It’s critical that everybody be able to access your business’s website and enjoy the products and services offered by your organization. Web accessibility has recently become one of the most widely discussed topics online, with businesses everywhere working to improve their web accessibility in order to allow those living with mobility, vision, hearing, and cognitive disabilities to enjoy everything your business has to offer the same way those living without disabilities can.
It’s estimated that up to one in five Canadians, or 6.2 million individuals, are currently living with a disability. Your business can’t afford to neglect such a large population. Failure to meet Canadian web accessibility regulations can be fined up to $250,000 and risk losing a substantial portion of their potential audience.
What is web accessibility and why is it so important?
Web accessibility ensures that people living with neurological conditions and/or disabilities affecting hearing, sight, and speech can access and enjoy your business’s website the same way that users without disabilities can. Increasing accessibility means optimizing your website and implementing new ways of navigating and using it to make interactions less difficult. Web accessibility is so important because Canadians with disabilities are protected by federal and provincial legislation, ensuring that all individuals have the same opportunities and can enjoy the many advantages offered by web access. All Canadian businesses are required to provide equal access to users with disabilities, making it critical that you enhance accessibility in any way possible.
How you can comply with accessibility standards
If you’re not sure where to get started with making your website accessible, there are many things your business can do to comply with regulations and ensure that all users can use and enjoy your website. From implementing text alternatives, captions, audio descriptions and adaptable content to using distinguishable content and improving navigation, there are dozens of ways in which you can enhance accessibility. There are also a number of unofficial web standards that can assist you in improving accessibility, specifically using HTML, scripts, and plug-ins.
The accessibility laws and policies that may currently affect your business include:
The Accessible Canada Act is a recent piece of legislation which was designed to provide guidance to web developers and designers with the goal of increasing web accessibility and promoting inclusion. Businesses that fail to meet and maintain the guidelines outlined by Bill C-81 are subject to fines of up to $250,000.
The Canadian Human Rights Act is a non-discrimination law which prohibits discrimination based on disability, applying to all Canadian businesses. While the Act doesn’t specifically apply to web accessibility, it states that the “Governor in Council may, for the benefit of persons having any disability, make regulations prescribing standards of accessibility to services, facilities or premises”.
The Standard on Web Accessibility applies to Canadian Government agencies, providing guidance on how to implement web accessibility. It doesn’t apply to web content that departments are not accountable for, but is applied uniformly across all Government of Canada websites and applications.
Provincial accessibility regulations
There are also a number of provincial accessibility regulations which businesses may be subject to:
- Accessibility for Manitobans Act (AMA)
- Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)
- Nova Scotia Accessibility Act
- Respecting Equal Access to Employment in Public Bodies
In order to be inclusive to all individuals and ensure that you aren’t excluding certain users, it’s imperative that your business be compliant with Canadian accessibility regulations. This will mean that your business can be enjoyed by all potential customers, who will be able to interact with and enjoy the products and services offered by your business the same way as Canadians without disabilities. Failure to comply with regulations can be devastating for your business, resulting in massive financial penalties and major blows to your brand’s image and reputation.
ion8 is an all-in-one business consultancy with a full team of technology and communications experts with the skills and regulatory knowledge needed to make your business accessible to Canadians with disabilities. In fact, our Creative Director just finished her Masters degree in the subject! For more information about the many ways that ion8 can transform the way you do business, contact us today.