In the last few years, Web Accessibility has become a race for businesses all across Ontario as they work diligently against the clock and spending thousands of dollars to get their websites up to par. Other provinces further away may not have even known this race existed, but I guarantee that Ontario won’t be the only province that buckles to the knees of Accessibility Enforcement Officers in the future.
W3C, known as the World Wide Web Consortium, is an international team of experts that works together and sets out policies and procedures surrounding accessible content online in a document known as WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) for businesses, agencies, non-profit information, and the varying levels of government to adhere to.
W3C’s list of recommendations cover several elements that make up a website such as writing easy to understand content for the web, ensuring alt text for images are included in the markup, and how someone navigates your website just to name a few. This list of recommendations have been broken down into three levels of adherence known as Level A Compliant, Level AA, and Level AAA. A website that is Level AAA has achieved the highest level of accessibility for users with disabilities, while Level A is a site that has met the minimum requirements by law.
These varying levels of requirement deadlines really depends on several factors such as if your business is a Government Agency, or part of the public and non-profit sector. For instance, in 2012 any new website in Ontario being created for a government agency needs to ensure that the website conforms to WCAG Level AA, (with minor and/or specific omissions and exceptions). By 2016, all government websites whether they’re new or old, must meet Level AA or else be fined with hefty financial penalties.
“So what? I’m not a government agency, why worry?”
By 2014 all new public websites and web content needs to meet Level A, and by 2021 all websites young and old must conform to levels AA (again with minor and specific omissions), and especially if your audience is Ontario targeted.
What Does This All Mean?
Well if you’re brave you can take on the task, sit down for several days and read the 800+ page document that outlines it’s entirety, or you can secure an agency with knowledge in accessibility and are equip with the right people to fulfill those specifications. By not selecting the right company to do the job correctly, you risk your business being targeted and fined. In fact there are even snitch lines set up for those who wish to report your business as being inaccessible. Bring on the troll party!
“But those laws are only for Ontario, why should I care if I’m in British Columbia”
The government of British Columbia has recently joined the accessibility race with W3C known as Accessibility 2024. They are imposing a 10-year plan designed around similar building blocks of specifications that need to be reached with similar policies and penalties for those who fail to comply.
June 16, 2014 – Accessibility 2024 announcement was released which will make British Columbia the most progressive province in Canada towards people with disabilities. This includes, but not limited to, Accessible Housing, Employment, Emergency Preparedness, Transportation, and ‘Accessible Internet’.
By being pro active and ensuring your site meets the minimum requirements before the government forces you to do it, will ultimately save your company time and money spent in the end. It also will significantly increase the value of your website by simply opening it up to a wider audience and building that trust up within each and every user who utilizes your website.
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