Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) Compliance
The AODA and web accessibility
The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) was enacted in 2005 and includes specific mandates for making websites, web content and web-based applications accessible for individuals with disabilities.
But the sector and size of your business matters when it comes to AODA compliance:
- All Ontario public sector organizations (government, municipalities, and educational institutions) must comply.
- All commercial organizations that provide goods, services or facilities to the public, and have at least one employee in Ontario, must comply.
- Large businesses (50 or more employees) must comply.
- Smaller companies (those with less than 50 employees) are exempt.
WCAG: The standard for AODA compliance
To comply with the AODA’s web accessibility requirements, all web content must conform to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines – or WCAG – 2.0 AA success criteria with two exceptions: criteria 1.2.4 (live captions) and criteria 1.2.5 (audio descriptions). The deadline for AODA web compliance was January 1, 2021.
WCAG is a set of technical standards that, when applied, make online content accessible for users of all abilities. At a high level, WCAG standards suggest a site should be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust:
- Perceivable = It’s important to present information that can be perceived in different ways, where a user can adjust color contrast or font size, or view captions for videos.
- Operable = If someone can’t use a mouse, for example, they can use a keyboard or voice command.
- Understandable = Information and instructions are clear and navigation methods are easy to understand and use.
- Robust = Content must be robust enough so that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of users and types of assistive technologies.
WCAG was developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), and updates are reflected in the version number. For example, the first release was WCAG 1.0. Subsequent releases include 2.0, 2.1, and we anticipate 2.2 updates in the coming months. A, AA, and AAA represent the conformance level with A the minimum and AAA the maximum.
As the shared global standard, WCAG is consistently referenced as the benchmark for accessibility. Conform with WCAG 2.0 AA, and you’re compliant with the AODA as well as the ADA, Section 508 and other regulations.
AODA reporting requirements
In addition to meeting WCAG standards for web accessibility, all public-sector organizations and Ontario employers with 20 or more employees must create, submit and make public an Accessibility Compliance Report. The deadline to file the AODA Report was June 30, 2021.
Risks of non-compliance with the AODA
Neglect to make your website accessible, and it may cost you. Violations are classified into three types – Minor, Moderate, or Major – depending on the impact of the lack of accessibility. And the Government of Ontario can issue fines to individuals, corporations, and directors, and officers of corporations that are determined to be in non-compliance.
In the most severe cases, a corporation can be fined up to $100,000 per day until violations are resolved. An individual or unincorporated organization may face a penalty of up to $50,000 per day.
But beyond legal compliance, the objective of the AODA is for the province of Ontario to be fully accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. It is estimated that approximately 16% of the Canadian population lives with a disability, and that number is only going to rise as the population ages. Ensuring these individuals have equal access to web content is not only a legal requirement, it’s simply the right thing to do.
Want to better understand your current state of AODA compliance?
Frequently asked questions
What are the five AODA standards?
The five AODA standards include:
Learn moreabout each on the AODA website.
What does AODA compliant mean in relation to web content?
In order for web content to meet AODA compliance requirements, public sector organizations, commercial organizations that serve the public and have at least one employee in Ontario, and large businesses must ensure web content and web-based applications are accessible for individuals with disabilities. Similar to Section 508 of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the AODA evaluates web accessibility according to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 AA, with two exceptions (regarding live captions and audio descriptions). Therefore, compliance with AODA means conformance with WCAG 2.0 AA.
Who does the AODA apply to?
The AODA applies to all Ontario public sector organizations (government, municipalities, and educational institutions); all commercial organizations that provide goods, services or facilities to the public, and have at least one employee in Ontario; and large businesses (50 or more employees).
Smaller companies (those with less than 50 employees) are exempt.