Latest version of AODA Integrated Accessibility Regulation available for review

When the Proposed Integrated Accessibility Regulation was released for review last September, it was a first step toward simplifying and streamlining the Information and Communication, Employment and Transportation Standards of the AODA legislation.  But that first draft was not entirely well-received for a variety of reasons including it’s lack of clarity and strength.

After reviewing over 100 submissions, the Ministry released an amended Integrated Accessibility Regulation that is open for public review until March 18, 2011.

Implications for Accessible Websites and Web Content

The new regulation is very clear about what organizations must comply, with clear deadlines and conformance levels.  Designated public sector organizations (both large and small) and large organizations (50 or more employees) have until January 1, 2014 to ensure new websites (internet not intranet) and web content on those sites conform to WCAG 2.0 Level A.

These same organizations have until January 1, 2021 to bring all websites and web content up to WCAG 2.0 Level AA standards with the exception of providing captions for live audio and audio descriptions for pre-recorded videos.

The regulation has finally made clear that a new website is “either a website with a new domain name or a website with an existing domain name undergoing a significant refresh”.’

Exempted from any sort of web accessibility requirements are small organizations with 1 to 50 employees. While that may sound like good news for small businesses, this lack of requirement is not good for web accessibility.  With almost 95% of Ontario businesses employing fewer than 50 employees (according to Industry Canada), we can expect to see businesses being slow to develop accessible websites unless they are aware of the advantages of opening their companies to new markets.