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Making your website WCAG compliant for accessibility

Does your website meet accessibility compliance guidelines? Websites are the gateway to businesses, information, and services. As we compete to create visually appealing and engaging online platforms, with the goal of wooing more visitors, one crucial aspect often gets overlooked: accessibility. Ensuring that your website is accessible to all, regardless of disability, is not only a moral obligation but also a government legislative requirement. Accessibility ensures that everyone, regardless of disability, has equal access to use your website.

When does my website need to be accessible by?

In Ontario, as of January 1, 2021, organizations with 50 or more employees are already required to have an accessible website. Ontario has a goal of being fully accessible in 2025, which likely means that if you have a website, and you live or your business operates in Ontario, you may be required to make your website WCAG 2.0 Level AA compliant under Accessibility for Ontarians Disabilities Act (AODA).

What is WCAG?

WCAG stands for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and it is the international technical standards developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) that gives web developers guidelines on how to make web content accessible. These guidelines provide a framework for creating websites under the four principles of WCAG: perceivable, operable, understandable and robust (POUR). Each principle contains a set of success criteria, categorized by three levels (A, AA, AAA) which represent a standard of accessibility that improves access for users with disabilities. To be compliant in Ontario, websites and web-based apps must meet the four principles (POUR) of WCAG and have a mid-range (A and AA) to be compliant.

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Why is having an accessible website important? The benefits!

According to Statistics Canada Canadian Survey on Disabilities (CDS) 2022, 8 million Canadians, 15 years and older have a disability. These disabilities range in severity from mild, moderate, severe to very severe. Some people have one type of disability, but many persons with disabilities can have two or more types.

Having an accessible website enables you to increase profitability by reaching broader, and potentially untapped markets. Since everyone can access your website to purchase your goods and services it opens the door to new customers.

An accessible website reflects your adaptability, commitment, values and dedication as an organization to creating and inclusive digital space. They also have better user-ability and website performance in general which leads to an increased customer satisfaction, enhanced brand recognition and reputation, and positive word-of-mouth referrals.

An accessible website also makes you compliant with Canada’s and Ontario’s accessibility laws. Non-compliance may result in fines or put you at risk for being liable.

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What are website barriers?

Imagine trying to navigate the web without the ability to see, hear or interact using a mouse. For millions of Canadians this is a reality. An accessible website breaks down barriers, providing equal access and opportunities, regardless of ability, to navigate, understand, and engage with your website content while maintaining a great user experience.

Cognitive barriers include:

  • Confusing design layouts and navigation structure.
  • Forms and fields are not intuitive and doesn’t have clear instructions or labeling.
  • Media auto-plays without user interaction, which can be startling and disorienting.

Dexterity barriers include:

  • Navigation requires a mouse.
  • Buttons, menus or checkboxes are small, too close together or difficult to select.

Seeing barriers include:

  • Screens are mouse-driven and require sight to make selections.
  • Videos, audio, images and diagrams are missing text alternatives.
  • Fonts are small or elaborate.
  • Colour combinations have poor contrast. Text is hard to read.
  • Auto-playing media overlaps with a screen reader or other assistive devices.
  • Downloadable documents are not set up for reading in correct sequence.

Hearing barriers include:

  • Video, audio and other media doesn’t have text descriptions or closed captioning.
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How do I make my website accessible?

Navigating the complexities of the WCAG guidelines, principles with the mid-range of conformity and understanding all the legislation can be confusing and daunting. Empower Learning Solutions has an online learning course called “Accessible Websites” that can help explain the requirements. The Accessible Websites course is available in the Platinum Library or Platinum Plus Library subscription.

We’ve taken the WCAG guidelines and created a course that is in simple English so that you understand ‘what’ is required and ‘how’ to achieve that requirement. We start by defining what each of the POUR principles mean.

Four principles of WCAG include Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, Robust

Then we give break down each principle into the specific guidelines and actions you need to take with examples of what you need to do to meet an A and AA level.

Text alternatives for images include learning what is alt text, when is it needed, how do you write an alt text.

In this example of Text alternatives for images, you will need to:

  • Provide text alternatives for non-text content
  • Make your website keyboard accessible
  • Ensure your website is compatible with assistive devices like screen magnifiers and JAWs reader
  • Have the right colour contrast, using a colour contrast checker
  • Use the correct HMTL coding to identify headers
  • Tab order should navigate content in a logical order
  • Have visible indicator so users know which item on the page has keyboard focus
  • And more
Who should take the Accessible Websites course?

We recommend several people take the course. As an owner of the business, you need to be aware of the website requirements therefore it is important you understand what is required of you and ensuring your website achieves compliance. At the end of the day, it is you who will have to pay any fines for deficiencies or address any liability claims.

The person responsible for updating your website (e.g. web developer and/or website administrator). Rather than relying on you to explain what is needed, save time and energy and have them take the Accessible Website course too. With your library subscription, you have unlimited access to the online training course so there is no additional cost.

The Accessible Websites course helps to make you an industry leader to stay ahead and respond to market shifts and trends. Turn your website into a competitive edge and ensure you are compliant to meet legislative accessibility requirements.