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.
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:
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.
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.
Our risk assessment will help you understand your digital accessibility health score and your current level of AODA compliance.
What are the five AODA standards?
The five AODA standards include:
Learn more about each of these accessibility standards on the AODA website.
What does AODA compliant mean in relation to web content?
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.
Who does the AODA apply to?
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).
What should you do if you get an AODA Notice of Non-Compliance?
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.