Website Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act ( Simple Guide )

Ontarians with Disabilities Act

If you are reading this article then You might be wondering, “What exactly is AODA?”

Ontarians with Disabilities Act – AODA in short. It’s a piece of legislation aimed at improving accessibility for individuals with disabilities. The primary goal of the AODA is to make Ontario fully accessible for people with disabilities by 2025.

The AODA applies to the province of Ontario, Canada. It is provincial legislation that sets accessibility standards and requirements within the boundaries of Ontario. If you are curious, then know that Ontario is one of the 13 provinces and territories in Canada. It’s a most populated province as well.

So, Canada doesn’t have an accessibility law? Why did Ontarians come up with their own?

Canada does have federal accessibility legislation. It’s called the Accessible Canada Act (ACA). However, Ontario has developed its own provincial accessibility legislation and it’s called _________. Yes! you already know it by now.

They chose to come up with their own legislation for multiple reasons like provincial autonomy, unique provincial needs, leadership, comprehensive approach, immediate impact etc. Whatever may be the major reason, now it’s in place for everyone to follow.

Objectives and Goals Of AODA

The Ontarians with Disabilities Act has integrated accessibility standards, which cover multiple areas of accessibility and apply to both public and private sector organizations. The standards include

  • Customer Service Standard: This standard addresses how organizations provide goods and services to people with disabilities
  • Information and Communications Standard: This standard focuses on making information and communication accessible including websites.
  • Employment Standard: This standard outlines requirements related to employment practices
  • Transportation Standard: This standard aims to improve transportation services and infrastructure
  • Built Environment Standard: This standard addresses the accessibility of the physical environment

This article will focus on information and communications standards. Before we get into it, below is the timeline of the AODA for your quick glance.

Timeline: AODA’s Journey

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) has gone through several key milestones since its inception. Here is a timeline of significant events and developments related to the AODA:

  • 2005: On 1st Jan 2005, AODA was officially enacted by the government. It establishes the framework for improving accessibility in the province over time.
  • 2007: The government established the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council to provide recommendations on accessibility standards development.
  • 2008: The first accessibility standards regulation, known as the Customer Service Standard, came into effect on January 1, 2008. It focuses on improving customer service for people with disabilities.
  • 2011: The Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (IASR) was introduced, consolidating several standards into one regulation. This regulation addresses information and communications, employment, transportation, and the built environment.
  • 2012: The Transportation Standard became part of the IASR on July 1, 2011, and it includes requirements for accessible public transportation.
  • 2013: The Accessibility Standards for the Built Environment (Design of Public Spaces) Regulation comes into effect on January 1, 2013. It focuses on the design of public spaces to make them more accessible.
  • 2014: Organizations with 20 or more employees are required to submit their first accessibility reports by December 31, 2014. These reports outline their compliance with AODA standards.
  • 2015: The government introduced the Accessibility Compliance and Enforcement (ACE) program to enhance compliance with the Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
  • 2016: Private sector organizations with 20 or more employees are required to file their second accessibility reports by December 31, 2017.
  • 2017: The government introduced changes to the IASR, including new requirements for the identification, removal, and prevention of barriers.
  • 2020: The government introduced changes to the IASR related to accessible employment standards.
  • 2021: The government introduced changes to the IASR regarding accessible websites and web content.
  • 2025: The AODA sets a target date of January 1, 2025, for Ontario to become fully accessible for people with disabilities. This is the ultimate goal of the legislation.

By the way, AODA is an ongoing initiative. the government of Ontario continues to develop and update accessibility standards as needed to achieve its accessibility goals.

AODA Web Accessibility Standards

Actually, website accessibility falls under the “Information and Communications Standard” in AODA. This standard focuses on ensuring that information and communication are accessible to individuals with disabilities. It includes websites, public communications and document formats.

AODA does not follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) directly. It sets its own standards. But it has a reference and alignment with WCAG. As WCAG is a recognized and widely accepted set of guidelines for web accessibility even AODA tend to follow it.

While the AODA itself does not specify a particular version of WCAG, it generally aligns with WCAG 2.0 Level AA.

Who must comply with the Ontarians with Disabilities Act?

So, here’s the deal: If you’re a designated public sector organization or a business/non-profit with 50 or more employees, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires you to ensure your public websites are accessible. But how do you determine if you meet that employee threshold? Well, you can check out Ontario’s official website,, for guidance on counting your employees.

Now, when we talk about website compliance, it applies to both brand-new websites and those that undergo significant updates. A “new” website means it has a fresh web address. On the other hand, a “significantly refreshed” site keeps the same web address but goes through substantial changes that affect how it looks, what’s on it, or how you navigate it. So, if your website falls into either of these categories, you’ll need to make sure it’s accessible to everyone, including those with disabilities.

Consequences of Non-Compliance

First off, beyond the harm of excluding users with disabilities, failing to meet Ontarians with Disabilities Act standards can damage your brand’s reputation. Now, onto the dollars and cents: for noncompliance, you could face substantial fines. In the worst cases, organizations can be hit with daily fines for each day they stay noncompliant.

Quick heads-up: The deadline for submitting a compliance report was June 30, 2021. If you filed a “non-compliant” report and it’s now summer 2022, chances are you’ve received a First Notice of Non-Compliance. This notice gives you roughly two to three weeks to address your compliance issues, assuming you haven’t already. So, it’s not something to be taken lightly. Compliance isn’t just a one-time thing; it’s an ongoing commitment to making your services and digital spaces accessible to everyone.

How to determine if your website complies with AODA accessibility standards

To kickstart your journey toward AODA compliance, you’ll want to begin by assessing how accessible your organization’s website is. It’s kind of like shining a light on potential issues, and this process usually involves a mix of automated and manual checks.

A handy way to start this assessment is by using automated scanning tools like WAVE and AChecker. The good news is that you can run a scan for a single web page for free with these tools. They’re like your initial checkpoints.

However, here’s the thing: automated scans have their limits. They can catch a bunch of issues, but not everything. That’s why the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario strongly recommends going the extra mile. Consider having your site manually reviewed by digital accessibility experts, even if you’ve already used these online tools.

Here’s another useful tip: The Government of Ontario has created the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Compliance Wizard. It’s a nifty tool that tailors a list of compliance requirements specifically for your organization. It takes into account factors like your business type or the size of your workforce. So, it’s worth checking out to make sure you’re on the right track to meeting AODA accessibility standards.

Wrapping Up

As we wrap up our discussion on the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and its impact on website accessibility, I want to leave you with this thought.

Remember, accessibility isn’t just about following laws; it’s about making the online world inclusive for everyone. By understanding AODA and taking steps to ensure your website meets its standards, you’re not only complying with the law but also creating a more welcoming digital space for people of all abilities.

So, keep on prioritizing accessibility, and know that you’re contributing to a more inclusive and equitable online environment. If you ever have questions or need guidance, I’m here to help you along the way. Accessibility matters and I’m sure you’ll make a positive difference.

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