Ontario employers warned about web accessibility

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Employers across Ontario are being warned to not overlook the importance of web accessibility when it comes to complying with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

Leading employment lawyer Jessica Young says that, under the AODA Information & Communication Standard, all organizations (other than private sector employers with fewer than 50 workers) are required to enhance web accessibility through compliance with the World Wide Web Consortium Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

“Any new internet website or content on those sites must conform to the WCAG 2.0 Level A,” she reveals – adding that, after January 1, 2021, all internet websites and their content must conform to the WCAG 2.0 Level AA.

“The web accessibility requirements currently in place apply to ‘new’ internet websites,” she says. “However, under the AODA a ‘new internet website’ is not only a website that has a new domain name, but also a website with an existing domain name undergoing a ‘significant refresh.’”

While the term "significant refresh" is not defined in the AODA, Young says the Ministry's manual, A Guide to the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation, suggests that a significant refresh could include “a new look or feel to the website, a change in how users navigate around it, or a major update and change to the content of the website.”

“Organizations making changes to existing websites must consider whether the changes may amount to a significant refresh triggering compliance with the AODA web accessibility requirements,” warns Young.

“Particularly in larger organizations where there may not be constant communication between departments, HR professionals should ensure that IT and other departments responsible for web changes are aware of the AODA web accessibility requirements.”

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