Is your website accessible?
Beginning in 2012, public sector and large organizations in Ontario will need to make many aspects of their business accessible. This includes online communications like websites. Is this a good thing?
Over the next decade public sector and large organizations (50 employees or more) will be required to make their public websites accessible to those who use audio, visual or assistive devises to surf the web. While small businesses are not required to comply, there are many who will see the benefits of making their websites accessible to some 15% of the market who use this technology.
In our office, we have spent a good deal of time reviewing the requirements; WCAG 2.0 level AA is the end-goal. Our first intentionally WCAG 2.0 AA-compliant website, for the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic, was launched in January to coincide with their launch of french language services in the Hamilton area. The site is fully bilingual and accessible. Congratulations to the clinic leadership, who are early adopters of this standard.
The timeline for compliance is generous; virtually all businesses and organizations will have re-built their websites by 2021. Nonetheless it is something we all need to keep in mind. Our staff are implementing many of these guidelines as a ‘best practices’ approach to our website maintenance, and we will be proposing WCAG 2.0 AA for all future website development.
It’s not just about meeting government regulations; it’s simply good business. Making a website accessible doesn’t only make it easy for people who use assistive devices to navigate and digest your online information; it also makes it easy for search engines to index your website. After all, a search engine ‘spider’ is nothing more than a giant ‘assistive device’.
Making your website accessible then, is truly a win-win venture!
For more information about the accessibilities guidelines and how it affects your business or organization, visit AccessON. Note: the site can be confusing; they could use our help to better organise the content 😉