Accessible Communications ON (And Off) the Internet

Accessibility is not only about access to physical space or the internet. Accessibility isn’t just about making life better for people who have a disability. Accessibility is about breaking down barriers and including as many people as we can in our businesses and organizations.

Moving grey van blurred by speed.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, (AODA) was passed in 2005 with a 20 year plan to make the province fully accessible. AODA isn’t just about the internet. The Accessible Information and Communications standards address the removal of barriers in access to information being provided in person, through print, telephone, websites, and other means.

When we are talking about communication we need to make sure we’re including as many people as we can. If we’re going to invest money in advertising and reporting to our stakeholders, we have to make sure everyone can access the information in the easiest way possible.

We need to make sure when we communicate with the world, that the world can actually receive our message.

We frequently do AODA audits on websites. This is a service we perform to audit your website to make sure it is complying with the AODA legislation. One of the most common accessibility problems we find is insufficient colour contrast between text and background.

As I was writing this article a dark grey van sped down the road outside my window. The words “Electric Co.” were written in nice white lettering against the grey paint. Unfortunately, the actual company name was printed in dark red and there simply wasn’t enough colour contrast between the red lettering and the grey background that anyone could read the name of the company, especially as the van was hurtling down the road at 60 km/h! A precious advertising opportunity wasted because the company didn’t think about accessibility.

Another concept in AODA is that all non-text elements should have an alternative description. You can expand that idea further, and make sure that all your information is available in as many formats as possible:

  • When you’re sharing reports, make sure they are available in as usable a format as possible. Many people cannot open Microsoft Word documents, so make sure you provide a pdf version as well.

  • If you have an email newsletter, is that information shared in some other way so that non-subscribers can still be informed?

It’s worth noting that as our society trends older, many of your valued customers are going to start having mobility, vision and hearing challenges. Those users may not be fully disabled, but is it worth considering making your fonts larger and more readable in your print, especially if this is an audience you’re trying to target? Have you provided captions on your Youtube videos?

You also need to remove any barriers for people to respond to your advertising. Make it easy for people to respond! Always include a Call To Action button! “Click here” for more information. “Call Now” to allow users to phone immediately.

On Facebook, people will often share a picture of a poster for an event instead of creating an actual Facebook event that people can respond as “interested” or “going.” People may “like” the poster, but that’s all they will do. In order to remember the event, they have to go into their own personal calendar and add the event. We want to make it as simple as possible for people to be reminded of the event, or to buy tickets. Remove as many barriers as you can from the purchase path.

We need to always consider our audience and what their needs are, breaking down as many barriers as possible.

At rTraction, we solve communication problems. Every day we see barriers being put up that prevent users from seeing relevant communication.

If you have concerns about AODA compliance or just want to do the right thing for your community, we need to talk.