If you are a business owner and have a website attached to your company profile then AODA is something you need to not only know about but pay some attention to. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) is coming and by 2021 will deem it mandatory for all websites to be accessible to all Ontario residents.
In many cases, a new website may be your best option. As you read, think about your current website and how many of the laws you feel that you are in compliance with. Typically, any website that is older than five years is not compliant with the new AODA guidelines. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) did not implement these changes until January of 2014, so if your website falls outside of that timeframe it is probably time for a refresh.
Why are these laws important?
Websites, if not updated regularly, become outdated. The quality of machines and browsers increase and adapt to the times but often websites are neglected and move to the bottom of any business owners priority list. Among other things, websites are moving to a place where they need a new look and feel. A website is not considered new if you are simply adding a new page or a new link to it.
You’ll need to keep in mind how users are able to navigate your website. Consider the visually or hearing impaired when creating pages and updating content. If there is any reason why a person could not log onto your site and navigate it with ease then there are changes that need to be made.
What does this mean for my business?
Simply put, it will now be a legal requirement to follow certain guidelines and standards if you plan on working in the online space. So, we’ve listed a few of them for you here.
- Provide alternative text for non-text content
- Provide alternatives for time-based media
- Adaptable content (provides context and relationships between content)
- Distinguishable content
- Keyboard accessible
- Provide users enough time to read and use content
- Don’t design content in a way that is known to cause seizures
- Navigable content
- Readable text content
- Predictable web pages
- Input assistance
- Sufficient contrast for legibility
This names a few of the standards all websites will need to follow by January 2021. If you want to keep your website in good standing with Google do not ignore these new guidelines.
Who will be affected?
Depending on how many employees you have and what sector you find yourself in (private, non-profit, or public sector) you will be required to adhere to the new standards.
What do I need to do?
In the beginning, you and your business will be put into one of three categories. Level A, AA, or AAA. Simply put, Level A will mean that you will need to apply alternative text for any non-text content. This means if you display an image on your website it will not only need to be labeled with the proper title but it will need to have an “alt-tag” applied so that, in the case the image doesn't load, this text will be displayed.
The alt tag mainly exists so that website visitors using a screen reader will be able to receive and understand what content you have on your website through auditory means. Remember that long list you read earlier? The alt-tag falls under the first heading but you’ll need to make sure you comply with the many other visual, time-based and responsive content updates. Once this first level is completed you’ll then be required to optimize your website to match the level AA and AAA standards.
What happens if I don’t comply?
If for some reason you can’t comply due to inexperience in the area of web development, seek out a professional web developer to help you refresh your website and make those changes. By the way, we can do that for you. A refresh of your website would include a full audit of your current website styling, theme, navigation, images, and structure. Upon completion of your audit, your web developer will make several recommendations about which immediate actions to take to get your website on its way to being compliant.
There are some forms of content like maps and complex diagrams that make it very difficult to be accessed by a screen reader but, for the most part, there are various software plugins that can be implemented by your web developer on your next website refresh to help you get there.
All in all
Some tips for testing your website accessibility include asking specific users to test your website and give you feedback. Check images, check for broken links, put your Mac in text-to-speech mode or use a screen reader to see how it manages getting through your content. Review key milestones, according to the WCAG. You can even use this handy tool to check your own website.
The bottom line is, don’t ignore the changes coming down the pipe. We're not saying that Google will look negatively on your website if you don’t comply but we’re also not saying that they won't. If any of this made your brain hurt then reach out and let’s chat. We’d love to help you make sense of all of this!
For the full AODA compliance guidelines click here!