By Mike Gifford

June 3, 2011

I was happy to see the AODA Compliance Wizard produced to make it a bit easier to determine when/where Ontario organizations need to act about accessibility issues.

The Accessibility Standard for Information and Communications for the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) was released earlier today and it's a great accomplishment that reflects the dedication of thousands of people who have worked for improved Human Rights for our fellow citizens.  It is great to see this act, which was initially received Royal Assent on June 13, 2005, finally receive the clarity about what will be required for web sites of organizations in this province.  Although the most immediate implications are for large public sector organizations, there are implications for all but the smallest organizations in this province.

The targets are appropriate. WCAG 2.0 AA is the target for the whole public sector and large organizations, although organizations have a phased in implementation starting with simpler single A standard. I'd love to see a more aggressive implementation as I really don't think anyone but futurists are thinking realistically about planning for their communications technology in 2021. Heck, back in a 1996 interview, Tim Berners-Lee defined a web year as about three months, in which case this implementation is over 28 web years away.

Now I'm not a lawyer, but in reading through the new laws it seems to me that obligatory organizations are any organization with more than one staff person in Ontario. As best as I can figure out this is the process which affect the web over the next five years:

 

January 1st, 2012

  • The Government of Ontario and the Legislative Assembly, for new internet and intranet websites and web content on those sites, shall be WCAG 2.0 Level AA excluding captions & audio. This includes both new domains and those undergoing a significant refresh on an existing domain.
  • Web content published after this date by public sector organizations and large organizations seems to need to meet either WCAG 2.0 AA or WCAG 2.0 A respectively. I need clarification on this from 14.(5), but it seems this is for all new web pages & perhaps to edited pages.
  • The Government of Ontario and the Legislative Assembly shall incorporate accessibility criteria and features when procuring or acquiring goods, services or facilities, except where it is not practicable to do so.
  • Emergency procedure, plans or public safety information which are made available to the public, shall be provided in an accessible format or provided in one upon request. 

January 1st, 2013

  • Large public sector organizations shall incorporate accessibility criteria and features when procuring or acquiring goods, services or facilities, except where it is not practicable to do so.

January 1st, 2014

  • Designated public sector organizations and large organizations for new internet websites and web content on those sites must conform with WCAG 2.0 Level A. This also includes both new domains and those undergoing a significant refresh on an existing domain. This includes school boards, universities & and organizations with over 50 staff.
  • Small public sector organizations shall incorporate accessibility criteria and features when procuring or acquiring goods, services or facilities, except where it is not practicable to do so.
  • Upon request the Government of Ontario and Legislative Assembly will provide or arrange for the provision of accessible formats and communication supports for persons with disabilities (in a timely manner and at no extra cost)

January 1st, 2015

  • Upon request large public sector organizations will provide or arrange for the provision of accessible formats and communication supports for persons with disabilities (in a timely manner and at no extra cost)

January 1st, 2016

  • The Government of Ontario and the Legislative Assembly, for all internet and intranet websites and web content, shall be WCAG 2.0 Level AA excluding captions & audio
  • Upon request small public sector organizations will provide or arrange for the provision of accessible formats and communication supports for persons with disabilities (in a timely manner and at no extra cost)

Our Thoughts on the AODA

  • There will be a rush of development in the next six months as Government of Ontario departments who have done done significant planning for a new or substantially refreshed website will get an extension in meeting WCAG 2.0 AA requirements if there will be an impact on the implementation timeline.
  • There aren't going to be the resources (people or tools) or systems to effectively evaluate new internet and intranet websites and web content on those sites. As with the Government of Canada, implementation will not always be verified by a 3rd party.  People who do step up to evaluate sites will know that departments won't have the resources to evaluate their work.
  • Google knows of about 680,000 pages with a gov.on.ca domain, served by the Government of Ontario and nearly 150,000 pages with the ontla.on.ca domain. There are probably need to be over a million pages that are evaluated as WCAG 2.0 AA by 2016. 
  • Although still a long ways off in web years, government procurement moves very slowly in comparison. Now that the Information & Communications Standard is released, many organizations will be rushing to understand their obligations in the new year.
  • There needs to be further clarification about this standard and I assume there will be further clarifications in the coming weeks. Please post your questions or observations in the comments below

OpenConcept has considerable experience in building accessible websites. If you are looking at building or refreshing your website, contact us and we can help you build a site that meets or exceeds your requirements. 

By Mike Gifford

I am presenting at Ottawa's first Accessibility Summit. It's a 20 minute presentation on Fixing Accessibility Problems at the Source which I am using to talk about Drupal's experience trying to meet WCAG 2.0 AA.