Deep Dive Into Regulations for Digital Accessibility



The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)

Check Your Site for Accessibility Issues

Enacted in 2005 in Ontario, Canada, the AODA outlines specific accessibility requirements and standards in various areas, including customer service, employment, transportation, and information and communications. AODA strives to increase accessibility for those with physical and mental disabilities. Regarding web accessibility, the act requires organizations to ensure that their websites and digital content conform to WCAG 2.0 Level AA.

What organizations does AODA impact, and when must they comply?

Large organizations (50+ employees) must comply with the AODA standards by January 1, 2014. Small organizations (1-49 employees) had until January 1, 2021. In addition, organizations must submit accessibility reports on their compliance efforts, including details on their web accessibility measures. 

The AODA standards apply solely to a person or organization that does one or more of the following:

  • Offers goods, services, or facilities
  • Is an employer of people in Ontario 
  • Provides accommodation
  • Owns or occupies a building, structure or premises
  • Contributes to a business or other relevant activities 

What is the WCAG?

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are standards created by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). This international nonprofit publishes official HTML, CSS, and other web technology specifications. A global community of member organizations, academics, W3C full-time staff, and the public collaborates to develop its guidelines. 

WCAG guidelines have detailed instructions on creating websites, digital content, and coding that work with assistive technologies. WCAG’s definition of web content includes website text, images, sounds, and coding languages. Its four main accessibility principles (POUR) convey those websites must be Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust for end users. 

 What are the five standards of AODA compliance?

1. The Information and Communications Standards

The Information and Communications Standards provide rules for organizations to create, provide, and receive accessible information and communications for people with disabilities. 

2. The Employment Standards

These standards require employers to provide accessible workplaces and practices for potential or current employees with disabilities.

3. The Transportation Standards

These standards mandate that service providers create accessible routes and vehicles for passengers with disabilities. It further requires transportation companies to update the public about the accessibility of their vehicles’ equipment, features, routes, and services.

Some ways to achieve this include:

4. The Design of Public Spaces Standards

This standard covers methods for making more accessible communal spaces (primarily outdoors). 

5. The Customer Service Standards

This standard requires service providers to remove physical and technological obstacles that block people with disabilities from necessary services.

Two additional AODA standards are under development:

  • The Health Care Standards will impact every healthcare organization. 
  • The Education Standards will identify barriers facing students in K-12 as well as universities and colleges.

AODA fines and penalties

Fines for noncompliance can reach up to $50,000 for each day or partial day an offense happens. For corporations, fines can rise to $100,000 for each day or partial day.

Furthermore, all directors and officers of a corporation must make a reasonable effort to prevent the corporation from committing an offense. Failure to do so can result in those individuals being held liable to pay a fine of up to $50,000 for each day or partial day.

What are the main digital accessibility acts in Canada?

The primary legislation that addresses web accessibility in Canada is the Accessible Canada Act (ACA) and the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA). The Accessible Canada Act, effective in 2019, aims to create a barrier-free Canada by promoting accessibility and inclusion. It applies to organizations under federal jurisdiction like the federal government, banks, transportation services, and telecommunications companies. Under the ACA, these organizations must ensure their websites and digital content are accessible to people with disabilities. The Canadian Human Rights Act also affects web accessibility. It prohibits discrimination based on disability and mandates that organizations make reasonable accommodations for equal access to services (including digital).

How can you improve your AODA compliance

UserWay provides a full range of AI-powered accessibility tools, attorney-led legal support, ongoing accessibility monitoring, and more. Learn why organizations worldwide trust UserWay to make measured improvements in accessibility and compliance for a more inclusive digital world. 

Frequently Asked Questions

The AODA defines an employee as any individual in an employee-employer relationship with an employer. This is contingent on whether the employer (1) pays the employee wages or salary, (2) controls the employee’s work projects, and (3) has the right to control the details of those projects. An employer must determine who is included as an employee based on the individual situation or circumstances.

Organizations should Include all full-time, part-time, seasonal, and contract workers in their employee count. Volunteers, independent contractors, and employees who don’t reside in Ontario do not count. The AODA defines employee size based on an organization’s highest employee count at any one time over the prior twelve months.

Only internet-based mobile apps need to comply. The AODA does not apply to non-internet-based mobile apps.