As previously discussed, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, (AODA) is continuously evolving legislation with staggered compliance deadlines.  As of January 1, 2013, organizations were required to achieve compliance with the Customer Service Standard, and the emergency response information requirements in the Employment Standard and Information and Communication Standard.  This post is intended to address those aspects of the AODA that private or non-profit organizations with 50 or more employees (large organizations) must comply with by January 1, 2014.

The Integrated Accessibility Standard requires that large organizations develop accessibility policies and multi-year accessibility plans and consider accessibility in their self-service kiosks, while the Information and Communication Standard mandates that large organizations’ websites and web content meet specific accessibility thresholds.

Accessibility Policy

Large organizations must develop, implement and maintain a policy about how they will meet the requirements of the Integrated Standard.  The elements of the policy can be woven into existing policies that discuss similar topics (i.e. training), or can be addressed via a standalone document.  However, regardless of the chosen method, each organization must write a statement of commitment that establishes its vision and goals for accessibility and confirms its commitment to meeting the accessibility needs of people with disabilities in a timely manner.  The policy and statement of commitment must be in writing and available to the public.

Multi-year Accessibility Plan

The accessibility policy sets out the rules that large organizations will implement to become more accessible (the what), while the accessibility plan creates a roadmap to achieving compliance and removing barriers to accessibility (the how).

The format and level of detail contained in the accessibility plan is entirely within the organization’s discretion.  However, the plan must be reduced to writing, be publicly available, and reviewed every five years.

Self Service Kiosks

While the Integrated Standard requires government and public sector organizations to include accessibility features in those self-service kiosks they design or purchase, all other organizations are required to only consider the accessibility of their kiosks.

Examples of self-service kiosks are: those used for parking payments, ticket validation, self-check-out grocery purchases or license renewals.  When considering accessibility while designing or purchasing kiosks, the following should be taken into account:

  • Technical aspects, such as colour contrast and voice activated features; and
  • Structural aspects, such as height and stability, specialized keypads or keyboards and headset jacks with volume control.

Accessible Websites

 Websites and their content must meet the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, an internationally accepted standard for web accessibility developed by the World Wide Web Consortium.  WCAG 2.0 contains guidelines regarding writing web content in clear language, providing alternate text for images, and ensuring that individuals can navigate the website using only a keyboard.  WAG 2.0 contains three levels of accessibility: A; AA; and AAA (being the highest).  By January 1, 2014, large organizations must ensure that their new public websites and web content conform with WCAG 2.0 Level A.