How you can make your company website AODA compliant

Mike Erlindson

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) became law in 2005. The goal of the act is to create equal opportunity for people with disabilities. The act covers everything from building access to information and communications technologies.

Most of our clients don’t realize that new websites for companies with more than 50 employees needed to be WCAG 2.0 Level A compliant as of January 1, 2014.

This type of legislation is not restricted to Ontario. Nearly every state and province in Canada and the United States has or is working on similar legislation. The Americans with Disabilities Act, for example, is celebrating its 25th year.

How does AODA affect my company website?

For website accessibility, the AODA relies on WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) standards. Examples of these standards are skip navigation links, minimum font sizes, font resizers, descriptive video and color contrast ratios for text against colored backgrounds.

These standards also cover contextual items such as using descriptive links. One way to analyze your site is to ask yourself how easily could voice-to-text screen reader navigate through your site. Could someone relying on assistive technology make a purchase from your website?

Depending on the size and type of your organization you’ll need to conform to the WCAG 2.0 Level A standard. By 2021 your organization will need to conform to the WCAG 2.0 Level AA standard. The level AA standard is a stricter standard than level A.

What is the AODA Compliance Schedule?

The following is the timeline for website AODA compliance. You can find more information about other AODA timelines here.

  • Designated Service Organizations (Hospitals, Colleges, etc.)
    • New web content: Level A by 1 January 2014
    • All web content: Level AA by 1 January 2021
  • Large private organizations with more than 50 employees.
    • New web content: Level A by 1 January 2014
    • All web content: Level AA by 1 January 2021

Please also note that organizations need to also create a multi-year accessibility plan and submit multi-year compliance reports

Where do I start in order to make my company website AODA compliant?

In our experience it’s far more efficient and cost effective to plan for and implement WCAG 2.0 standards on a new project then try to retrofit onto an website. Depending on the content management system and other technologies used it may even be impossible to make an old website compliant.

The Ontario government seems to understand this, which is why there’s a grace period for implementation.

At the same time there is a paradigm shift towards responsive design to accommodate the surge of mobile users. Content management systems are also getting more powerful, are easier to manage and have newer features. This is an opportune time to make the transition.

The first thing you need to do is review which standards apply to your organization. Are you a public designated service organization or are you private? How many employees do you have?

Depending on your type of organization you will either need to comply with WCAG 2.0 Level A or Level AA standards.  By 2021 all organizations will need to be WCAG 2.0 Level AA compliant.

How do I implement the WCAG 2.0 changes?

You’ll need to access whether you have the skills in house to implement the WCAG 2.0 changes or you’ll need to select a vendor to do this for you. If work with an outside vendor it’s extremely important that they truly understand what the requirements are. Ask them for their full WCAG 2.0 checklist and test scripts. If you work with someone who doesn’t understand the AODA requirements you’ll end up doing this process twice.

The Ontario government does offer online seminars about AODA compliance. You can visit their registration site to sign-up for a seminar. You can also view past seminars.

How do I verify and test the WCAG 2.0 changes?

There are a number of steps you can go through to test your WCAG 2.0 implementation. You need to do all of these steps because no single method will cover everything.

  1. Use an online testing tool such as achecker.ca. In our experience, this is a good starting point but isn’t perfect.
  2. Install assistive technology software plugin such as the JAWS Screen Reader  on your browser and navigate through your site. When you use an audio tool like this you’ll get an appreciation for the “skip navigation” requirement.
  3. Use a color contrast checker such as WebAIM.
  4. Test your site on Cynthia Says. We find this tool to be more strict than achecker.
  5. Test your web application on Power Mapper.
  6. Test your site with the Chrome Vox or FANGs screen-reader emulators.
  7. A great deal of WCAG 2.0 compliance is contextual. Do your text links describe accurately what is on the expected page? “Click here,” and “read more” are not viable options. Someone needs to read through all your site navigation links for context.
  8. The best method is to hire someone or a focus group that has a relevant disability to test your site. You will get a real world perspective.

Side Benefits of AODA and WCAG 2.0 Implementation

Aside from the benefit of reaching a wider audience and giving all people equal access to your website there are “curb-cut benefits” for complying with AODA. A WCAG 2.0 Level A or AA website is easier for search engines to crawl because the structure is more logical. The layout is cleaner. This helps with on-page SEO. Secondly, the website will have a higher level of usability for people without disabilities. Larger font sizes and higher contrast ratios, for example, are better for everyone.

Need help or advice?

Need help or advice to become AODA compliant? Contact Soulfx and we’ll help get you started.

Do you have any insights or questions? Please participate in the discussion below. We’d love to hear from you.

About The Author

Mike Erlindson is the President & CEO of Soulfx Technologies. He manages the design and development teams and has worked on hundreds of projects for clients in a wide range of industries. He previously worked at the Southam Infolab, Cyberplex and was Senior Producer of The Toronto Star Online.

He’s been both an Adjunct Professor at the University of Western Ontario and an Associate Professor at Centennial College teaching classes on User Experience Design and Client Service for Technology Consultants.

His entire career intersects content and technology. Always on the cutting edge, his masters degree research paper about online newspapers won the top award of his graduate school class.

Mike can be found at:

About Soulfx

Soulfx specializes in digital strategy, user experience design and cloud software development. Our software applications help clients become more efficient which increases revenue and decreases costs. Client industries include health sciences, pharmaceuticals, financial services, insurance, government and education. Contact Soulfx or call 1-877-827-4555 xt. 228

  • Cory Ter Smitte

    Is there a DEFINITIVE resource which confirms if your web page/site is AODA compliant? i.e. if your page passes the Wave report, you have ensure appropriate keyboard navigation and read out loud behaviour, would your page be considered to have met the WCAG guidelines? It seems much of the guidelines are subjective and prone to different interpretations leading to differing opinions on whether a page has met the guidelines or not. Is WAVE considered the generally accepted industry standard?