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Posted by Thera on November 23, 2020

On November 29, 2010, the Federal Court of Canada passed new legislature regarding website accessibility for persons with disabilities. 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, by law, mandated to be compliant with these new guidelines called WCAG 2.0 or AODA (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act). 

If you are planning a new website or posting information online like a PDF, it must be WGAG 2.0 and 2.1 compliant and follow the AODA guidelines in Ontario.


What’s AODA and WCAG 2.0 and 2.1

WCAG stands for The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, it was first published in 1999 (version 1.0) at the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). WCAG 2.0 was published in 2008 followed by WCAG 2.1 in 2018, which is the current standard in use within AODA.

WCAG 2.0 guidelines require that businesses meet guidelines for accessibility, these guidelines have three levels of accessibility: A, AA and AAA. Newly created or refreshed websites must meet level A. Beginning January 1, 2021, all public websites and web content must meet level AA. Meeting level AAA is not required at this time. 

For more info on website accessibility please visit

How can we meet these requirements?

The biggest challenge in being AODA compliant is the inclusion of accessible PDFs. Accessible PDFs are effective because they can be used to assist people with a variety of disabilities. An accessible PDF needs to be designed in a way that is easy for a screen reader to read out loud in the correct order. This also applies to mobile, as accessible PDFs can correctly reflow copy, images and display them on smaller screen sizes. This is why designers need to plan accordingly from the beginning by thinking about the order of the copy and imagery, and how they work together while keeping it simple and easy to follow.


Why do we need accessible PDF’s?

We live in an era where everyone needs to be able to access information online. It is a necessity. There are many reasons why we need to make content more accessible, such as: 

-   SEO (search engine optimization) – PDFs are searchable by search engines, so making them accessible, makes them SEO friendly.

-   More than 6 million Canadians over the age of 15 have one or more disabilities, whether it’s related to hearing, vision, mobility, memory or something else. That’s 22% or about 6.2 million people of the country’s population, according to Statistics Canada. ¹ 


Many people have a misconception that accessible documents are created only for blind people, but this is not true, this new legislature assists: 

-   Vision issues (colour blindness, low vision, blindness)

-   Hearing issues (loss of hearing or slight loss)

-   Cognitive (ADD and Dyslexia) issues

-   Mobility (amputation, motor functions, or temporally injured)


As designers, we need to be well versed in the requirements of assistive technologies and how they work, these include:

-   Screen Readers

-   Magnification tools

-   Voice activation


Designing for accessibility

Planning and using the correct software is the key component when preparing a designed PDF that needs to meet the AODA compliances. Best practices include:

-   Creating designs in software that supports accessibility, like InDesign

-   Making sure content is clear, logical, and easy to follow

-   Using alternative text for graphics, charts, links, and figures

-   Formating text using styles

-   Keeping tables simple and providing summaries

-   Providing metadata to make the document searchable

-   Not using mathematical symbols, formulas, abbreviations, and footnotes

-   Using proper punctuations

-   Having high contrast imagery

-   Using meaningful images

-   Avoiding small font sizes


Not sure if your online PDF’s are accessible? You can always use a PDF Accessibility Checker (PAC) to test for compliance.

Accessibility is the law. It’s our duty to make content easily accessible to everyone and by using the correct technology and planning, it’s easily achievable. Contact BTI today to learn how we can make your website compliant. 



1. A demographic, employment and income profile of Canadians with disabilities aged 15 years and over, Statistics Canada, 2017