Deadlines Loom for Canada’s Web Accessibility Laws

July 18, 2013 |

Oh Canada!

Wow, a lot has happened in Web accessibility in Canada.

First, at the Federal level, this year marks a major landmark for government Web accessibility. By way of background, Canada has been tinkering with Web accessibility for about as long as its southern neighbor and approved the original Common Look and Feel (CLF) 1.0 standards in 2000.  A few years later, CLF 1.0 was replaced by CLF 2.0, which reflected lessons learned from implementing CLF 1.0. Unlike the United States, however, Canada has tracked very closely to WCAG; CLF 1.0 mirrored much of WCAG 1.0 and, after the W3C released WCAG 2.0 in 2008, Canada replaced CLF entirely with the Standard on Web Accessibility, which syncs to WCAG 2.0.

Understanding guidance and requirements issued by the Canadian government around the new Web accessibility standards can be confusing. First, not all Canadian government entities need to follow the new standards—they only apply to the government agencies identified in Schedules I-III of the Financial Administration Act.  Second, not all Web pages have to be made accessible and not all at the same time. Until now, only the most important Web pages needed to comply with WCAG 2.0 AA, but on August 1, 2013 ALL remaining Web pages must be accessible.  Further information about Canada’s complicated implementation of Web accessibility can be found at http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/ws-nw/index-eng.asp.

Nevertheless, the vague standards didn’t prevent a lawsuit against the Province of Ottawa.  In 2010, a Canadian judge ordered Ottawa to ensure that its websites were accessible within 15 months after a blind individual was unable to complete an online application and asserted that this inaccessibility violated her constitutional rights.  Perhaps Canada’s failure to adequately implement CLF 2.0 at the time of the lawsuit explains the highly detailed (but complicated) implementation plan for the Standard on Web Accessibility.

At the provincial level, Ontario has been an early leader in accessibility. More recently, Ontario amended its Ontarians with Disabilities Act by enacting the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/statutes/english/elaws_statutes_05a11_e.htm. Ontario’s Ministry of Community and Social Service issued regulations on implementing AODA with Ontario Regulation 191/11 http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/source/regs/english/2011/elaws_src_regs_r11191_e.htm. But if the Federal standards and implementation seems complicated, Ontario’s standards are immensely complicated and cover topics as diverse as Web accessibility, employment, and transportation. At the highest order of abstraction, the AODA regulations for Web content applies to Ontario government agencies and large private sector companies with the latter needing to conform to WCAG 2.0 AA by 2014 (new content) and 2021 (other content).  Despite these complications, the AODA wildfire isn’t likely to end with Ontario. In fact, Manitoba is also contemplating similar legislation that would mirror the AODA http://www.gov.mb.ca/dio/discussionpaper/discussion_paper.html.

Table of AODA Deadlines

1. For the Government of Ontario and the Legislative Assembly, January 1, 2012.

2. For large designated public sector organizations, January 1, 2013.

3. For small designated public sector organizations, January 1, 2014.

4. For large organizations, January 1, 2014.

5. For small organizations, January 1, 2015.

The bottom line is that based on the global accessibility trends, all Canadian organizations should look to get ahead of the legislation by making sites compliant with WCAG 2 AA from now.

For information on solutions to help audit and flag web content for remediation against regulations like the Standard on Web Accessibility, AODA and WCAG 2 go to: http://www.hisoftware.com/solutions/by-compliance/clf.aspx.

 

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Ken Nakata

Ken Nakata, JD, CIPP/US is the one of the most well-known attorneys in the area of IT accessibility and is the Director of Cryptzone’s Accessibility Consulting Practice (ACP). Nakata’s work focuses on Web and software accessibility from both a legal and technical perspective. Nakata’s ACP team helps organizations manage the change towards accessibility in all aspects, providing consulting services aimed at shaping their accessibility policies and practices, and evaluating the overall state of their Web properties leveraging Cryptzone’s accessibility solutions. He is also a board member for the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP),of which Cryptzone is a founding member.

Nakata worked for twelve years as a Senior Trial Attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice. He has argued on behalf of the United States government many times before the federal courts and has helped shape the government’s policies for the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. Nakata also worked as Director of Accessibility and Government Compliance at BayFirst Solutions, a Washington, DC consulting firm.

In 2000, Attorney General Janet Reno presented Nakata with the Attorney General’s Award for Excellence in Information Technology. In addition to practicing law, Nakata is active in software and web-based technologies, including Java, JavaScript, SQL, and ColdFusion. In July 2001, he was certified by Sun Microsystems as a programmer for the Java 2 Platform. Nakata is a frequent speaker on both law and technology and is equally adept at conducting one-on-one workshops with programmers and developers as well as explaining law and policy to large audiences. He holds a Bachelors of Art degree in mathematics from John Hopkins University and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, and is admitted to the bars of New York, the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania and Washington.

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