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Robert Pearson

  Accessible Media

02/01/2014

Web Accessibility Standards in Ontario: Looking Ahead

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Ontario is internationally recognized as a leader in the provision of accessibility and is well positioned to lead the Golden Age of accessibility.
 
Ontario's private sector businesses with more than 20 employees are now required to make their websites compliant

Image: Ontario's private sector businesses with more than 20 employees are now required to make their websites compliant.

The Information and Communications Standard of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, now known as the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation, is now in effect in the Province of Ontario. Private sector businesses with more than 20 employees are now required to make their websites compliant to W3C 2.0 Level A guidelines. The businesses have had years to prepare their internal processes and infrastructure to get ready for compliance, followed by an additional seven years from now to implement Level AA. There has been much work completed and it has led to a greater understanding of the requirements of online accessibility. 

Or has it? 

If this statement was written in 2005, 2007 or even 2009 it may have been considered accurate. By 2011 when the standard was completed, this statement would be deemed lacking. And here we are, in 2014, and it’s safe to say that we still haven’t been able to work out the intricacies of web accessibility compliance. 

Do you have a business in this Province? Do you know about this regulation? Does your nearest competitor? Does the restaurant down the road know about it? Does the store in the mall know? It would seem that more often than not the answer will be “no”. If you are a large organization with hundreds or even thousands of employees, you probably know about it and you have been worried about this date. You have been spending the time and the money to meet the compliance and you have been wondering what would happen when the top of the year came.  

Not so much? That’s right. That’s OK though. If anything, an understanding of the requirements of online accessibility has given you a business differentiator over your competitor and it allows you to meet the needs of perhaps a previously underserved section of your audience.  

You can be certain that the community of persons with disabilities has awareness of the standard and they are hoping that you and everyone else figures it out and figures out what needs to be done, because now you are legally required to do so. General awareness of the standard is lacking though and more needs to be done. Ontario is internationally recognized as a leader in the provision of accessibility and as such the Province is well positioned to lead the Golden Age of accessibility.

Enforcement is needed. The original standard design accommodated for it, although it has not yet been implemented in any form. This will be the key to reinforcing the regulation. It is difficult to determine externally what form enforcement will take. Will you need to watch out for an accessibility police patrolling your website? Perhaps, eventually.  

Regular review of the standard is a component of the standard itself and it will define what the future of the standard will look like. The timing of this review was set in the original design of the standard, but as with enforcement, it has not followed course. Review is currently underway and we may soon see further enhancements. 

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Related Resources

Blog: The Golden Age of Accessibility | Read Robert Pearson's Article.

Publication: CRPD 2013 ICT Accessibility Progress Report | Download the Report.

Event: G3ict Presents at Zero Project Conference 2014 on Accessibility | February 27-28, 2014, Vienna | View Details.