Pursuant to the Integrated Accessibility Standards (IAS), a regulation under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA), the Government of Ontario and the Ontario Legislative Assembly’s internet websites and web contents** are required to be compliant with the level of conformance designated as AA* in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. This compliance standard will extend to private organizations with 50 or more employees in Ontario on January 1, 2021.
By way of background, in 2005, the Ontario provincial government passed AODA, which requires public and private sector organizations to comply with mandatory standards that prevent and remove accessibility barriers for people with disabilities. IAS provides for accessibility standards and prescribes a schedule for website and web content accessibility. IAS defines which types of organizations need to comply with WCAG 2.0, and what level of compliance is required by those organizations. The compliance levels are defined by WCAG 2.0, which defines three increasingly onerous levels of compliance: A, AA and AAA.
Under the prescribed timelines, the Government of Ontario and Ontario Legislative Assembly’s internet websites and web contents** have been required to be WCAG 2.0 Level AA* compliant since January 1, 2016. However, all Government of Ontario and Ontario Legislative Assembly’s internet and intranet websites and web content** must be Level AA compliant by January 1, 2020.
Designated public service organizations, such as hospitals, universities and other public bodies must achieve Level AA compliance* for all internet and web content** by January 1, 2021. Large organizations, defined as organizations with more than 50 employees in Ontario, must also be Level AA* compliant for all internet and web content** by January 1, 2021.
It should be noted that designated public sector organizations and large organizations have been under an obligation to be WCAG 2.0 Level A* compliant for “new” internet websites and web content** since 2014. AODA provides for the significant fines for non-compliance. If you have any doubt about compliance, it may be a good time to consider assessing your organization’s level of compliance with WCAG 2.0.
* excluding captions on live videos and audio descriptions for pre-recorded videos.
** published after 1 January 2012.
Summary by: Meenakshi Lakhanpal
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