What You Need to Know About the AODA

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Imagine that you’re researching a product or service on the Internet. After hours of slugging through search engine results, you come across a listing that looks promising. Except when you click on the link, you’re crushed to discover that the website is only available in a foreign language.

That’s what the web browsing experience is always like for individuals trying to navigate the web with a common disability.

According to the provincial Ministry of Community and Social Services, one in seven individuals in Ontario have some sort of disability. What’s more, this number is expected to increase dramatically as the population begins to age.

The goal of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) is to try and remove barriers for these individuals, including many of the common issues they encounter online. In fact, AODA policies require that businesses in Ontario abide by a number of sets standards. Non-compliance can result in fines of up to $50,000 per day for Directors and Officers and fines of up to $100,000 per day for the corporation.

Accessibility and Your Website

It’s important to note web accessibility features prominently in these new AODA standards. Under the Integrated Accessibility Standards (IAS), (which deals with employment, transportation and communication compliance), public or private sector organizations with 50 or more employees must ensure that any new website design and content conforms to the first level of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 by January 1, 2014 (full compliance is required by January 1, 2021).

Thankfully, new website design techniques and technologies are flexible enough to incorporate most of these changes with minimal frustration. The following is a high-level overview of the various Web Content Accessibility Guidelines that your company website must have in order to meet AODA website compliance.

1)      Accessible Text Alternatives

This involves including text alternatives for non-text elements (i.e. images and videos). Larger print, symbols, and audio descriptions make it easier for disabled individuals to facilitate their online experience.

2)      Time-based Media

Including audio-only versions of video content and text versions of audio content is a great way to ensure that anyone can access the information on your site in a manner that suits their level of accessibility.

3)      Adaptive Design

Responsive website design ensures that your content can adapt to a wide range of screen types and sizes.

4)      Distinguishable Content

When deciding upon the aesthetics of your website design, it’s important that you pay attention to how elements like font types, colour, and text sizes impact the distinguishability of your content. This also encompasses elements like link controls – you will want to make sure these are highly visible so that they naturally stand out from static text.

5)      Keyboard Controls

Website users that suffer from motor skills issues often find it difficult to maneuver a mouse and execute precise point and click actions. Luckily, almost all browsers already have keystroke capability built-in; incorporate these into your website’s overall design is thus not that extreme of an undertaking.

6)      Timing

Rotating content (like a feature slider) can be problematic for users with reading and vision
disabilities. As such, it’s important that you give users the ability to control these features so that they are capable of interacting with this content at their own pace.

7)      Readability

Readable content refers not just to the aesthetics of the content and how it’s portrayed on the page, but also the difficulty level of the content. Readable content ensures that anyone who visits your website can easily understand your product, service, and message. Use clear, simple language and remember to format your text in a way that’s easy to distinguish.

8)      Predictability

Don’t be tempted to make your website too innovative. You want to make sure that the pages on your website operate in relatively predictable ways. If things are too complex, users may struggle to navigate your site’s contents. This means ensuring that your navigation stays in a consistent location and notifying users when content will open in a new window.

9)      Input Assistance

Helpful prompts will make a user’s browsing experience all the more enjoyable and accessible on your website. When implementing your website design, remember to note mandatory fields on forms and don’t forget to include error notices.

10)   Compatibility

Assistive technologies have come a long way over the years. From screen readers and magnifiers to refreshable Braille displays, users have access to a great many tools that are designed to improve their reading experience. When designing your website, it’s important to take these tools into consideration and to ensure that your website is compatible with them.

If you have been given the job of ensuring that your organization is AODA compliant and you’re not familiar with web design, it’s important that you consult with someone who is. The website design and development team at ZOO Media Group can help you update your current website so that it is IAS compliant. Call us at 519.474.9774 for more details.