1.2.4 WCAG 2.0 and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)

If you are developing web content for an organization that operates in Ontario, you should be aware of the regulatory requirements of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005. Accessibility standards are being created as part of the act. These standards are rules that require organizations in Ontario to identify, remove and prevent barriers so that people with disabilities will have more opportunities to participate in everyday life.

The Accessible Customer Service standard was the first regulation to be enacted. The next standards — Information and Communication, Employment, Transportation and the Design of Public Spaces— were combined in the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation or the IASR.

Section 14 of this regulation requires some types of obligated organizations to make their websites and web content accessible within given timelines. These organizations are the Government of Ontario, the Ontario Legislative Assembly, designated public sector organizations and large organizations. Designated public sector organizations include municipalities, hospitals, colleges, universities, school boards and other public bodies listed under Table 1, Column 1 of Ontario Regulation 146/10. A large organization is any organization in Ontario that provides goods, services or facilities to the public or other third party, and that has 50 or more employees.

As a first step, obligated organizations will need to conform to the WCAG 2.0 guidelines when they are developing new websites and content on those new sites, or when they are conducting a significant site refresh. Between 2016 and 2021 obligated organizations will need to make all websites and web content accessible. The following table shows when different types of organizations must meet the requirements for accessible websites and web content.

A plain-text version of this table is available.

Timelines and the Provision of Accessible Websites and Web Content under the AODA
Type of Organization Type of Web content Compliance with WCAG 2.0 Level A Compliance with WCAG 2.0 Level AA
Government of Ontario and Ontario Legislative Assembly
New* internet and intranet websites and web content January 1, 2012
All* internet websites and web content January 1, 2016
All internet and intranet websites and web content January 1, 2020
Designated Public Service Organizations
New internet and web content January 1, 2014
All* internet and web content** January 1, 2021
Large Organizations (50 or more employees)
New internet and web content January 1, 2014
All* internet and web content**
January 1, 2021
* Exceptions include captions on live videos and audio descriptions for ALL pre- recorded videos.

** Web content published afer January 1, 2012

What is a new website?

New websites are those sites with a completely unique domain name (e.g. www.newbusiness.ca) or a website undergoing a significant refresh. There's no standard definition for a significant refresh. As a best practice, you may want to ask yourself "Am I changing over 50% of the website?" Think in terms of content, design and the technology.

The requirements and the timelines for the provision of accessible websites and web content are not optional. Unless the website or web content is not under an organization's control, or they can demonstrate that conforming with WCAG 2.0 is not practicable, the organizations listed above are obligated by law to comply with the accessible website requirements of the IASR. Organizations that choose not to comply run the risk of being fined. They will also miss the opportunity to reach new clients as well as to serve their existing clients better.

It is important to note that not all of the guidelines or all of the techniques will apply to all of the content on the websites you develop. The World Wide Consortium provides an on-line tool that will allow you to filter out elements that do not apply to your websites. This leaves you with a simplified list of guidelines and success criteria with direct links to the information needed to understand why and how to meet the appropriate level of accessibility for each item on the website. The W3C customizable checklist can be found in any of the resource boxes in Section 2.

WCAG 2.0 principles don't ONLY apply to the HTML that may form the template of a Web page... they also apply to any other format, application or technology you use to create a page, or to embed content in a page. This means, for example, that if your page embeds a multimedia player, that player and its controls and output must be accessible to the same level of compliance you claim for your overall page.