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Local Web Accessibility Laws and Standards

Lesson 3 of Section 1

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)

Aside from the compassionate and logical reasoning to implement accessibility, the provincial government of Ontario has created the AODA which is a set of standards and laws that clearly define what is deemed accessible and inaccessible. The course is based on these standards so you may have a clear understanding of how to pass these requirements.

Here are excerpts that concern you and the University (we are defined as a public sector organization):

(2) Designated public sector organizations and large organizations shall make their internet websites and web content conform with the World Wide Web Consortium Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, initially at Level A and increasing to Level AA, and shall do so in accordance with the schedule set out in this section.

(4) Designated public sector organizations and large organizations for their internet websites shall meet the requirements of this section in accordance with the following schedule:

  1. By January 1, 2014, new internet websites and web content on those sites must conform with WCAG 2.0 Level A.
  2. By January 1, 2021, all internet websites and web content must conform with WCAG 2.0 Level AA, other than,
    1. success criteria 1.2.4 Captions (Live), and
    2. success criteria 1.2.5 Audio Descriptions (Pre-recorded).

(5) Except where meeting the requirement is not practicable, this section applies,

  1. to websites and web content, including web-based applications, that an organization controls directly or through a contractual relationship that allows for modification of the product; and
  2. to web content published on a website after January 1, 2012.

(6) In determining whether meeting the requirements of this section is not practicable, organizations referenced in subsections (1) and (2) may consider, among other things,

  1. the availability of commercial software or tools or both; and
  2. significant impact on an implementation timeline that is planned or initiated before January 1, 2012.

(7) In this section,

  • extranet website means a controlled extension of the intranet, or internal network of an organization to outside users over the Internet;
  • internet website means a collection of related web pages, images, videos or other digital assets that are addressed relative to a common Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) and is accessible to the public;
  • intranet website means an organizations internal website that is used to privately and securely share any part of the organizations information or operational systems within the organization and includes extranet websites;
  • new internet website means either a website with a new domain name or a website with an existing domain name undergoing a significant refresh;
  • new intranet website means either an intranet website with a new domain name or an intranet website with an existing domain name undergoing a significant refresh;
  • web page means a non-embedded resource obtained from a single Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) using Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) and any other resources that are used in the rendering or intended to be rendered together with it by a user agent.

This is also relevant concerning emergency procedures:

13.

  1. In addition to its obligations under section 12, if an obligated organization prepares emergency procedures, plans or public safety information and makes the information available to the public, the obligated organization shall provide the information in an accessible format or with appropriate communication supports, as soon as practicable, upon request.
  2. Obligated organizations that prepare emergency procedures, plans or public safety information and make the information available to the public shall meet the requirements of this section by January 1, 2012.

In summation, we must have WCAG 2.0 AA conformance on three different deadlines:

  1. January 1st, 2012 - This is for all emergency procedures pages
  2. January 1st, 2014 - This is for all new pages being put into publication
  3. January 1st, 2021 - This is for all pages that are published under the mcmaster.ca domain, and includes all course material, learning portals, and teacher/faculty websites. There will be no exceptions at this date.

Throughout these excerpts, WCAG 2.0 Level A and WCAG 2.0 Level AA is mentioned several times, which leads to the next set of standards and guidelines we have to refer to.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)

WCAG is a set of guidelines that have been developed by The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in co-operation with many professionals, including the developers of screen readers. It is safe to say that adhering to these standards will likely make your webpage or website accessible to all.

However, before moving forward with any other material, there are a few frequently asked questions that should be addressed:

How do I convert my web pages to be WCAG 2.0 AA compliant?
Making web pages WCAG compliant is not as simple as using a conversion tool or a set of steps you take to convert a web page. You must ideally re-learn how to design a web page from scratch in an accessible manner. Once you do so, you can either take an existing page that has been created and "comb" through it to fix any accessibility errors that may exist. This online course will teach you how.
Is there an automated tool that exists to make my web pages compliant?
No. Some corporations or individuals will advertise tools that claim to create accessibility on your web pages, however these are misleading and will definitely not contribute to the conformance of your web pages to WCAG standards. Often, these tools are 3rd party software that costs money, bogs down the user's computer, and/or has little to no actual functionality for a user accustomed to professional tools like JAWS for their screen reading needs.
Will there ever be an automated tool that will make my web pages compliant?
No. Unless Artificial Intelligence is developed and perfected by the time the deadlines are in place, web accessibility compliance is something that can ultimately only be verified by a professional web accessibility developer (a human). If you contact UTS at ext. 24357, we can provide your web page with an evaluation and an assessment of your needs.
Can the University hire or contract someone to convert all the pages?
Staff have been employed specifically for accessibility purposes, however the number of webpages under the mcmaster.ca domain is so vast that this job is impossible for just a few staff, or even a team. The ideal solution is to train those who are already experienced in web development and responsible for maintenance of their websites to repair their web pages.
Once I've converted a web page to be conformant, will it ever become inaccessible?
Yes! Changes to the web page by those who are unaware of accessibility standards will likely cause the page to break accessibility standards and a professional will have to repair the semantic markup of the page to ensure that it remains accessible. We highly recommend that you only make changes to a web page if you have taken an accessibility training program such as this entire course.

Test Your Knowledge

Take a review test of section 1 (lessons 1 through 3) or continue to the next section.

Sources

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