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Going that Extra Mile Toward Ensuring Full Web Accessibility Compliance
As per the Ontarian Provincial Government Regulations, organizations of a certain size must adopt the W3C WCAG 2.0 standards to ensure their web properties are accessibility compliant. But disparities in the adoption timelines might not lead to the comprehensive accessibility standards that the rules aim to ensure, writes Robert Pearson.
In 2010 a partially sighted Canadian accessibility consultant successfully launched legal action against the Canadian federal government in regards to the inaccessibility of their jobs website. The government had first adopted accessibility guidelines at their inception in 1999 and the legal ruling was to the effect that they had not done enough in the 11 years since adopting these standards, to become compliant. More information on the ruling is available at The Globe and Mail.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are part of a series of Web accessibility guidelines published by the W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative. They consist of a set of guidelines for making content accessible, primarily for disabled users, but also for all user agents, including highly limited devices, such as mobile phones. This standard reflects the accessibility requirements that federal websites, and those organizations providing goods and services to the federal government, must adhere to, to ensure the accessibility of their web content. For Canadian web accessibility regulations, please visit their website.
Media usage among Canadians who are blind or vision impaired
Image: This graph displays daily usage of media by time spent for blind and visually impaired users. AMI’s survey shows that:
• 78% of blind and visually impaired Canadians use TV as their main media for 2 hours per day or more
• 51% rely on radio
• 30% use the Internet for that same amount of time
• 56% of respondents do not use the Internet at all
• Magazines and newspapers are seldom a source of information or entertainment for this community: 74% and 75% respectively do not use printed media.
Source: AMI Brand Health Study, Wave 2, Blind/Partially Sighted Study, October 2012. Download the G3ict-AMI Publication: Making Television Accessible – The Canadian Experience (opens as webpage).
Picking and Choosing Standards
Here in Ontario, Canada, we have Provincial government regulations requiring organizations of a certain size to become compliant to W3C WCAG 2.0 guidelines. For the Ontario provincial accessibility standard, please visit the Ontario provincial government website.
Over a graduated timeline, organizations must adopt these standards to ensure their web properties are accessibility compliant. There is a requirement to begin to adopt Level A guidelines on new websites and new web content by 2014, followed by the Level AA guidelines, but only by 2021.
Further to this, certain guidelines are not required, such as those requiring the use of audio description on multimedia on a website. In addition, legacy content is not considered and there are other specific nuisances to our local guidelines that differentiate us from adopting the full set of the W3C 2.0 guidelines.
Of issue at the moment, though, is the graduated timeline. Organizations, in beginning to understand what accessibility is and why it is important that it be adopted, are choosing to only meet the first milestone; Level A by 2014. Why do Level AA if it's not due until 2021? From a business standpoint, a case could be made for the logic in this decision. From the accessibility/disability standpoint though, the decision does not seem valid. Why not take the extra step towards full compliance now? These questions highlight taking accessibility only part of the way to completion.
It's about choosing those guidelines that appeal to an organization the most. If it's only Level A catching their interest in terms of striving towards accessibility compliance, are they truly making an effort to understand the needs of their widest possible audience of persons with different abilities? Those taking the extra step of picking the next best candidate may in fact be creating a business differentiator between themselves and their competitor who chooses not to.