The Internet is transforming the world and deciding the future. It has become an integral part of everything, be it a business or any other organization. Internet access has become a basic requirement everywhere we go. However, not all websites or apps are made with people having mental or physical disabilities in mind.
This is why the government of Ontario has established the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).
What is AODA?
The AODA became effective in 2005 with the application for Ontario’s private and public sectors. It aims to ensure full access to people having disabilities by 2025. This law includes web accessibility.
It states that an organization, be it a government, non-profit, or private, should have ‘new and significantly refreshed public websites accessible’. The accessibility requirements, i.e., Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 must be met as per the law. The AODA includes a time frame for website compliance.
Organizations and businesses have to meet certain requirements for accessibility in areas like information and communications, transportation, customer service, employment, and design of public spaces. However, many businesses are unaware that AODA applies to the website and other digital stuff as well.
Making Your Site AODA Compliant
Here is how you can make your website accessible and meet the AA level of WCAG 2.0 requirements. Even if your business is not large, you should still improve your website’s accessibility. It will be reachable to a wider audience and would add to your credibility.
- Assess Your Website’s Accessibility
The first thing to do is to check the current status of your website’s accessibility. You can go through the accessibility clauses in detail and then see if it applies to your website. You can also hire the services of some experts if you want to be absolutely sure (we are providing a free AODA compliance assessment if you are interested).
Another quick way is to use some of those online checkers that offer some basic reports but a manual review carried out by an expert will give you much better results.
Once you have the report, you need to take the required actions and take care of the flaws.
- Be Mindful of the Font
Improving your site’s accessibility does not necessarily involve a lot of work. Even small changes can give significant results like changing the fonts. You might be tempted to use fancy fonts or something that stands out but they can affect the readability. Especially, people with visual impairments face difficulty when reading some of these fonts.
Make sure that the font on your site is clean and clear. Avoid any font that looks like handwriting or is complicated in any way. The font size also plays a role in improved readability. The recommended size is 16px and it must not be less than 12px. Moreover, the text should not be embedded in an image or a graph, as it can trouble people with low vision. You can also offer the users an option to change the text size.
- Use High Contrast
High contrast proves to be quite helpful for people having color blindness. They face difficulty in distinguishing between text and context without enough contrast.
WCAG AA maintains that the contrast ratio of any image or text should be 4.5:1. It means you can use either light-colored text on a dark background or light background with dark text. Implementing this rule is not necessary if the text is large, i.e., 18 points, or is bold with 14 points and a minimum contrast of 3:1. Other exceptions to this rule include part of a brand name/logo or an image’s part.
- Allow Keyboard Usage
Some people with disabilities cannot use a computer mouse. However, they can navigate through the keyboard keys like SHIFT+TAB and TAB to move back and forward. To ensure that your site is AODA compliant, your site should be compatible with keyboard navigation.
Enabling the keyboard navigation will allow the usage of not only the keyboard but keyboard emulators like on-screen keyboards, speech input software, and many other assistive technologies. On the majority of the websites, the top-level menu can be navigated by the keyboard.
It is the sub-menus that impact accessibility. Hence, check if your site is conducive to keyboard navigation.
- No Auto-Play Media
Auto-play media makes a site unwelcoming for people with hearing, physical, or cognitive disabilities. Allow controls like pause, start, restart, hide, or stop the media content on your site. Avoid excessive media files like audio, video, animations, sliders, and carousels.
Moreover, ensure that there are other options for time-bound content like tests and quizzes. People with disabilities take more time to react, so make sure that your site caters to their needs.
- Give Clear Instructions on Contact Forms
The optimization of contact forms is a prerequisite for meeting the AODA digital requirements and it can also improve your conversion rates. Improve the contact forms by giving simple and clear instructions to let the users know that input is required from them. Your form fields should be visible, clear, and comprehensible by everyone.
That can be achieved by including clear labels and placeholder text. The required fields should be clearly marked. Also, the inclusion of visual clues and colors will help perceive the error and confirmation messages, especially in case of colorblind people.
- Add Alt Text to the Images
People who are unable to see images because of some disability or slow connection can be facilitated by the alt text. Known as the alternative text, it describes the image. This text will especially help the screen readers coming to your site, as they might be unable to understand the image.
However, your alt text should not be stuffed with the keywords. Use natural language when describing the image.
- Optimize Readability
Improving the readability of content on your site can help increase its accessibility. Do not use large text blocks. Your content should be scannable and inclusive of simple language. Paragraphs and sentences should be short and should not extend to both right and left margins.
Work on your headings as well. Optimize the tags in such a way that the users can navigate through the page sections easily.
As you can see, most of these things will actually improve the overall site experience. These are the basics that many businesses ignore, which negatively affects their page loading speed and conversions. So, it’s a win-win for all.