AODA, Accessibility, and Your Website

Accessibility isn’t just about making life easier for people with disabilities, it’s about breaking down barriers related to our communities, and making sure that everyone is included in every area of our organizations.

arrow breaking through a wall

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, (AODA) was passed in 2005 to “break down barriers for people with a disability”.  Ontario isn’t the only jurisdiction that has passed similar legislation, though if you live in Ontario you need to be aware of the legislation as it applies to you.

Public organizations, non-profits, and private businesses need to complete an AODA compliance report. This report is a way to make sure that organizations are on track with the goal of making a fully accessible province by 2025.

The act covers five different areas of accessibility including employment and public spaces, but for today, let’s zero in on the legislation specific to your website.

Beginning January 1, 2021: all public websites and web content posted after January 1, 2012 must meet WCAG 2.0 Level AA other than criteria 1.2.4 (live captions) and 1.2.5 (pre-recorded audio descriptions)

In plain English, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) give us a set of standards we test against to make sure that a  website is accessible to all users. As we discussed previously, accessibility isn’t only about disability. It’s about including as many people into our community as possible.  We need to make sure that when we communicate with the world, that the world can actually receive our message.

When you think about accessibility pertaining to web design, it helps to think about the many users who may be operating in contexts which are different from your own.  Those user contexts could include people with apparent disabilities such as vision or hearing impairments.

But another common context we need to think about is different screen resolutions. It’s no secret that mobile usage of the internet has soared in the past decade. Many older websites, designed during a time when smaller font sizing was in vogue, are unreadable or don’t scale well to a smaller screen. We don’t want to limit people from joining our community, so we need to go beyond the law when we consider different contexts of use.

Just in case you think rTraction is perfect, we recently delivered a project for testing to a client and it quickly became apparent that our client was limited to using an older browser due to security concerns at their organization.  Some of the javascript (bleeding-edge, for those asking) that we were using wasn’t working on our client’s computers. In essence, we had put up a barrier to prevent our client from accessing their own site! We were able to fix this very quickly, but it just shows how easy it is to forget about our users just for the sake of doing something cool.

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 WCAG Level AA standards.

Some of the most frequent AODA compliance issues we find are:

  • Images not having proper alternative text. Without alternative text, the content of an image will not be available to screen reader users or when the image is unavailable.

  • Insufficient colour contrast between text and background, making it difficult for people with low vision to read. Imagine highlighter on white—it’s difficult to read for most of us.

  • The site cannot be navigated using only the keyboard. Using a trackpad or mouse is only helpful if you use them.

  • Form elements are not properly labelled. Forms become unusable by screen readers if the inputs are not properly configured.

At rTraction, we solve communication problems. If all of this jargon sounds like a foreign language to you, we need to talk. If you have concerns about your website not being AODA compliant, let us help you with that.

Next time let’s discuss ways that your general communication may need to be improved to make sure you’re including everyone.



For more information about the WCAG: