The January 1, 2021 Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) deadline for public sector and large organizations is quickly approaching. Under AODA, web content must be in conformance with WCAG 2.0 Level AA standards or organizations could face severe financial penalties. Have questions? We have answers. Learn more about compliance requirements and how to get started in our AODA FAQ.
What is AODA?
The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) was passed in 2005 mandating that organizations follow standards to become more accessible to people with disabilities. All levels of government, private sectors, and nonprofits are required to comply with this legislation.
Who is required to comply with AODA?
Private sector and non-profit organizations with 50+ employees, and public sector organizations with 1 or more employees in Ontario must ensure their new or significantly updated website complies with AODA.
To determine where you stand, count all full-time, part-time, seasonal and contract workers. Do not count employees working outside of Ontario, volunteers or independent contractors. You should confirm that contractors working on your behalf are AODA-compliant.
What is considered a ‘new’ or ‘significantly updated’ website?
Any website with a new web address, or a website that has undergone a significant refresh must comply. A significant refresh can include a new look and feel, content updates or changes, and changes to navigation.
I’m not located in Ontario, but do business in Ontario. Am I required to comply?
You are only required to comply if you have at least one employee in Ontario.
How do I comply with AODA?
To comply with AODA, your public-facing website and all content posted after January 1, 2012 must meet WCAG 2.0 AA standards (excluding live captioning and pre-recorded audio descriptions). At this time, you are not required to modify any content posted prior to 2012 or make your internal website accessible, however we would recommend it.
What content must be accessible?
All content on your website must be accessible. This includes text, images, videos, PDFs, forms, sounds, buttons, logins, etc.
If a third-party manages my website, am I still responsible?
Yes. If you have the final say on the website’s appearance, content, and functionality, you are responsible for meeting AODA requirements. At the end of the day, it is your website.
If the majority of my content is accessible, am I covered?
No. You are required to ensure 100% of the content on your digital properties is accessible (excluding live captioning and pre-recorded audio descriptions). Think of it this way: You wouldn’t read a book with only 80% of its pages, so why would you expose your customers to a similar experience?
Are there penalties for non-compliance?
Yes, there are severe penalties for non-compliance. They include:
- A person and unincorporated organization can be fined up to $50,000 dollars for each day the violation continues
- A corporation can be fined up to $100,000 per day
- Directors and officers of a corporation with fiduciary responsibility can be fined up to $50,000 a day
I have a mobile app – does it need to meet AODA requirements?
If your mobile app relies on the internet to operate, it must also meet AODA compliance requirements.
Will there be a deadline extension due to COVID-19?
Can I make my website conform to WCAG 2.1 instead?
Yes. WCAG 2.1 is the current benchmark for web accessibility, and conformance is strongly encouraged.
Is it possible to make required updates on my own?
It’s possible, but it’s very complicated. Achieving digital accessibility requires intricate technical knowledge and expertise, and with internal teams, there is no guarantee work will be done correctly. Working with a reputable accessibility partner will make the process much less complicated.
Can eSSENTIAL Accessibility help make my website compliant with AODA?
Yes! Our comprehensive Accessibility-as-a-Service platform enables your organization to create and maintain inclusive web, mobile, and product experiences through digital accessibility audit & testing, evaluation, and remediation. We will ensure your digital assets are in conformance with AODA, and other global standards and guidelines, including ADA, Section 508, and WCAG.
Don’t delay – prepare now for the January 1, 2021 deadline. Download a copy of our interactive AODA Compliance Checklist to assess whether your digital properties are AODA compliant. Have a question or concern not addressed here? Schedule a consultation with one of our experts and they’ll be happy to help.