this link.

In the document, you will also find mention of the following:

Beginning January 1, 2021:
All public websites and all web content on those sites published after January 1, 2012, must conform with WCAG 2.0 Level AA, other than providing captions on live videos or audio descriptions for pre-recorded videos.

I hope this brief synopsis will help you understand the new standards and things to come. However if you have any further questions please do not hesitate to contact me.