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Accessible Website? Fines Coming For Noncompliant Orgs

Conversation with Dufferin Media’s Sarah Clarke about Online Accessibility – Transcript of video can be found here.

Many organizations and those leading them could be subjected to hefty fines under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

On January 1, 2021, stipulations of the AODA went into effect regarding the accessibility of websites belonging to municipalities of all sizes and corporations and nonprofits with more than 50 employees. The maximum fine for individuals involved, including directors and officers of a corporation, can be levied up to $50,000 a day. Unincorporated organizations are at risk of the same financial penalty, while those incorporated could be charged daily a maximum of $100,000.

The standard used to determine a website’s accessibility level is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, put out by the World Wide Web Consortium. There are three levels of conformity within the WCAG 2.0; A, AA, and AAA. Level A conformity has been a requirement for new websites and web content put out by designated public sector organizations and large nonprofits and corporations since 2014. One example of being in Level A compliance is not having web content that flashes more than three times in one second, as that creates issues for those prone to seizures. A second is having text alternatives (alt-text) on all non-text web content, such as images, to serve an equivalent purpose for text-to-speech tools to process and describe.

In January 2021, Level AA became the required standard of conformity for all content published on a website after January 2012. The exceptions are that is not necessary to have captions provided for all live audio content or audio descriptions for all pre-recorded video content. One of WCAG’s criteria required by the AODA to be in accordance with the law is to have text on the website resizeable up to 200% without assistive technology while still keeping all functionality and content. Another is having a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1 for all text content presentations, including text in images, to ensure it is still legible to those with low vision or colour vision deficiencies.

Sarah Clarke, the founder of the local digital marketing firm Dufferin Media, says there are substantial benefits to making one’s website and online content accessible even if it is not required by law. Not only does it improve service to a wide variety of customers, but it often leads to improved search engine optimization, raising a website’s ranking in Google’s search results.

As per the 2016 Click-Away Pound Survey, 71% of customers with accessibility needs will click away from a website they find challenging to use. As of 2017, StatsCan reported that 22% of Canadians aged 15 or older live with at least one disability that affects accessibility. If a business or nonprofit organization continues to ignore web accessibility considerations, it’s clear that they are missing out on reaching a considerable percentage of the population.”

Dufferin Media recently began offering services to make websites and social media content fully accessible to all. The company has even appointed an Accessibility Officer certified in Global Web Accessibility Standards and has committed to having the rest of its team members follow suit. Dufferin News interviewed Sarah Clarke to learn more about web accessibility and the services Dufferin Media is providing to clients of all sizes, the video of which is above and the transcript of the conversation can be found here.

“I am honoured to have this unique opportunity to help bring awareness to web accessibility and assist smaller nonprofits and business owners to move towards making all websites fully accessible and inclusive for all users,” said Sarah Clarke.

On a related note, all organizations with twenty employees or more must file an AODA Compliance Report by June 30, 2021, with the Ontario Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility. This document is meant to ensure obligations put forth by the AODA are being met, including the new standards around web accessibility. Failure to submit a report would constitute a breach of the AODA, and organizations found doing so could be subjected to the aforementioned fines administered under the act. The deadline for the compliance report was previously December 31, 2020, but an extension was granted.

Full Disclosure: Dufferin Media and Dufferin’s Spotlight created a strategic alliance in 2020. To learn more details, check out this press release.

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