The clock is ticking for Ontario employers that need to be compliant with upcoming requirements under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), including accessibility compliance reports and ensuring that websites are accessible to everyone.
Public-sector organizations, as well as businesses and non-profits that have 20 or more employees, must file an accessibility compliance report by the end of December 2020. This will confirm that current accessibility requirements under the Act have been met. Organizations that don’t complete the report could face enforcement and financial penalties (see Completing your accessibility compliance report).
A compliance report requires the following:
- legal name;
- business number (BN9 – found in your federal or provincial tax return);
- number of employees;
- name and contact information of your certifier (a senior officer with legal authority to say that the report is complete and accurate).
One form can be used to file a report for up to 20 organizations, as long as they all have the same organization category, number of employees range, certifier, and answers to all of the accessibility compliance questions. If the information is different, a separate form for each organization must be completed.
New, stricter requirements under the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA must be met to make public websites accessible to all web users by January 1, 2021 (see How to make websites accessible).
This applies to private or non-profit organizations that have more than 50 employees, as well as public-sector organizations that control a website’s appearance, functionality and content. Private or non-profits that have fewer than 50 employees are exempt from the requirement.
WCAG 2.0 is an internationally accepted standard for web accessibility that was developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an international team of experts. Under the Guidelines, all public websites and web content posted since January 1, 2012 must meet WCAG 2.0 Level AA, other than criteria 1.2.4 (live captions) and 1.2.5 (pre-recorded audio descriptions).
Internal websites (intranets) are not required to be accessible. Any content that was posted before 2012 does not have to be modified but, if requested, organizations will have to work with individuals to provide the content in an alternate format, such as large print or braille.
There are certain circumstances in which the WCAG 2.0 requirements can’t be met, since some organizations could have software and other tools that predate the requirements. It may be impossible to post some content that would comply with WCAG 2.0, such as making some online maps and complex diagrams accessible to those with visual disabilities. In those cases the content can be posted by it must be provided in an accessible format if requested.
The government provides tips for testing websites for accessibility:
- automatic assessment and assistive technology;
- user testing and feedback;
- review key milestones and changes;
- online accessibility checker.
Employers should be aware of these fast-approaching deadlines or they may face potential fines. For advice on accessibility issues and all employment or labour law matters, contact the offices of Toronto employment lawyers Grosman Gale Fletcher Hopkins LLP. We regularly advise workplace parties on a wide range of legal workplace issues. Contact us online or by phone at 416-364-9599 to schedule a consultation.
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