Four of the top reasons why you should make your website AODA accessible
The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) sets the process for both creating and enforcing accessibility standards, including standards for website content. Ontario is the first Canadian province that’s enacted this kind of accessibility-focused legislation with a set timeline. In a collaborative and joint effort, Ontarians living with disabilities, different industry representatives, and the Government of Ontario worked to create these standards.
So, why should you ensure that your website is accessible?
1. It’s the law
Starting 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 sites and sites 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 and state that all online content must be accessible by this date. Live captions (criteria 1.2.4) and pre-recorded audio descriptions (criteria 1.2.5) are not required for this deadline.
2. Avoid significant fines and potential lawsuits
According to the AODA, 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.
3. It helps audiences find you with effective search engine optimization
Online accessibility and good search engine optimization (SEO) go hand in hand. Search engines including Google, Bing and Yahoo put a lot of value on accessible websites, as both accessible and search engine optimized content are properly tagged and can be read by screen reading machines. They both need a bit of extra context to figure out the type of content that a webpage is presenting. You can boost your ranking in search engine results 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.
4. It’s great for customer service
Accessible websites ensure that your organization is reaching all audiences, providing equal access to information and content. This is vitally important for both the public sector, where citizens should be able to access programs and services no matter their type of disability, and for corporations and businesses where, in Canada, your business could be losing out on an average of 22 per cent of your potential customer base. That’s almost a quarter of customers never reached because they couldn’t access information online!
In Canada, that 22 per cent amounts to approximately 6.2 million Canadians, aged 15-and-over, living with at least one type of disability, and that number is expected to grow as Canada’s population ages.
In addition, not only does your accessible content benefit those living with disabilities, but websites that are created with accessibility in mind from the get-go allow for a cleaner, more intuitive user experience for all audiences – boosting trust, participation and engagement along the way. In making web content accessible, businesses are improving their own corporate social responsibility by ensuring every audience member can access information and by improving the website’s user experience for every customer. It’s the definition of a win-win!
How to get started
These are just four of the compelling reasons why it’s critically important to ensure your organization’s website is accessible and AODA compliant in Ontario. But there are many more. These deadlines might seem scary, but with help, they can be met on-time with a plan that works for you.
As industry web accessibility and content experts, our team is primed and ready to work collaboratively with you to come up with a custom accessibility playbook to help achieve your web accessibility goals.
Simply book a no-cost consultation to learn more or see how we can help today!