Understanding AODA compliance is crucial for all employers and workers in Ontario. In 2005, the Ontario Public Service implemented the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, or AODA, with the purpose of taking action to increase accessibility for people who live with disabilities. If you’re unfamiliar with the act, here’s everything you need to know.
WHAT IS AODA AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, or AODA, is an act that aims to identify, remove, and prevent barriers for people with disabilities in Ontario. It establishes standards that both public and private organizations in Ontario must follow to ensure greater access to Ontarians living with a disability. Many Ontarians struggle with both visible (physical) and non-visible disabilities, which this measure aims to recognize and better serve. The purpose of this act is to strive towards making Ontario more accessible and inclusive for people with disabilities. The goal is to create a barrier-free environment by 2025.
The AODA outlines clear processes for organizations to follow as they ensure their practices and policies are AODA compliant, including standards for website accessibility. The AODA is made up of five standards: (1) Customer Service Standard; (2) Information and Communication Standard; (3) Employment Standard; (4) Transportation Standard; and (5) Design of Public Spaces Standard. The AODA complements, but does not replace, the Ontario Human Rights Code.
The AODA standards are part of the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (IASR). Together, these requirements strive to make Ontario more accessible to ensure people with disabilities can participate more in their communities. In addition to requirements specific to each standard, the IASR includes the following general requirements: (1) develop an accessibility policy; (2) provide accessibility training to staff and volunteers; (3) create a multi-year accessibility plan and update it every five years; and (4) consider accessibility in procurement and when designing or purchasing self-service kiosks.
STANDARDS FOR DESIGN ACCESSIBILITY
The AODA strives to proactively help people with disabilities effectively use the web without barriers to engage with online communities. The Web Content and Accessibility Guideline (or WCAG) outlines the requirements in which your website must comply with to better serve Ontarians with disabilities. Consider the following questions: Does your website provide text alternatives for non-text content? Does your website provide alternatives for time-based media (for example, providing audio-only versions of video content, and text versions of audio content)? Does your website contain video content, and does that video content provide subtitles? If you responded no to any of these questions, that means your website is not AODA compliant. A full list of the required Web Content Accessibility Guidelines can be found here.
DOES IT AFFECT ME?
It’s important to take the time to understand your role and responsibilities around making your workplace accessible. Having a website that is compliant with the AODA is mandatory for most businesses in Ontario. Failure to do so, or non-compliance, violates the act and can result in fines of up to $100,000 per day for the corporation. All organizations with one or more employee(s) in Ontario are required to comply with the standards outlined in the AODA.
Working with an agency to ensure compliance is a great option if you’re unfamiliar with the standards and don’t know where to start. Connect with the H&C Inc. team today to ensure your brand, including your website accessibility, is AODA compliant.