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Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) website compliance

Last updated: 2020-07-21 — Accessibility

What is the AODA?

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, also known as AODA, is an Ontario law. Passed in 2005, the AODA is based off the 2001 Ontarians with Disabilities Act. The law mandates a set of standards that public, private, and non-profit organizations must follow to become more accessible to people with disabilities. AODA’s goal is to create a barrier-free Ontario by 2025.

The AODA does not replace the Ontario Human Rights Code, which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities.

What is a disability according to the AODA?

According to the AODA, the disability definition refers to a range of both visible and invisible conditions. These disabilities may have been present at birth, caused by accident, or developed over time, including:

  • Visual Impairment or blindness
  • Hearing disabilities or deafness
  • Speech impairment
  • Physical or mobility challenges
    • Paralysis
    • Amputation
    • Difficulty with balance or coordination
  • Brain injury
  • Epilepsy
  • Intellectual or learning disabilities
  • Mental health challenges

All of these disabilities can impact the way in which users are able to navigate a website.

Does the AODA require an accessibility policy or plan?

One of AODA’s requirements is that all organizations develop an accessibility policy. An accessibility policy helps organizations set goals that enable them to become more accessible.

If you are a private or non-profit organization with more than 50 employees or a public-sector organization of any size, you must also make an accessibility plan. An accessibility plan outlines the steps your organization takes to prevent and remove barriers. All accessibility policies must be in writing and available to the public in an accessible format if requested.

What does AODA website compliance require?

AODA website compliance requires that your public website (not intranet) and its content meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level A and AA (excluding criteria 1.2.4 and 1.2.5). WCAG is the internationally accepted standard for web accessibility, as developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). To comply with WCAG 2.0, you must have no content that violates the Success Criteria.

These requirements and subsequent success criterion include:

Level A
Guideline 1.1: Provide text alternatives for non-text content

  • 1.1 Non-text content

Guideline 1.2: Provide alternatives for time-based media

  • 2.1 Audio only and video only (Prerecorded)
  • 2.2 Captions (Prerecorded)
  • 2.3 Audio Description or Media Alternative (Prerecorded)

Guideline 1.3 Adaptable Content

  • 3.1 Info and relationships
  • 3.2 Meaningful sequence
  • 3.3 Sensory characteristics

Guideline 1.4 Distinguishable content

  • 4.1 Use of color
  • 4.2 Audio control

Guideline 2.1 Keyboard accessible

  • 1.1 Keyboard
  • 1.2 No Keyboard trap

Guideline 2.2 Provide users enough time to read and use content

  • 2.1 Timing adjustable
  • 2.2 Pause, stop, hide

Guideline 2.3 Don’t design content in a way that is known to cause seizures

  • 3.1 Three flashes or below threshold

Guideline 2.4 Navigable content

  • 4.1 Bypass blocks
  • 4.2 Page titled
  • 4.3 Focus order
  • 4.4 Link purpose (in context)

Guideline 3.1 Readable text content

  • 1.1 Language of page

Guideline 3.2 Predictable web pages

  • 2.1 On focus
  • 2.2 On input

Guideline 3.3 Input assistance

  • 3.1 Error identification
  • 3.2 Labels or instructions

Guideline 4.1 Compatible

  • 1.1 Parsing
  • 1.2 Name, role, value

Level AA

Guideline 1.4 Distinguishable content

  • 4.3 Contrast (Minimum)
  • 4.4 Resize text
  • 4.5 Images of text

Guideline 2.4 Navigable content

  • 4.5 Multiple ways
  • 4.6 Headings and labels
  • 4.7 Focus visible

Guideline 3.1 Readable text content

  • 1.2 Language of parts

Guidelines 3.2 Predictable web pages

  • 2.4 Consistent identification

Guideline 3.3 Input assistance

  • 3.3 Error suggestion

3.3.4 Error prevention (Legal, financial, data)

Who must comply with the AODA?

According to the law, all new and significantly refreshed public websites must be accessible if:

  • You are a private or non-profit organization with more than 50 employees
  • You are a public-sector organization

A new website is a site that has a new web address or a significantly new look and feel. Adding a new page or link to your site is not considered new.

A significantly refreshed website is a website that keeps the same web address but makes changes that present a new look and feel, new navigation, or a major update or change to the content of the website.

What are the AODA compliance deadlines?

  • As of January 1, 2014: All new public websites, significantly refreshed websites, and any web content that was posted after January 1, 2012 must meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level A
  • As of January 1, 2021: All public websites and web content posted after January 1, 2012 must meet WCAG 2.0 Level AA. This excludes criteria 1.2.3 (live captions) and 1.2.5 (pre-recorded audio descriptions)

What are the fines for non-compliance?

There are fixed penalties for non-compliance. 

For individuals, the penalty is up to $50,000 per day on which the violation occurs, and for corporations it is up to $100,000 for each day in violation until the matter is resolved. 

According to the act, directors and officers of corporations have a responsibility of ensuring compliance with AODA. 

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