Making websites accessible is important for ensuring that everyone can use them, including people with disabilities. The governments of Canada & the United States have passed legislation enforcing their websites meet accessibility standards.
The Internet is an extremely useful and revolutionary technology. But not everyone has been able to take advantage of all of the benefits it offers. For years, the web offered little capability for users with disabilities – particularly visual impairments – to use the technology in a meaningful way. The development of technologies such as screen readers, which read the contents of the screen aloud, helped to make the Internet more accessible, but their limitations and intricacies of web-technologies necessitated further advancements. As websites have become more dynamic – with information changing on-screen in a variety of ways – the underlying technologies needed to be reconsidered to ensure that accessible technologies can still be effective as the complexity of websites increase.
The development of standards such as WAI-ARIA and WCAG have given web developers the tools required to ensure that the applications they build accommodate assistive technologies such as screen readers. Incorporating these techniques into websites is called web accessibility (or A11Y in short-form). This includes programming which allows the user to navigate by keyboard only, subdivides the page into contextual sections, tells the browser in what order to read the various parts of the page aloud, and more. In addition to programmatic changes, it also requires the developers to carefully consider other aspects of the page. For example, the colours displayed on the page should be considered to ensure that the contrast between text colours and their backgrounds can be seen by users with low vision and that they can be seen by colour-blind visitors. Also, in some cases features can’t be made fully accessible, and alternative ways of presenting the information must be devised.
Since web technologies are becoming ubiquitous, governments across the globe are implementing legislation requiring websites to meet a minimum level of accessibility compliance. This includes the Government of Canada Standard on Web Accessibility, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) in Canada. In the United States, accessibility standards are defined by the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act in the United States. Organizations requiring compliance risk legal action if they are not compliant by the associated deadlines. The penalties for non-compliance under AODA, for example, can put an organization at risk of fines up to $100,000 per day.
N-VisionIT’s development team understand the intricacies of accessibility and how to ensure websites and web applications are compliant. Contact us today to find out how we can help ensure you meet your accessibility compliance.
More Information about Guidelines & Technologies
- WCAG: Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
WCAG is the primary guideline for web accessibility.
- WAI-ARIA: Accessible Rich Internet Applications
WAI-ARIA provides recommendations for technologies and techniques that browser creators and web-developers can use to make websites more accessible to people with disabilities.
More Information about Accessibility Legislation in Canada
- Accessible Canada Act (Bill C-81)
The Accessible Canada Act aims to create a barrier-free Canada through the proactive identification, removal and prevention of barriers to accessibility wherever Canadians interact with areas under federal jurisdiction.
- Government of Canada Standard on Web Accessibility
This standard documents the accessibility standards to which federal websites must comply.
- AODA: Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act
This legislation aims to make all levels of government, nonprofits, and private sector businesses in Ontario that have one or more employees accessible for people with disabilities by 2025.
More Information about Accessibility Legislation in the United States
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
This law defines websites as websites as “places of public accommodation” and inaccessibility to them can be considered discriminatory against persons with disabilities.
- Section 508 (Rehabilitation Act)
This law dictates that federal agencies must ensure that this technology is accessible to employees and members of the public with disabilities.