Ontario.ca Chooses Drupal - A Win for the AODA



February 13, 2013

Ontario Government Home Page

We were happy to see that at the end of 2012, the main website for the Government of Ontario(GoO) moved to Drupal 7.  Their new site demonstrates that it is possible to have a visually interesting site that meets the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act(AODA).  Many folks reading this blog post will know that the AODA requires a wide range of organizations within Ontario to meet the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0 AA). WCAG is an International standard organized by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), they are responsible for a number of standards for the Internet including the specification for HTML5.  The new Drupal site is also using modern HTML5, which has benefits in providing more semantic markup.

There are many aspects of their new site that benefits from the accessibility work that OpenConcept has lead over the last five years.  The Ontario.ca site is very interactive and most of the elements like the contact us form meet WCAG 2.0 AA compliance by default.  Because the Drupal community has worked to make all elements of Drupal accessible, labels are by default associated with most custom web forms.

It's great to see that the site has leveraged the popular base theme AdaptiveTheme when building their site.  AdaptiveTheme's Jeff Burnz has been quite active on improving the accessibility of Drupal and has also committed that the base theme meets is WCAG 2.0 AA compliant.  Jeff's work has helped spur adoption of HTML5 within Drupal and also helped to make the Ontario.ca site more future compatible. AdaptiveTheme is being used as the base theme for many sites and distributions now including the Drupal variant of the Web Experience Toolkit (WET) which I've discussed in prior blog posts.

It's interesting that they have also adopted the Infinite Scroll jQuery plugin and the Galleria Responsive JavaScript Image Gallery as I haven't seen any public review of the accessibility of these libraries.  Would be great to know that they are also WCAG 2.0 AA compliant. 

I'm not sure how the Webform module is being used, but it is such a great tool for creating customized forms. We've worked to improve Webform's accessibility and use it with many of our sites.  There are so many modules being developed for Drupal it's impossible for anyone to know them all.  I'm interested in seeing more on how the Table of Contents Module improves usability.  I haven't seen how they are using Waypoints but it provides a nice user interface in the examples I've seen.  I can definitely see some potential problem with accessibility, but assume those have been addressed. 

This is a win for the AODA & for tax payers in Ontario because government departments are not restricted in sharing their best practices with other departments or other government agencies.  They are able to leverage the best practices of a global community of developers and are hopefully contributing their findings back to benefit everyone who needs to comply with the AODA.  If you're not sure when your agency needs to comply, please consult the AODA's new Wizard to help guide you through the process of complying with the Accessibility Standard for Information and Communications.

About The Author

Mike Gifford is the founder of OpenConcept Consulting Inc, which he started in 1999. Since then, he has been particularly active in developing and extending open source content management systems to allow people to get closer to their content. Before starting OpenConcept, Mike had worked for a number of national NGOs including Oxfam Canada and Friends of the Earth.