Ten years ago, Donna Jodhan filed a digital accessibility lawsuit against the federal government of Canada. She had been unable to independently apply for a job on its website using her assistive technology. Since her landmark victory in that case, Canada has been working towards increased accessibility in both physical and digital environments. Ontario has been particularly progressive in this regard, legislating the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). The AODA is a mandate to create and enforce accessibility standards in the province. You’ve probably heard more than once that AODA deadlines are looming for your Ontario-based business. But what does that mean for your organization, and how long do you really have? The AODA extended the original December 31, 2020 deadline by six months due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
June 30, 2021 Deadline for Ontario Organizations with 20-49 and 50+ employees
If your organization employs 20 or more employees in Ontario (not counting volunteers, contractors, or those outside of Ontario), you must file an accessibility compliance report by June 30, 2021. This deadline reflects the six-month extension to the original December 31, 2020 deadline.
What is the AODA Compliance Report?
The AODA compliance report requires organizations to verify that they are indeed complying with accessibility standards set by the AODA. That includes all previously instated AODA requirements including making public spaces accessible, training staff on Ontario accessibility laws, creating accessible hiring practices, and providing accessible customer service, among other things. If you don’t complete and submit an AODA compliance report, you may face enforcement which can include financial penalties.
The AODA Compliance Report is a downloadable form that organizations must fill out using Adobe Reader. This form consists of a series of yes or no questions regarding your organization’s compliance with individual regulations within the AODA. Responses include space to comment on your answers. The report must be certified by a senior officer in your organization with legal authority to vouch for its accuracy. After you’ve submitted the report you’ll receive a confirmation number verifying the submission. If the size, contact info, or address of your organization changes after you’ve submitted the report you’ll need to notify the government of Ontario.
January 1, 2021 Deadline Unchanged for Ontario Organizations with 50+ Employees
If your organization has 50+ Ontarian employees, any substantial changes and web content added since 2014 must be already accessible. However, by January 1, 2021, your entire website, including archived material or content that was built before the 2014 deadline (but after January 1, 2012), must also be accessible. You’ll be verifying that in the accessibility compliance report due in June.
How do I know if my website is AODA Compliant?
Organizations should follow internationally-recognized WCAG 2.0 standards when making their public-facing website accessible. WCAG standards are centered around four pillars of accessibility; content must be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. Every part of your website must comply with these guidelines, including web page content, videos, images, charts, audio files, PDF documents, and more. It’s important to note that WCAG standards aren’t just a checklist of static points that will instantly make your website accessible. WCAG provides a framework for building digital content that everyone can use, regardless of their disabilities or how they access the content. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) designed these standards to be intentionally broad so they continue to apply to technology even as it changes.