January 2021 is fast approaching and particularly in Ontario, the deadline to make your website AODA compliant is looming! Even if your website is outside of Ontario, and you don’t have any offices in Ontario, you should pay close attention! Many other provinces already have, or are in the process of developing similar accessibility laws.
Here is how the new AODA law will affect your website.
In 2005, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) became law, making Ontario the first Province in Canada to create accessibility legislation with such a sweeping scope. Ontario has an ambitious goal of making Ontario barrier-free by 2025.
This new law identifies all private and non-profit organizations with over 50 employees as well as all public sector organizations must comply by January 1, 2021. Compliance consists of ensuring all web content posted after January 1, 2012 complies with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA.
As of January 2014, all private and non-profit organizations with over 50 employees as well as all public sector organizations were legally required to ensure that their websites were complying with WCAG 2.0 Level A. If your business has never insured that your website is compliant, you’re way behind and need to get moving fast! Any organization that is identified as needing to comply, that does not comply, can be fined up to $100,000 per day, AND the officers or executives of that organization can be fined up to $50,000 every day until the website is found to be compliant.
If your business is in a place where some content is not able to be posted in a way that complies with WCAG 2.0 – (i.e. online maps and complex diagrams) – you may post the content, BUT the company must provide another version in an accessible format upon request.
Most of the Canadian provinces websites comply with WCAG 2.0 Level AA or are in the progress of doing so. This province compliance (or non-compliance) refers only to the province government’s website and not to its cities and municipalities, which in most cases do not comply to the aforementioned level.
What about other areas of Canada?
Canada’s Standard on Web Accessibility, took effect August 1, 2011, and mandates Government of Canada websites and web applications to meet WCAG 2.0 Level AA criteria.
The Accessible Canada Act (Bill C-81)
On June 21, 2019, The Accessible Canada Act became law after receiving Royal Assent. One of the purposes of the act is to prevent accessibility barriers in information and communication technologies, including digital content and the technologies used to access it. Requirements of this act, including web accessibility, will likely follow WCAG. Organizations under federal jurisdiction are required to comply, or face a fine of up to $250,000.
Quebec’s Act to Secure Handicapped Persons in the Exercise of their Rights with a View to Achieving Social, School and Workplace Integration
Quebec’s current disability laws only apply to the public sector (ministries, government agencies and municipalities), and it has no clear goals or penalties to ensure compliance. That’s why many people and organizations in Quebec are pressuring the government to create a stronger provincial accessibility law.
In 2013, the Accessibility for Manitobans Act (AMA) became law. The Information and Communications accessibility standard section, addresses barriers to accessing information, including information provided on websites. This standard is currently under development; however, it is expected that requirements will follow internationally accepted WCAG, like the AODA. The Government of Manitoba is working to create a more inclusive Manitoba by 2023.
In April 2017, Nova Scotia’s Accessibility Act became law, making Nova Scotia the third province to enact accessibility legislation. The act contains a standard for Information and Communications (websites), which are currently in development. The Accessibility Act aims to make Nova Scotia inclusive and barrier-free by 2030.
The Government of Nova Scotia’s multi-year accessibility plan includes the development of a more inclusive website that meets WCAG 2.0 Level AA requirements. Since the Government is working to ‘lead by example’, organizations should also prepare to meet similar web accessibility requirements.
Compliance is mandatory and will have a fine of up to $250,000 for non-compliance.
In 2018, British Columbia proposed the British Columbia Accessibility Act, otherwise known as Bill M 219. The act is aiming to create an accessible British Columbia by 2024, and it includes standards for an accessible internet using WCAG 2.0 Level AA web standards.
This Act had its first reading in May 2018, public engagement the fall of 2019, and the Honourable Shane Simpson hoped to have the law in place in 2020. COVID-19 may have derailed these plans, but the law is by no means forgotten. Instead, the pandemic has given businesses a longer grace period to get their websites compliant before this becomes law.
Although the AODA is only enforceable in Ontario, Kathy, Kathleen and Barbara suggested that Alberta communicators who aren’t already part of a national organization with offices in Ontario become familiar with the guidelines as it’s only a matter of time before they will be implemented across Canada. In fact, Manitoba has similar regulations in place.
Even if your province doesn’t have strong web accessibility laws in place, you should become familiar with the guidelines of other provinces. It’s only a matter of time before all provinces implement similar laws.
We are absolutely headed towards a fully barrier-free Canada, mandated by law. Provinces and territories such as Saskatchewan and Yukon, have disability advocates that are putting pressure on their governments to pass accessibility legislation.
If you really aren’t that bothered about following the law, think on this. The Royal Bank of Canada, reported that people with disabilities have spending power of nearly $25 billion every year across Canada. That’s a pretty big chunk of cash to completely ignore!
If you need help to find out if your website is AODA compliant, or if you want to meet accessibility WCAG 2.0 Level AA standards no matter where you are, we can help! We do web accessibility audits and can help with any of your web accessibility needs. Contact us for more information at [email protected] to find out how our team of experts can help you!