Web accessibility refers to technologies, tools and websites being designed and developed so that they can be used by people with disabilities.
To be more specific, this means that people who have auditory, cognitive, neurological, physical, speech or visual disabilities can interact, navigate, understand and perceive the web, as well as contribute to it.
The purpose of this legislation is to implement web accessibility standards that relate to “goods, services, facilities, accommodation, employment, buildings, structures and premises”. This is so that Ontarians with disabilities can have access to these, just like everyone else.
This act also includes AODA standards that apply to websites and web content. The Act is detailed in the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
These guidelines are extremely detailed, many of them are very complicated, and implementing them is going to be an unwelcome expense for many business owners.
But the cost of not making these changes will be much more, as a compliance deadline for many of the standards has been set for January 2021. Businesses that don’t comply are facing some serious heavy fines (up to $100,000 per day).
Meeting the AODA standards allows you to avoid fines and potential lawsuits. It will increase people’s recognition and trust of your brand by showing that you care about people, providing the tools to access your services. Essentially, this is an opportunity for your business to show corporate responsibility.
Here are some of the ways that adhering to web accessibility standards can benefit disabled and able-bodied Ontarians.
Captions allow those with auditory disabilities to enjoy videos just as much as everyone else.
Since these people don’t have the luxury of being able to hear audio, half of the information in many videos becomes completely unintelligible to them.
But by providing captions as an alternative for the hearing impaired, video creators can remove that barrier, making their content accessible to more people.
Captions also make videos more convenient for everyone by allowing you to watch videos in noisy environments or places where you need to be quiet, even if you forgot your ear phones.
For those with sensitivity to low contrast – something that’s pretty common for older people –
poor contrast is like a wall between them and the content they want to access.
But if you choose colour schemes with good contrast, it makes the web more accessible for us all.
Whether it’s buttons, icons, images, links or text, having proper contrast between background and foreground colours makes it easier for everyone to read, navigate and interact with web content.
And it also makes reading easier in all lighting conditions, no matter who you are.
This technology makes browsing better for everyone.
For instance, if you’re trying to safely make a phone call or operate your GPS while driving, or if you have a temporary injury, such as a broken wrist, you need voice recognition.
But many people with permanent physical disabilities would be unable to even access a computer without it.
And if websites aren’t properly coded to work with voice recognition, those people simply cannot access them.
If you’re a business owner who sells products online and your website doesn’t support this technology, imagine how many sales you could be losing.
Technologies that allow computers to convert text into speech are invaluable for people with visual disabilities, as well as those with dyslexia.
But even for those who don’t absolutely need it, these tools just add another level of convenience.
Maybe reading for long periods of time gives you headaches, maybe you work a desk job and by the end of the day you’re just sick of staring at screens, or perhaps you just like to have something playing in the background when you’re cleaning the house.
Whatever the case, this technology allows you to digest textual information without having to look at a screen.
And if your website is coded to work with these tools, it not only helps users, but also provides the technical benefit of helping search engines to index the contents of your website.
Websites with a clear layout and design provide a better experience for all users.
If your website doesn’t have a consistent style, clear headings and intelligible navigation, it can be incredibly frustrating for anyone to use.
But for people with cognitive and visual impairments or learning disabilities, clutter or lack of clarity can make it downright impossible.
In addition, if your website is poorly designed, those who aren’t familiar with computers, such as older people, are going to have a tough time using it.
And if users are annoyed with your website, a lot of them are just going to go elsewhere, which means you’re probably going to lose their business to the competition.
For more information on accessibility standards and why you need to be AODA compliant, click here.
If you want your website to be more accessible and meet all the requirements outlined in the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, check out The Best Media’s AODA compliance service.