n January 8, 2020, it was announced that there are new enforcement laws to meet WCAG 2.0 Level AA Web Accessibility Requirements. This applies to public and private businesses, as well as non-profit organizations in Ontario with 50+ employees. Websites that fail to meet these guidelines by January 1, 2021 will face a fine of $50,000 for each day, or part of day, the offence continues. If the website belongs to a corporation, the fine will be $100,000 for each day, or part of day. This includes municipalities, government industries, educational institutions, hospitals, offices, retail stores, and manufacturing. A website that belongs to any of these categories must pay attention to the WCAG requirements, as the push for change is strong and growing.

This change is necessary for growth moving forward and must be done before next year. 22 percent of Canadians older than 15, have at least one disability that limits their everyday activities. There are enough barriers for them in the physical and digital environment, an inaccessible website should not be part of the list. Although there are many disabilities, including pain, flexibility, mobility, vision, hearing, dexterity, learning, memory or development, there are many ways around them. Many people have adapted to assistive technologies to help them navigate websites, but it is necessary that businesses adjust their websites to comply with these strategies.

The new guidelines seem somewhat complicated, but they include simple changes that can be done. Learning disabilities are the most common among Canadian youth, meaning all content on a website must be readable at the level of a 12-year-old. Some changes to include are:

  • Headers allow those who use a screen reader to navigate a website with its content placed properly. Heading tags are critical for those who use assistive technology, to understand the structure of the website. Headers allow those who use a screen reader to navigate a website with its content placed properly.
  • All images must contain alternative text for the same purposes as the header. This text explains the context of the image for those who can’t see it. Avoid placing this text inside the image, but rather code it separately on top.
  • When embedding a link, use phrases rather than hyperlinked text. Users cannot always tell where a link leads if it simply says “click here” rather use phrases like “learn more about us”.
  • Any video or audio must include captions, otherwise you may be excluding over three million Canadians who identify as being hard of hearing. This also helps those users to stay up to date with your content.
  • Many Canadians also suffer from colour blindness meaning in order to meet guidelines your website colours must be adjusted. Foreground and background colours need to have a 4.5:1 contrast ratio but not overwhelmingly bright. If this contrast isn’t met your brand palette may need adjustments. To further understand the new enforcement laws, contact us or read WCAG 2.0 Level AA guidelines.

This change is necessary for your business to grow so everyone can access your website. Everyone deserves equal access, and it is critical your business meets these guidelines by next year, to avoid the repercussions.If you are looking for a way to improve your website, please contact us. We are here to help you meet all accessibility requirements within the law and help you further grow your business.