Ontario has been working for years to create an accessible and inclusive province where everyone can fully participate in everyday life. The aim is to improve the community and the economy.
Ontario Leads The Way With Accessibility
Ontario is the first province and one of the first jurisdictions in the world to enact specific legislation establishing a goal and time frame for accessibility. It is the first jurisdiction to legislate accessibility reporting and set standards for employment, transportation, and public spaces.
Overview and History of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act
The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) is a law passed in 2005 that sets out a process for developing and enforcing accessibility standards.
Persons with disabilities and industry representatives work with the government to develop the standards. Under the AODA, the government is responsible for creating accessibility standards that organizations must follow. Implementing and enforcing these standards will help us work together to make Ontario more accessible and inclusive by 2025.
Accessibility standards are laws that governments, businesses, non-profits, and public sector organizations must follow to become more accessible. The section of the law that applies to websites is the Information and Communication Standard.
By law, you must make all public websites accessible. The organization that controls the website must meet the accessibility requirements.
The critical thing to know about the AODA is that it officially went into effect on June 30th, 2021. And not complying with it might put you at risk of $100,000 for each day of non-compliance. The WCAG 2.0 standard is used to measure compliance.
All registered businesses are required to follow and comply with the law.
The legislation is part of the Government of Ontario’s vision to make all businesses and public sector organizations inclusive and accessible for everyone by the deadline of 2025.
Businesses with 20 or more employees
Businesses and non-profits with 20 or more employees must file an accessibility compliance report. Filing your report is a legal obligation under the AODA. The first deadline was June 30, 2021. The next reporting deadline is December 31, 2023. The 2023 Accessibility Compliance Report will not be available until early 2023, so now is a great time to ensure your website is accessible and meets the WCAG standards.
Companies with more than 49 employees have additional responsibilities.
How to Count Your Employees?
Employees should be counted if they are:
- full-time employees
- part-time employees
- seasonal employees
- contract workers
Employees that can be excluded are:
- employees outside Ontario
- independent contractors
If you have fewer than 20 employees
You are still required to create policies to achieve accessibility goals, but you are not required to document these policies.
Penalties for non-compliance
The AODA allows the government to set monetary penalties to enforce compliance with accessibility standards. The maximum penalties under the AODA include the following:
- A guilty corporation or organization can be fined up to $100,000 daily.
- Directors and officers of a corporation or a guilty organization can be fined up to $50,000 daily.
- A person and unincorporated organizations that are guilty of a major offence under this Act can be fined up to $50,000 dollars for each day the violation continues
According to current enforcement guidelines, businesses face more significant fines for their first violations, and these penalties can apply every day that the violation continues.
With that said, most organizations that fail to comply with the law will not face the maximum penalties; the exact fines will vary depending on the impact of the violation and the company’s history.
Enforcement isn’t based on complaints. The government wants to encourage education and outreach of issues surrounding digital accessibility. However, the government will audit select companies based on risks and the submitted accessibility report. Companies that fail to submit a report are much more likely to be audited. The government will also perform random audits on fully compliant companies.
When an organization is found to be non-compliant, it can negotiate a Return to Compliance Plan that details the commitments to bring the service up to par. Further failures will involve an inspector ad penalties depending on the severity of the fault.
To mitigate both risk and financial penalty exposure, organizations should proactively comply with the AODA.
The most straightforward and least expensive approach is to add Lookit Design’s accessibility solution, which is designed for organizations of any size. Lookit Design can create a detailed report on your website’s Accessibility and a plan on how to make your website compliant with the WCAG 2.0 standard.
By taking these proactive steps, organizations can reduce the risk of facing penalties for non-compliance with the AODA. Furthermore, they can ensure their customers and employees have access to an inclusive web experience that meets the highest standards of digital accessibility. This is an excellent option for organizations looking to meet their AODA obligations cost-effectively.
This webpage aims to help individuals and businesses with information about the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005, and its associated regulation OReg 191/11. While we aim to provide relevant and timely information, no guarantee can be given to the accuracy or completeness of any information provided. This guidance is not intended to nor does it provide legal advice and should not be relied upon or treated as legal advice. Those seeking legal advice should consult with a qualified legal professional.
In case of discrepancy between website content and relevant Ontario legislation and regulations, the official version of Ontario Acts and Regulations published by the King’s Printer for Ontario will prevail.
The Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility and the Government of Ontario do not endorse or recommend any accessibility consultant(s), their advice, opinions, or recommendations.