Web Design

Is Your Website AODA Compliant?

Summary: As of January 1st, 2021, many companies in Ontario will be required to have AODA-compliant websites. Learn what that means and how we can help you.

If you run a medium to large-sized business or non-profit in Ontario, you have a major deadline coming up. All Ontario businesses with more than 50 employees are required to have AODA-compliant websites by January 1st, 2021.

Is Your Website AODA Compliant?

This new set of regulations may require you to make some significant updates to your website, but the changes also present some opportunities for you to optimize your site and expand its visibility and reach. Keep reading to learn more about what this new legal responsibility means for you and how a good web design company can help you make the most of these new accessibility obligations.

What is AODA?

AODA stands for the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. This law was first passed in 2005 to help the province establish greater accessibility in all public, private, non-profit, and government organizations. The AODA’s ultimate goal is to create a fully accessible Ontario by 2025.

While the AODA is a multi-faceted piece of legislation that covers just about every aspect of running an organization, the part that is relevant to you at this time concerns website development. If you have a website, it must be considered accessible by AODA standards by the first day (January 1st) of 2021. The same rules will apply to any websites you create past that date.

What is an Accessible Website?

An accessible website can be used effectively by any person, regardless of their location, the device they are using, or any disabilities they may have. This requirement applies to all aspects of the site, including:

  • Website design.
  • Written content.
  • Visual components.
  • Website functions.
  • User interface and navigation.

The prospect of accommodating every possible impairment may sound like a daunting challenge, but there are website design standards you can refer to for help. The WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) provide an outline of all web design accommodations a site must make to be considered fully compliant with accessibility regulations. The current version of the WCAG was published in 2018, with additional updates set to be released in 2021.

Once you know what needs to be done to your site, you can hire a web design agency to implement these changes for you. You can also have them develop a new website for you according to those guidelines.

Why Is Accessibility Important?

One in seven Ontario residents currently lives with a disability, and this number is likely to rise as the population grows older. Many of these disabilities make it difficult or impossible to navigate standard websites. These impairments include but are not limited to:

  • Visual and hearing impairments.
  • Susceptibility to seizures.
  • Difficulties with fine motor control.
  • Learning disabilities that make complex reading difficult.

If you do not account for these conditions when designing your website, people with disabilities may be unable to enjoy the site you have worked so hard to create. It is considered unacceptable to restrict them when they can be accommodated with accessible website design.

There is also a strong practical case to be made for accessible website design. If certain users cannot access your website, they cannot research your products or brand, find your location or contact information, or enjoy any of the content you post to promote your business. All these site functions are critical marketing touchpoints that help you nurture a lead toward becoming a customer. Accessible website design prevents these problems and ensures that your website can fulfill its marketing purpose, regardless of who uses it.

Additional Benefits of AODA-Compliant Website Design

While AODA website design compliance is soon to be a legal responsibility for all Ontario companies, this change will bring other benefits to your business. Some of these include:

  • Better SEO. Many of the standard AODA website design accommodations (especially text-based ones such as transcriptions and alternate text for images) make your website easier for search engines to evaluate. Including them can significantly boost your page rank, especially if you use them as opportunities to incorporate more high-value keywords into your site.
  • Increased Reach. Non-compliant websites block out a considerable portion of your potential audience. By ensuring your website design follows AODA regulations, you can promote your business to far more people. This translates to more leads and potential customers.
  • An Improved User Experience. Many users who do not have a disability will still benefit from the website design accommodations that the AODA requires. For example, people who speak English as a second language or those in noisy locations often have an easier time reading captions than listening to an audio clip. An inclusive website design makes it easier and more comfortable for these people to engage with your business.

The Consequences of Non-Compliance

You won’t go to jail for having a website design that doesn’t comply with the AODA, but there are still consequences for violating the law. In this case, the government of Ontario will issue fines on a sliding scale based on two factors:

  • The severity of the offence.
  • Your company’s history of non-compliance with AODA standards.

A company with one minor infraction and no prior record will pay $500, but one with a significant violation and a long history of similar offences will pay $15,000 instead. If there are multiple infractions present on a website, the company pays a fine for each of them up to a daily maximum of $100,000. These fines may apply for each day that passes until the violation is corrected.

It’s difficult to say for sure what determines the level of severity of a violation, making it difficult to predict how much you’ll pay if your website is caught falling short of the new standards. It is also important to note that while you can ask the government for an extension on this matter, it’s up to them to choose whether to grant it or not. Rather than take the chance, it is best to invest in your website design now and start the new year off with a brand new AODA-compliant website.

Achieve Better Accessibility with Expert Web Design in Toronto

Don’t let your business get caught off-guard by the new AODA website design regulations. Investing in website design services to create a fully compliant website before 2021 is the smartest thing you can do for your online presence right now. You will avoid any potential fines, make your website more versatile and appealing, and significantly increase its potential as a marketing tool.

WSI Comandix can help you achieve AODA compliance on your website and increase your business’ revenue at the same time. We are a leading digital marketing agency in the GTA, staffed with some of the best SEO specialists and website developers Toronto has to offer. Contact us today to learn more about how we can implement the necessary digital accommodations on your website and help your business grow.

About the Author

Experienced marketer, mentor and author. Peter is passionate about helping businesses to take full advantage of their web presence. He and his Team have successfully completed over 2,500 digital projects for clients in Canada, US and EU.

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