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Creating Accessible Websites

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) is legislation that governs how businesses make their services available to people with disabilities.  The act has 5 sections.  When creating websites or web applications, organizations need to focus on the section entitled Information and Communications.  This blog focuses on Information and Communications.

Information and Communications

This section of the act states that any information an organization disseminates must be accessible.  The level of accessibility is determined by the size of the organization.  For example, an organization with fewer than fifty (50) employees (this includes contract workers, volunteers, etc...) does not need to make their website accessible.  They do, however, have to provide website content in accessible format at no cost and in a timely manner on demand.  This could be as simple as mailing large print outputs of a web page or reading the page to someone over the phone.

Organizations with more than 50 employees are required to have an accessible website.  AODA states that an accessible site follows the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) as created by W3C.  Consultants and website developers can be a great asset in making sites accessible because they have the experience and expertise necessary to handle these potentially daunting tasks. It is ultimately the client's responsibility to have an accessible website but informed technology providers have a responsibility to advise them on the requirements and take AODA into consideration when creating a site.

What about old websites?

Another interesting aspect of the AODA legislation is that sites that are built on old technologies that prohibit accessibility are not required to be accessible.  It is, however, required that any updates to the site, if possible, be made accessible and the site must be made accessible if it is revamped.

What Do Accessible Sites Look Like?

In general, an accessible site has the following features:

  • content that is perceivable by people with sight impairments
  • navigation that is operable by devices other than mice such as keyboards
  • the default language of the site is programmatically identifiable (so that it can be presented in different formats)
  • site content is properly formed so it is robust enough to be utilized by assistive technologies such as screen readers.

Drupal, WordPress and even basic HTML have the capabilities to address the above to make a site accessible, but in most cases these features are not implemented to best effect.  The full guidelines are quite extensive and can be found here.

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