How do I make my website AODA & WCAG accessibility compliant?


A lot our Niagara-based web design clients and prospective clients from other areas tend to ask us, "how do I make my website AODA & WCAG accessible?". They also pose the same sort of question like, "how do I make my website abide by AODA accessibility compliance?".

TL;DR - In order to make your website pass AODA & WCAG accessibility compliance, you must do a few things. Make your website text and media consumable for everyone. Make sure everyone, no matter the disability, can navigate your website easily. Make your media and text understandable for all. Maximize compatibility - make sure your website can be used by screen readers. If you're in the legal area to comply with AODA compliance, and if you don't make your site compliant, you may be subject to legal fines.

What is AODA compliance?

You may have heard of the buzz regarding making your website accessible for all users, and for good reason.

AODA stands for the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, which was passed in 2005. The idea originally back in 2005 was to make sure that all public, private and non-profit companies were to become more accessible in many different ways to people with different forms of disabilities.

The goal of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act is to aim for a barrier-free Ontario by the year 2025.

What constitutes us a disability under AODA?

When AODA talks about different types of disabilities, they're talking about conditions that we as people can both see or not see. That is to say, conditions which are visible and / or invisible.

These disabilities can be sustained from an accident, be sustained at birth, or developed over time.

Some of these disabilities include but are not limited to:

  • Mental health obstacles
  • Blindness or impaired visually
  • Deafness or impaired hearing
  • Problems with speech (speech impairment)
  • Any mobility or physical challenges

    • Any sort of amputation, paralysis or difficulty with coordination or balance
  • Injury to the brain
  • Epilepsy
  • Any sort of learning or intellectual disabilities

All of the disabilities listed above can absolutely impact the way a person with said disabilities can navigate not just your website, but any website period.

The unfortunate truth is that most sites online - aside from Government websites - are not accessible. Not only does this hinder your users with disabilities, it opens you up to law suits. In 2019, Apple was sued for violating the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. It can happen to you too.

Which leads us into...

Are there fines or legal ramifications if my website doesn't comply with AODA?

There are actually potential legal ramifications for not making your website accessible for your users, which is definitely a concern for a lot of businesses not only within Ontario, but world-wide.

As mentioned above, Apple already has been sued. All it takes is one person to report your website, and there's potential to be sued.

According to Ontario law, all new or refreshed public websites need to be AODA compliant if:

  • You are a private or non-profit company that has 50 or more people, then you must comply with AODA compliance. However - if your company has 49 people or less, legally you do not have to.
  • You're a public-sector business

What's considered a 'new' website?

A new website under the Ontario law is considered one that has a new website URL address, or the same URL and a significantly new look and feel.

If you're simply adding a new page or a couple new pages to your site, that's not considered a 'new' site.

What's considered a 'significantly new look and feel' kind of website?

That would be a website that is the same website as always, but that website itself goes under major changes like a new look and feel - major navigation updates, etc.

What is WCAG accessibility compliance?

WCAG is a bit different.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines outlines how to make content on a website more accessible to people with disabilities, in general.

WCAG is more or less the same as AODA - it just applies to website in a global sense.

AODA applies their rules to business websites just in Ontario.

So in essence, if your website is AODA compliant, chances are it covers a lot or even most based when it comes to making your website WCAG accessible.

How do I make my website pass AODA & WCAG accessibility compliance?

Without further ado, lets go into how you can check to see if your website is AODA & WCAG compliant, and if it's not - fix the errors on your website to make your website accessible.

outline specifics here

The general criteria that the specifics fall under, are as follows:

Level A
Guideline 1.1: Provide text alternatives for non-text content

  • 1.1 Non-text content

Guideline 1.2: Provide alternatives for time-based media

  • 2.1 Audio only and video only (Prerecorded)
  • 2.2 Captions (Prerecorded)
  • 2.3 Audio Description or Media Alternative (Prerecorded)

Guideline 1.3 Adaptable Content

  • 3.1 Info and relationships
  • 3.2 Meaningful sequence
  • 3.3 Sensory characteristics

Guideline 1.4 Distinguishable content

  • 4.1 Use of color
  • 4.2 Audio control

Guideline 2.1 Keyboard accessible

  • 1.1 Keyboard
  • 1.2 No Keyboard trap

Guideline 2.2 Provide users enough time to read and use content

  • 2.1 Timing adjustable
  • 2.2 Pause, stop, hide

Guideline 2.3 Don’t design content in a way that is known to cause seizures

  • 3.1 Three flashes or below threshold

Guideline 2.4 Navigable content

  • 4.1 Bypass blocks
  • 4.2 Page titled
  • 4.3 Focus order
  • 4.4 Link purpose (in context)

Guideline 3.1 Readable text content

  • 1.1 Language of page

Guideline 3.2 Predictable web pages

  • 2.1 On focus
  • 2.2 On input

Guideline 3.3 Input assistance

  • 3.1 Error identification
  • 3.2 Labels or instructions

Guideline 4.1 Compatible

  • 1.1 Parsing
  • 1.2 Name, role, value

Level AA

Guideline 1.4 Distinguishable content

  • 4.3 Contrast (Minimum)
  • 4.4 Resize text
  • 4.5 Images of text

Guideline 2.4 Navigable content

  • 4.5 Multiple ways
  • 4.6 Headings and labels
  • 4.7 Focus visible

Guideline 3.1 Readable text content

  • 1.2 Language of parts

Guidelines 3.2 Predictable web pages

  • 2.4 Consistent identification

Guideline 3.3 Input assistance

  • 3.3 Error suggestion

    3.3.4 Error prevention (Legal, financial, data)

What are the benefits of AODA & WCAG accessibility compliance?

There a few key benefits of making your website AODA & WCAG accessible:

People with disabilities can now use your website

This of course is the primary goal when it comes to AODA & WCAG accessibility compliance.

People with disabilities will now be able to easily your website. With a screen reader, with a keyboard, or by any other means.

This directly translates to more subscribers, more traffic and ultimately more revenue for you.

Rank higher in Google

Google has over 200 ranking factors when it comes to ranking a website in Google. One of those ranking factors is making your website accessible.

If you make your website AODA accessible compliant, and your competitor's website are not - guess who gets the bump in Google's rankings?

You do!

Ranking higher in Google means more visibility for your brand. More visibility means you get more clicks and more traffic to your site.

More traffic to your site means more of a potential for revenue. Win-win.

Take pride in knowing your company is doing the right thing

Arguably one of the most important points here, is that making your website AODA & WCAG compliant means that you're doing the right thing.

You're allowing people that have disabilities to browse your site easily, when the vast majority of the rest of the internet won't.

That's a huge win and you should take pride in making your website fully accessible.

Are there any drawbacks to making my website AODA & WCAG accessibility compliant?

Personally I believe the benefits outweigh the disadvantages when it comes to making your website compliant.

However, there are a few disadvantages to making your website AODA & WCAG accessible:

It takes a long time

One of the main drawbacks of making any website accessible - a current website or a new website - is that it does take a while.

Making sure colour contrasts are all up to par, making sure all parts of your website are accessible by screen-readers and keyboard accessible.. It does take a long time for a website to become fully accessible.

Is it worth it though? Of course.

It costs more

More development times means more money.

This goes without saying that adding the additional major task of making many parts of a website AODA & WCAG compliant is daunting and time consuming.

Coding, testing, coding some more, testing some more.. It's not a small task.

Your website's design can suffer

This may be on the biggest drawbacks.

Website designers - ourselves included - love making a website shine. A big part of how we sell our websites is that they possess a modern design, which still holds true for even the accessible websites we make.

However - there's a lot of design and development choices that actually hinder accessibility. Which of course can't be done if you're going to make your website compliant.

Therefore some design and cool front end development choices have to be scaled back a bit, in order for a website to be fully compliant.

How long does it take to make my website pass accessibility compliance?

It's not uncommon for it to take 6-8+ months to make a current website AODA compliant. However this does largely depend on how much accessibility is required for certain parts of a website.

Does your website have 5-10 pages? It'll take far less time. Maybe 1-2 months.

Does that same 5-10 page website have a lot of interactivity, that needs to be accessible by a keyboard (for example, dropdown navigation, sliders, accordions, etc.)? Maybe 2-3 months.

The time entirely depends on what functionality is included in your website and if you have to make it accessible to screen-readers and / or keyboards.

If you're making a new website, it could take the same amount of time or longer - again, depending on the content of the website.

It takes so long because you can't use a template. Everything has to be custom coded in order to make a website compliant.

How much does it cost to make my website compliant?

This completely depends on who you use to make your website compliant.

Some agencies charge $80 / hour. Others charge $125+/hour.

For 6-8+ months of work, if someone is working on making your website fully compliant full time, it may cost tens of thousands of dollars to make it work.

However as touched on above, if you get caught with a website that isn't compliant and you're an individual, fines are up to $50,000 / day before it's compliant.

If you're a company, that jumps to $100,000 each day until the website is compliant.

Would you rather pay $10,000 - $20,000 once to make your website AODA compliant, versus getting charged between $50,000 - $100,000 per day?

It's smart to make your website compliant up front. You'll save a lot of money in the long run.

Conclusion on how to make your website AODA & WCAG accessible compliant

Making your website AODA & WCAG compliant is an important one.

Not only does it allow for a much better user experience for people with disabilities and helps your website rank better in Google, you will also avoid the headache of legal fines. The fines are quite expensive and time consuming to attend court for, so it's best to make your website compliant and save yourself the headache!

Need to make your website AODA & WCAG accessible? Contact us for a free quote today! We'll get back to you as soon as possible.

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