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What is AODA, and why does it matter for your website? The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) was passed in 2005 and requires all public and private organizations in Ontario to comply with regulations that have been phased in over a number of years. AODA regulations that came into force in 2011 specify an
Information and Communication (IC) Standard. The IC Standard mandates that “new Internet websites and content on those websites” must conform to the
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level A by January 2014. These guidelines are the global standard for web accessibility and cover areas like writing clear web content, providing text for images and ensuring your website can be navigated using only a keyboard. The regulations define “new” as “either a website with a new domain name or a website with an existing domain name undergoing a significant refresh.” In this context, “significant refresh” should be taken to mean: • A new look and feel to the website • A change in navigation • Any significant change or addition to the content, where content is defined as any information that may be found on a web page or web application, including text, images, forms and sounds In practice, this means that if your website is accessible to the public and you have made any changes to it since January 1, 2012, you are legally required to ensure that your website complies with WCAG 2.0 Level A now. Despite the legal mandate, it is clear that the vast majority of Ontario businesses and many public sector organizations have yet to comply with AODA requirements related to websites. For many organizations, compliance is a daunting challenge. For example, some organizations have many web properties that need to be in compliance. In many cases, staff members responsible for maintaining and updating web content are not even aware of AODA requirements.
An approach to comply with AODA If your organization is unclear about how to proceed to achieve and remain in compliance, consider the following approach adopted by organizations that have successfully moved in the right direction:
• Ensure executive-level commitment to comply with AODA • Systematically inventory web properties
• Determine which web properties are covered by AODA • Obtain an expert assessment of affected websites as to the level of compliance, and identify specific gaps • Review processes and staff skills to assess capacity to achieve and maintain compliance • Develop a comprehensive plan that addresses process improvements and staff skills as well as technical remediation of websites
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