What is Web Accessibility? Decoding the AODA

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The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (also known as the AODA) requires all private and non-profit organizations with 50 or more employees and all public sector organizations to have a fully accessible website.

So, just what does an accessible website look like?

Well, for starters, an accessible website takes into account the variety of ways that people with disabilities navigate the Internet, as well as how they ultimately understand web content. Granted, that’s a bit of a broad statement. When it comes to the AODA, web accessibility is judged based on the criteria put forth in the World Wide Web Consortium Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0.

An internationally accepted standard for web design, WCAG sets out guidelines that cover how to write web content that’s clear and accessible, why it’s important to provide alternate text for images, and how to make sure someone can navigate your website with keystrokes rather than a mouse.

In fact, there are two levels of WCAG criteria that the AODA refers to:

* If a new public website or existing site undergoes a significant refresh beginning January 1, 2014, the site and any of it web content published after January 1, 2012 must conform with WCAG 2.0 Level A restrictions.

* All public websites and all web content on those sites published after January 1, 2012 must conform with WCAG 2.0 Level AA requirements, other than providing captions on live videos or audio descriptions for pre-recorded videos, beginning January 1, 2021.

Understanding WCAG Level A and Level AA

Level A and Level AA are two different standards of conformance. According to WCAG standards, there are three levels of conformance:

* Level A: For Level A conformance (the minimum level of conformance), the web page satisfies all the Level A Success Criteria, or a conforming alternate version is provided.

* Level AA: For Level AA conformance, the Web page satisfies all the Level A and Level AA Success Criteria, or a Level AA      conforming alternate version is provided.

* Level AAA: For Level AAA conformance, the Web page satisfies all the Level A, Level AA and Level AAA Success Criteria, or a Level AAA conforming alternate version is provided.

In other words, each guideline put forth by the World Wide Consortium has a number of success criteria in place to measure your level of accessibility. While Level AAA is the highest standard of conformance, it is not recommended that this level of conformance be required as a general policy for entire sites because it is not possible to satisfy all Level AAA criteria for some content.

In general, these success criteria help ensure that the content on your website is easy to understand and navigate, specifically for people with:

* Vision loss or low vision

* Hearing loss

* Mobility or dexterity issues

* Developmental and learning disabilities

Please refer to our previous article on website accessibility and the AODA for more information on how to better accommodate these user types through improved web design.

Tips For Ensuring Accessibility

Make sure that your in-house website developer, or the developer that you’ve contracted has the expertise needed to provided you with a fully accessible website. Your developer should provide you with a project plan that not only identifies the techniques and software that will be used to create your new website, but also outlines how your new site will be tested, how it will be maintained in order to ensure long-term compliance.

Can you trust that your developer has the skills to create a website that’s both accessible and aesthetically pleasing? If not, contact ZOO Media Group today for more information on web accessibility and our design and development services.