“Web for all, Web on everything.” – World Wide Web Consortium vision statement
Recently, the Globe and Mail published an article (gated) that did an excellent job of capturing the current state of affairs for Canadian businesses regarding how they’re collectively addressing the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) requirements. The piece focuses primarily on the pressures being felt by businesses in jurisdictions where web accessibility becomes enforceable by law in the coming months. The real business problem at hand, however, is that WCAG, ADA, AODA, and other legal enforcements of web accessibility need a reframe within many organizations.
If your organization is one of those feeling “pressured” by the legislation to enforce WCAG compliance, here’s a little bit of background and a few facts that you may find helpful.
Origins of the Internet, Origins of WCAG
In 1989, British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee articulated his vision of a global blueprint for the World’s information, effectively inventing the World Wide Web or Internet as we know it today. Lee has since been quoted as saying, “For a long time, 20 years, I thought all I had to do was keep it, just keep it free and open, and people will do wonderful things.” Without a doubt, people of all walks of life have done wonderful things with Berners-Lee’s invention, but as with the evolution of any system, the evolution has revealed room for improvement.
Just under two years ago, Berners-Lee’s organization, the World Wide Web Foundation, unveiled a document titled Contract for the Web outlining principles to protect the Internet as a fundamental right for everyone. Interestingly, nearly twenty years beforehand, another Berners-Lee organization, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), had introduced the first version of the WCAG guidelines. The Contract for the Web was an updated articulation of W3C’s succinct statement of their founding principles: “Web for all, Web on everything.”
Within this context, web accessibility takes on the framing not of an added layer of government bureaucracy, but as a matter of organizations upholding a fundamental, if newly identified, human right. Despite its nearly unfathomable vastness, the Internet functions like a society and, as with a society, there is a social contract that its participants must all agree to in order for that society to best function.
ADA, AODA Requirements
Legislation such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) represents something that should have been at the forefront of all of our collective web endeavors since day one. According to the Canadian Survey on Disability, one in five (22%) of the Canadian population aged 15 years and over – or about 6.2 million individuals – have one or more disabilities. Consider that the fundamental goal of all businesses is to serve customers, and customers are people, and people are all different. If even a fraction of this 22% of people cannot access this “global blueprint for the World’s information,” then how are we to serve them? It starts not with feeling “pressured” to do so, but with being eager as a contributing member of this online society, to help the Internet fulfill its original purpose.
Need some inspiration? Check out how three leading Canadian companies are approaching web accessibility:
“Cineplex is committed to improving access and opportunities for all individuals by identifying and removing barriers that may prevent, inhibit or restrict access to our facilities, services and/or employment opportunities.” Visit the Cineplex web site to read more.
“Make Yourself at Home. There’s a reason why customers trust Home Hardware: it puts community first. Home Hardware is working with eSSENTIAL Accessibility to ensure that customers who have disabilities receive the same exceptional service as everyone else.” Visit the Home Hardware website to read more.
Shoppers Drug Mart
“Shoppers Drug Mart and Pharmaprix Inc. and its Franchise partners are committed to meeting the accessibility needs of persons with disabilities in a timely manner and in a way that respects their dignity, independence, and rights of equal opportunity and access.” Visit the Shoppers Drug Mart website to read more.
If your organization is ready to get on the path to accessibility like the brands listed above, check out our on-demand webinar “4 Steps to the Perfect Accessibility Statement” or contact our team of accessibility experts today to learn how you can get started.