Way back in 2005, the Ontario government passed the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disability Act (AODA). It had a far distant deadline of January 2021 for websites to comply with the WCAG 2.0 AA. I looked at it at the time, did some work in this area, and even wrote about accessibile PDFs. But then I went about my day, working on my new business and adjusting to life as a new dad.
This year, the government of Ontario extended the deadline for compliance to June 30, 2021. And I’ve been getting a lot of questions about it and have been working again to audit and fix sites so that they’re accessible.
Most of my clients are either small businesses or individuals so AODA doesn’t apply to them. However, some of the websites that I support are required to meet AODA because:
- the organizations have 50 or more staff OR
- they’re public organizations
For quite some time, I’ve been looking at issues like low-contrast text and image tagging. But there’s so much more to accessibility. How does your site perform when the visitor uses a screen-reader? They’re only hearing your site. A sighted visitor will visually scan the page and can skip over elements they’re not interested in. A non-sighted visitor doesn’t have that luxury. So the website needs to be built so that the visitor can understand it but can also skip over elements like a navigation menu that is repeated on every page.
All the prettiness and sizzle of a site disappears when using a screen-reader like NVDA or JAWS. The listener is left with a pared-down, audio-only experience. That’s why the quality of the writing matters. Spending time to work on the copy helps to craft a compelling website for sighted and non-sighted visitors.
My ideal way to build a new website is to start with strong copy. Focusing on the language and the message just in words leaves no room to hide behind pretty pictures or cool interfaces. The words have to stand on their own. Or perhaps better: the words have to “speak for themselves.”
That initial effort and attention to the copy pays off when trying to understand the site from the perspective of someone who only hears the words.
There are of course site visitors who may have partial vision. They may be using a mainstream browser but they may not be able to distinguish small text, low contrast text, or certain colours. An accessible site needs to be viewable by these visitors as well.
Where does this leave you? Firstly, you need to determine if your site must be accessible before the deadline of June 30, 2021 in Ontario. Other jurisdictions have other requirements so be sure to check the laws where you live. This will help to determine your need/deadline for compliance.
The next step is to audit and potentially fix your site. I’ve been researching this topic quite a bit but I’ve also been in touch with many experts so that I can deliver the best solution to my clients.
Aside from being the morally right thing to do, an accessible website allows you to reach more people – people that might not otherwise have been able to get your message, buy your services, etc.