October 14, 2015

posted by: Michael Mottola
News/Blog Photo

Web Accessibility and what you NEED to know about AODA

 

AODA is the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

It aims to ensure that Canadians with disabilities have equal access and opportunity to the world we live in, in all aspects. It also governs the parameters that we have to work with, online. 

We're here to help you understand web accessibility and why it's important to make the necessary changes to your website, so you can offer full accessibility to your users.

 

What is web accessibility?

The practice of removing barriers that prevent interaction with or access to websites, by people living with disabilities.

In a nutshell: It's about making apps and websites that are inclusive to all users regardless of web browsing experience or their physical or mental capabilities. 

All users should have equal access to information and functionality.

 

Examples of challenges some of your users face with computer use: 

  • Reading difficulties 

  • Difficulty hearing

  • Various degrees of sight loss

  • Colour Blindness 

  • Reduced dexterity or motor skills

  • Limited cognitive abilities

 

There are various hardware and software options for helping people living with disabilities that improve their ability to use computers. Building websites that are accessible helps make sure that those users are able to browse the web in the same manner that they browse computers.

Examples of tools used to help navigate computers and the internet:

  • Different keyboard layouts

  • Touch screen displays

  • Voice recognition programs

  • Operating system tools and settings

  • Screen magnifiers

  • Browser extensions

  • Screen readers (software that reads text displayed on screen using speech synthesizer or braille displays)
    Examples:

    • JAWS (most popular and configurable option for Windows)

    • Thunder (free option for Windows)

    • VoiceOver (for OS X)

    • Orca (for Linux)

Many of the software tools can be tweaked & configured to match an individual's specific needs to maximum their computer abilities. These are often referred to as assistive technologies.

 

Why should accessibility matter to you?

There are a few important points that you should consider.

First, having an accessible website allows you to be totally inclusive to all users that are potential or existing customers or business partners  with disabilities. Today, there is such a wide variety of people affected by disabilities in varying degrees from mild to severe. Everyone deserves equal access to information and opportunities. This decade, the entire world is moving towards accessibility in all industries; social inclusion for everyone is a driving factor in this advancement. 

Second, it will help to improve your SEO (Search Engine Optimization). The Google bot & other web crawlers/spiders scan your website periodically to get information about your business and product(s), scanning your pages to learn what your website is about so it can be indexed for search engines allowing people to find you. Assistive technologies, such as screen readers, scan your pages in a very similar fashion to learn about your website's structure and content in order to be able to read it back to the user in the desired format.

Third, it's the law in some jurisdictions. Ontario is moving towards being completely accessible and companies of certain sizes are already required to be compliant. The law that governs this is the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, or commonly known as 'AODA'.

 

What do I need to know about AODA?

It is the first accessibility legislation enacted in Canada. AODA is the first piece of legislation to actively acknowledge, and attempt to address the barriers faced by people living with disabilities.

The goal is to ensure all Ontarians have fair and equitable access to programs and services, improving opportunities for persons with disabilities. There are 1.85 million people in Ontario with disabilities. By 2036, it is estimated that 1 in 5 people in Ontario will have some form of a disability. 

AODA covers much more than just Web Accessibility. Seeing as we are on the web, let's cover the timelines where AODA laws have or are taking effect online:

Beginning January 1, 2014:

  • all new public websites, significantly refreshed websites and any web content posted after January 1, 2012 must meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level A

Beginning January 1, 2021:

  • all public websites and web content posted after January 1, 2012 must meet WCAG 2.0 Level AA

WCAG 2.0 is an internationally accepted standard for web accessibility developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

Who must comply:

  • private or non-profit organizations with 50+ employees

  • all public sector organizations

 

What if my website is not AODA compliant by the deadline?

You could potentially lose customers.

You could be fined:

  • $50,000 per day for directors and officers

  • up to $100,000 per day for corporations

The AODA and its regulations are enforced by the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment and the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario.

 

Principles of Accessibility

  1. Perceivable: Information and interactions must be presented in ways they can be easily perceived

  2. Operable: Interfaces must be usable and cannot require interactions that a user cannot perform

  3. Understandable: Content must be readable, pages must appear and operate in predictable ways

  4. Robust: Content must be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of users and devices

 

Here are some common guidelines to obtain an accessible website: 

  • Provide alternate text for non-text content (ALT tags on images)

  • Use headings correctly (keep headers logical and in order)

  • Use distinct and meaningful titles on links and page titles

  • Simplify navigation and consider keyboard-only users, use skip navigation links

  • Make all functionality available via keyboard, or skippable

  • Have visible indication of focus while navigating via keyboard

  • Make all form inputs have an associated label

  • Include captions for audio/video clips

  • Use strong contrast between text and background

  • Avoid the use of colour indicators only

  • Avoid blinking images and auto play content that may distract some users

  • Avoid time limits when asking users to provide a response or information

 

If you can't or don't know how to initiate these changes yourself, consider hiring someone who can.

 

How can I tell if my website is accessible and compliant?

Check to see if your website is compliant and find out where you need to make changes.

There are a handful of online validators or analyzers that can help you determine if your website is accessible:

If you're tech savvy, you can also perform some testing on your own:

  • Try navigating without a mouse- can you reach all of the links? Can you easily skip to the important sections?

  • Test with CSS and JavaScript disabled. All of your content should be readable.

  • Use assistive technologies or software that mimics them- Browser extensions/plugins and Screen readers emulators (Chrome Vox)

 

What would it cost to make these changes? How much time is involved?

For existing websites, cost and time will vary and be largely dependent on how your website was developed, what framework/technologies it was built on, what features it supports and who your developer was/is.

It would be much more cost effective to build your website out of the gate with web accessibility in mind. Remember that only improves your website's usability and search engine optimization.

Speak to a web professional to get a better understanding of what your website needs are, and how much it will cost. Ensure that the developer understands the details and practices of Web Accessibility before proceeding.

 

You may also want to state your accessibility policy on your website. Urge people to contact you if they have any troubles accessing any information or features.

If you show you care, people will contact you directly before filing an official compliant.

 

For a free evaluation of your website, contact us today: askus@landlordwebsolutions.com

 

About the Author:

Michael Mottola - Technical Director

Michael is a passionate software/web developer who's been building on the web since he was 10. From Niagara Falls, Michael left the city to pursue his love of technology by...