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Posted by Naina on August 19, 2021

As of January 1st, 2021, all private or non-profit organizations with 50+ employees; or public sector organizations in Ontario need to offer all their online content in an accessible format. As a business, we are mandated by law to be compliant with these new guidelines called AODA (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act). 

If you are planning to make a new website or posting information online such as a PDF, it must follow the AODA guidelines in Ontario.


What is AODA compliance?

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA) is an Ontario law mandating that organizations must follow standards to become more accessible for people with disabilities. All levels of government, private sectors, and nonprofits must comply with this legislation. The provincial goal is to be fully accessible by 2025. 

For more information on AODA, please visit Ontario.ca.

 

What Is Website Accessibility?

Website accessibility relates to the ease-of-use of online services for all users, regardless of how and when they consume the information or interact with the web page. Many users access websites with computers, visually locate relevant information and click on links or tabs using a mouse, making any website easy for them to comprehend. Some users navigate a website with a screen reader, locate relevant information with auditory tools and use a specialized apparatus for clicking. Accessibility ensures that your website is easy for everyone to use.


Why Does My Website Need to be Accessible?

What good is a website that your users can’t use? Accessibility is important. Not all users receive information from websites in the same way. For these users, things like proper semantic markup, high-contrast and metadata are the difference between good user experience and poor user experience.


1. It’s a law.

Since January 1, 2021, all websites for business, non-profit, and public sector organizations in Ontario must meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA standards. This applies to all public sector websites and websites for private or non-profit organizations with over 50 employees, which includes full-time, part-time, seasonal, and contract employees. These guidelines help to ensure that a website’s content is much easier for everyone to access.
 
For more info on AODA laws, please visit: ontario.ca/page/about-accessibility-laws

 

2. AODA compliance improves SEO efforts

Online accessibility and good search engine optimization (SEO) go hand in hand and both help your company’s visibility on the internet. Search engines including Google, Bing and Yahoo put a high value on accessible websites, as both accessible and search engine optimized content are properly tagged and can be read by screen-reading machines. If you want to rank high in search results, your website needs to be optimized for all users. You can boost your ranking by following SEO best practices and accessibility requirements, including:

  • Correct heading structure

  • Clear and descriptive link text that stands on its own

  • Alternative text for all your non-decorative images

  • Text content instead of image content

  • Avoiding mouse-over effects or mouse-dependent content

  • Creating accessible content that follows SEO best practices helps more audiences find your content


3. To avoid penalties and fines 

According to the AODA laws, fines for non-compliance and offences can be up to:

  • $50,000 for individuals

  • $100,000 for corporations

 
This applies to each day or even part of a day when the offence occurred. Even if your websites go unnoticed, you run the risk of human rights complaints, personal and class-action lawsuits from your visitors if your website and online documents are not accessible.

 

What If You Decide To Ignore The AODA Guidelines?

If you wish to ignore the AODA website requirements and want to go online without meeting them, you are missing out on the potential to connect with many more users. You may also have your website rank low in search results and face legal expenses and bad publicity.

The W3C has provided a list of accessibility-related financial benefits that you could lose. In 2021, websites that don’t meet AODA guidelines may increase legal risk and are missing out on brand enhancement, extended market reach, and innovation.

Additionally, people with disabilities can follow the path of filing non-compliance lawsuits against websites like these. The number of AODA lawsuits has risen over the past few years.


How to Get Started?

These are just a few reasons why your website should be AODA compliant in Ontario. 
 
Our Connectors are ready to work collaboratively with you to develop a custom AODA compliant website that helps achieve your web accessibility goals. Contact BTI today to learn how we can make your website compliant.