New Website Accessibility Standards for Ontario Coming into Effect January 2021

Website accessibility is important because it helps ensure that everyone, no matter their ability, can access the information you’re providing. Website accessibility is essential for people with a disability, like a vision or hearing impairment, and websites designed with accessibility in mind are more user-friendly and simpler to navigate.

That’s why the government of Ontario has been raising standards for the accessibility of websites. If you own or control a website for your business, it may need to meet the new WCAG 2.0 Level AA Web Accessibility Requirements by January 2021. Companies that fail to do so could face daily fines of $50,000 and up. Read on to learn if your business needs to comply with these guidelines, and if so, what the standards actually are.

Who Needs to Be Level AA Web Accessible?

As with many other changes the government makes to how you run your business, old websites are grandfathered in, much the same way your building is grandfathered into old building codes. You will only need to meet the new standards if you are making a new website, or significantly changing it.

What counts as a significant change? If you’re changing how it looks and feels, changing how users navigate it, or updating the content in a major way, those improvements are considered significant changes.

Further, many small businesses will not have to meet these new accessibility requirements at all. Only private and non-profit organizations  with 50 or more employees are held to the website accessibility standards. All public sector organizations, regardless of size, are also held to it.

What is Level AA Accessibility?

Our government has not invented the accessibility rules itself. Instead, it relies on the World Wide Web Consortium’s (WWWC) guidelines for website accessibility. These are internationally recognized standards and are divided into three levels of accessibility: Level A, Level AA, and Level AAA. Check your province’s Accessibility Act to determine which Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) apply to you.  

Websites that previously had to meet Level A will now be required to meet Level AA, which builds on the foundations of the previous level.

Here are the key principles of Level AA standards:

  • Captions must be provided for all live audio content in synchronized media.
  • All pre-recorded video content must have audio description in synchronized media.
  • Unless it is essential, the content is not restricted to a single display orientation. (it is not available only in portrait or landscape)
  • In many circumstances, the purpose of each input field collecting information about the user can be programmatically determined. (the full guidelines list these circumstances)
  • There is a minimum level of contrast of at least 4.5:1, with some exceptions.
  • Text can be resized without assistive technology, except for images of text and captions.
  • When possible, and with exceptions, text is used to convey information instead of images of text.
  • There are limits on reflow. (content should be presented without scrolling or loss of functionality)
  • There are multiple ways to access the same webpage, with exceptions.
  • There are headings and labels to describe topics and the purpose of the content
  • If you have a keyboard operable interface, it has a mode where the keyboard focus indicator is visible.
  • The website is readable, or programs can determine the human language of the words on your website, except for proper names, technical terms, and vernacular.
  • The website is predictable, so people can easily figure out how to navigate it.
  • Components that have the same functionality on the website are identified consistently.

There are many more elements to the Level AA standards. Thankfully, you don’t need to know them all! At CmonGo Creative, we can help you bring your website up to Level AA standards, which will ensure a better user experience for your customers while keeping your business government compliant.

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