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Web Accessibility and the Law

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There are many important reasons why web accessibility is important for people with disabilities. For one, it invites a huge group of people with influence – and trillions in global spending power – to engage with your company or organization in the digital world.

Web accessibilty: Man on a tablet, with the word compliance in the display

But if that wasn’t motivation enough, consider this: it’s kinda the law. Ok, not ‘kinda’…it is the law.

In the US, individuals, businesses and organizations in both the public and private sectors must follow the rules of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In addition to that, different industries have standards of their own. For example, airlines have the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), which stipulates that user testing for airline websites needs to be done the United States.

In Ontario there is the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). This ground breaking legislation became law in 2005, allowing the provincial government to develop and implement accessibility standards, or rules, that identify, remove and prevent barriers for people with disabilities. The goal is to make Ontario accessible by 2025, so people with disabilities have equal access to full participation in society.

In today’s rapidly advancing digital world, full inclusion means everyone, regardless of ability, should have access to information online. For people with disabilities, having access to accessible websites can be life changing – but only if they’re implemented properly.

How does your website stack up?

The barriers to accessing the Internet vary by disability. For example, people who can’t use a standard keyboard – because of paralysis or arthritis in their hands, would benefit from assistive technology such as voice activation, or an online keyboard with face tracking, in the same way that people with vision disabilities benefit from using a screen reader, or a text-to-speech (or text-to-Braille) software application.

But getting the necessary assistive technology is only one half of the equation. Some types of assistive technology, like screen readers, are sensitive to site coding. So if a site isn’t coded properly, it remains inaccessible.

The good news is that there is an internationally recognized guideline for all websites to follow, known as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, with three levels A, AA or AAA.

How do WCAG guidelines improve web accessibility?

They direct website developers as to exactly how to handle text, images and sounds, and they provide criteria for a site’s structure and code. These improvements will, for example, make content easier to read by offering website users a choice of font sizes. There will be text alternatives for non-text content, like images, and even captions for multimedia. Content will be created that can be presented to users equally well in various ways, no matter what assistive technology they’re using.

If your organization has fewer than 50 employees, you might think you’re off the hook for web accessibility. Guess what? That’s not the case. You’re still obligated to follow the Human Rights Code, which guarantees equal treatment to people with disabilities. In fact, this legislation is even weightier and the stronger accessibility law prevails.

Stay tuned in our blog series as we delve deeper into web accessibility.

An Innovative Solution

eSSENTIAL ACCESSIBILITY has developed a comprehensive accessibility solution to help organizations follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and achieve and maintain compliance with standards and regulations. This includes integrating web compliance evaluation services with assistive technology to deliver a transformative experience for people with disabilities. Learn more about eSSENTIAL ACCESSIBILITY’s innovative solution.