What is AODA?
The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) is a statute that was enacted in 2005 by the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, Canada. The objective of this statute was to make all public establishments accessible to Ontarians with disabilities by 2025.
How Did AODA Evolve?
The precursor to AODA was the Ontarians with Disabilities Act (ODA) that was passed in 2001. The purpose of this bill was to remove barriers that prevented people with disabilities in Ontario to fully participate in everyday life. However, the act was weak because there were no penalties, enforcements, or deadlines involved. Also, it was limited in its scope and applied only to municipal governments and government ministries. There were several groups that rallied for improvements in this act almost as soon as it was passed.
ODA was then improved with clear rules, penalties, deadlines, and other key elements. This was AODA, and it included standards for web accessibility as well.
Also, like the ADA and Section 508, AODA points to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
The following table summarizes the deadlines involved as part of AODA:
|Guideline||Applicable to||With Effect from|
|Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level A||New public websites, websites that have been significantly refreshed, and web content posted after January 1, 2012||January 1, 2014|
|WCAG 2.0 Level AA other than criteria 1.2.4 (live captions) and 1.2.5 (pre-recorded audio descriptions)
|All web content posted after January 1, 2012 and public websites||January 1, 2021|
Businesses That Need to Comply with AODA
AODA states that private entities and non-profit organizations with 50+ employees, as well as all public sector organizations with new or significantly refreshed websites must make their websites accessible to people with disabilities.
What’s Different in AODA?
While AODA is based on WCAG 2.0, there could be situations where an organization finds it almost impossible to adhere to WCAG 2.0. These include the following situations:
- An organization could have web content that was posted before 2012. AODA rules do not apply to these websites. However, if content is updated, then AODA will be applicable.
- Some content could be complex by nature and it may be difficult to post it in a way that it complies with WCAG 2.0. For example, it could be impossible to make online maps accessible to people with certain disabilities. In such situations, the organization should be able to provide an accessible version upon request.
- The website may have been developed using software or tools that do not support accessibility. In such a situation, the organization could attempt to update or repair the products. If that is impossible, then suitable products or tools that support accessibility should be used the next time the site is refreshed.
What is the Cost of Non-Compliance?
Unlike accessibility standards used in many parts of the world, failure to comply with AODA could have monetary implications. A corporation that is found to have violated AODA can be fined up to $100,000 a day. An individual can be fined up to $50,000 per day.