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Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) Compliance

For organizations based in Ontario, accessibility is the law. That’s thanks to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), which was enacted in 2005 to improve access for Ontarians with disabilities. The Canadian provincial law sets high standards to achieve its goal of an accessible Ontario, including specific accessibility requirements for websites, web content, and web-based applications.

The AODA applies to all organizations registered in Ontario, regardless of size or industry. Depending on the severity of the violation, failure to comply with the AODA can result in fines up to $50,000 per day for individuals, and up to $100,000 per day for corporations.

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Four quick facts about AODA compliance

  1. The AODA sets forth standards for accessibility in five key areas: customer service, employment, information and communications, transportation, and public spaces.
  2. The AODA requires that public web content created after 2012—including, but not limited to, websites, applications, and digital documents—meet the technical requirements of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0.
  3. The deadline for public-sector organizations of any size and private-sector organizations with 50 or more employees to ensure their public-facing web content meets WCAG 2.0 Level AA success criteria was January 1, 2021.
  4. All businesses and nonprofits with 20 or more employees were required to file an accessibility compliance report with the Government of Ontario, confirming compliance with AODA requirements, by June 30, 2021.

WCAG: The standard for AODA compliance

To comply with the AODA’s web accessibility requirements, all web content must conform with WCAG. WCAG is a set of technical standards that, when applied, make online content accessible for users of all abilities. At a high level, WCAG standards suggest a site should be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust:

  • Perceivable: Information and user interface components must be presented to users in ways that they can perceive. For example, it’s important to present information that can be perceived in different ways, where a user can adjust color contrast or font size, or view captions for videos.
  • Operable: User interface components and navigation must be functional for users in ways they can operate. For example, a user must be able to perform required interactions using a keyboard or voice commands, not just using a mouse.
  • Understandable: Information and user interface operation must be understandable. For example, information and instructions should be clear and navigation methods should be easy to understand and use.
  • Robust: Content must be robust enough so that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of users and types of assistive technologies. As technologies evolve, code and content should remain accessible for users of common and current assistive devices and tools.

WCAG versions and conformance levels

WCAG was developed by the Web Accessibility Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), and updates are reflected in the version number. For example, the first release was WCAG 1.0. Subsequent releases include 2.0, 2.1, and 2.2. Each version includes a set of specific success criteria that build on the previous set. There are three levels of WCAG conformance: A, AA, and AAA. While A represents the base level of conformance, AAA is the highest conformance level achievable. Each level expands on the previous—so to meet Level AA, you must meet all of Level A, andin order to meet Level AAA, you must meet all of Level AA.The AODA mandates that web content meets WCAG 2.0 AA success criteria, with two exceptions: criteria 1.2.4 (live captions) and criteria 1.2.5 (audio descriptions). To evaluate whether your website is AODA compliant, download our AODA Compliance Checklist, which includes an interactive WCAG 2.0 AA success criteria checklist.

Download our AODA Compliance Checklist

Risks of non-compliance with the AODA

Neglecting to make your digital content accessible may cost you. The Government of Ontario can issue fines to individuals and corporations that are found to be in violation of the AODA, as well as the directors and officers of non-compliant corporations. AODA violations are classified into three types: Minor, Moderate, or Major, depending on the impact of accessibility barriers on people with disabilities. In the most severe cases, a corporation can be fined up to $100,000 per day until violations are resolved. An individual or unincorporated organization may face a penalty of up to $50,000 per day. If you’re concerned that your website may be in violation of the AODA, consider working with a third-partyexpert. Accessibility professionals can help you evaluate your state of compliance, identify and fix issues, and monitor your site on an ongoing basis to safeguard you from future risk.

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Our risk assessment will help you understand your digital accessibility health score and your current level of AODA compliance.

Frequently asked questions

What are the five AODA standards?

The five AODA standards include:

  • The Information and Communications Standards
  • The Employment Standards
  • The Transportation Standards
  • The Design of Public Spaces Standards
  • The Customer Service Standards

Learn more about each of these accessibility standards on the AODA website.

In order for web content to meet AODA compliance requirements, public-sector organizations, commercial organizations that serve the public and have at least one employee in Ontario, and large businesses must ensure web content and web-based applications are accessible for individuals with disabilities. Similar to Section 508 of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the AODA evaluates web accessibility according to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 AA, with two exceptions regarding live captions and audio descriptions. Therefore, compliance with AODA means conformance with WCAG 2.0 AA.

The AODA applies to all Ontario public-sector organizations (government, municipalities, and educational institutions), all commercial organizations that provide goods, services or facilities to the public and have at least one employee in Ontario, and large businesses (50 or more employees).

If you receive an AODA Notice of Non-Compliance and your accessibility issues have not been corrected, there are several steps to take. First, draft a clear summary of the work you’ve completed. Next, create an accessibility remediation plan that includes proposed deliverables and milestones. The Ministry will likely respond with a Formal Compliance Plan and conduct annual audits to verify ongoing compliance.