What are the AODA standards?
By law, a private, public, or non-profit organization with 50+ employees must meet Ontario’s website accessibility requirements by January 1st, 2021. (Ontario, 2018). These requirements are formatted by level and are referred to as Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). The must current version is WCAG 2.1. There are 13 standards that are organized under 4 principles: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. For each guideline, there are testable criteria, which are at three levels: A, AA, AAA.
Why use an accessible website?
An accessible website is vital to promoting our core value and mission statement of creating an inclusive atmosphere for people of all ages and abilities. This mission is just as important to pursue in the digital sphere as it is at our physical facility. Our vision is to implement not only an AODA compliant site but to exceed the regulations and incorporate additional strategies to offer our members the most inclusive digital experience possible. Further, we aim to set a new standard for information and communication technology accessibility.
The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires public websites to meet the criteria for WCAG 2.0 Level A. We will aim to exceed this requirement to offer a leading edge, accessible platform that surpasses the minimum standards.
How does Abilities Centre’s website meet web accessibility standards?
Our website was designed according to WCAG 2.0 Level AA. We prioritize the following practices:
- Screen Resolution
- Our website is designed to respond to the size of your device’s screen (both desktop and mobile). Resize your browser to suit your needs.
- We provide alternative text for those who use screen readers to read the information on the page. Graphics that purely decorative in function have a empty ALT attributes to prevent them from displaying on screen readers.
- Distinguishable Content
- Our content is designed to have contrast to separate the background from the foreground. This adheres to W3C Accessibility Guidelines.
- We provide a highly navigable site to allow for clear navigation from page to page. We also offer a detailed sitemap to ensure users can find the information they require.
- Closed captioning and/or text files for audio/video content
- Keyboard accessible content
- Our site is designed to allow users to navigate through the use of their keyboard
- Predictable webpages
- Our web pages appear and operate in predictable ways (e.g. labels positioned to maximize predictability).
I would like to provide some feedback or advice for your website’s accessibility. How can I do this?
Our goal is to make our website accessible to everyone in our Abilities Centre community. We want to hear from you about your experience on our website, what features you like, and how we can do better. Our community’s feedback is very important to making our website even better. To reach us, please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How did you make sure the new site is accessible?
Digital accessibility standards are built into the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), which are informed by the latest international guidelines for accessible web communication.
Our website’s navigation, way-finding, structure and content meet or exceed these standards today. But digital accessibility is always changing and requires an ongoing commitment. Shaped by feedback from our community, we will continue to add new features, content and tools that optimizes the user experience.
How did you go about the process of choosing how to make your site accessible? The process sounds very complex and people may have very different ideas about what web accessibility means.
Accessible web communication is grounded in four principles identified by the W3C, the organization that has developed the international guidelines and standards that are the global benchmark for web accessibility.
In general, the goal is to make all web communication:
Perceivable: Information and user interface components must be presentable to people in ways they can perceive.
Operable: People must be able to operate the interface (the interface cannot require interaction that a user cannot perform).
Understandable: People must be able to understand the information as well as how to operate the user interface.
Robust: Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies. This means that users must be able to access the content as technologies advance (as technologies and user agents evolve, the content should remain accessible).
How did you prioritize what strategies for accessibility to implement now and which ones for the future?
First of all, we made sure that everything we did with the website met the standards required by government legislation and the international guidelines and standards for accessible web communication. We also focused on ensuring that we met the needs of our broader disability community.
How do you make sure that the website meets a high standard?
From the beginning, we designed and built the website to align with legislative requirements and global standards. During the web development process, we ran the website through tests that identify weak spots in a website’s accessible design based on these standards, and tested the site with popular screen readers such as NVDA. We also sought feedback from some of our stakeholders and partners to help us with the launch as well as future plans.
That said, building an accessible website is about more than compliance. It’s about providing the best and most user-friendly experience possible. As technology changes, it’s important that we remain committed to finding ways to make the website even better. Digital accessibility is an ongoing journey and one that needs dedicated commitment. Our goal is to make it as accessible as possible to the widest possible audience, applying best practices and using the best tools.
There are some things about your website that I don’t think are very accessible. What happened?
In building the website, we had to make many decisions about how to establish an accessible foundation for our site within the resources available to us. For the site launch, we focused on developing a site with navigation, structure and content that met and exceeded standards. We are planning to add increased functionality and support as we grow, with a focus on adding video and digital assets that are best in class examples of accessibility (including alternative versions and closed captioning where possible for all media).
If there’s any aspect of our site that has provided a major challenge to you, we want to know about it right away. Because Abilities Centre serves a very diverse community of people of many varying abilities, ensuring that the site meets everyone’s needs is challenging, and your help is greatly appreciated.
What are your plans for the website going forward?
We are planning to add increased functionality and support as we grow. This includes video and digital assets that are best in class examples of accessibility (including alternative versions and closed captioning where possible for all media).
While our website meets the current AA standards, our goal is for the site to be a best-in-class example of accessible design, and we will strive to balance achieving AAA standards with providing the best user experience for the community as a whole.
We also want to transparent about our successes and challenges so that we provide an example that may help other organizations in their own accessibility journey.