Ontario Gov passes Accessibility Standards Law then fails to follow it

Wed, 1st February 2012, 16:06

On January 1, 2012, the Canadian Provincial government of Ontario's Integrated Accessibility Standards regulation under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005, became law. Described as making a number of very important and far-reaching changes, the Regulation represents a significant shift in human rights and accessibility law affecting nearly all organizations in Ontario with respect to their human resources practices and in the way they do business including web based business and communications.

Section 14 of the law mandates that Ontario government organizations and businesses will make their Internet and intranet websites and web content conform with the World Wide Web Consortium Web Content Accessibility Guidelines in accordance with a time line set out in the legislation.

The Government of Ontario is required  by January 1, 2012 to have all new websites and web content conform to the standards. By January 1, 2016, all government websites and web content must conform with the WCAG 2.0 Level AA.

Designated public sector organizations and large business organizations are allotted slightly more time, and are required to meet the requirements by January 1, 2014 for all new websites and web content.  All website content is required to conform by January 1, 2021, which would include archives and redundant content. These new rules not only apply to public facing web content, but also includes “ internal website used to privately and securely to share any part of the organization’s information or operational systems within the organization”

Wielding the big stick

The Regulation would enable a government official – a "director" – to assess an administrative penalty based on a consideration of the severity of the impact of the contravention (e.g. administrative oversight vs. health and safety risk), the contravention history of the person or organization in question, and the nature of the organization (corporation, unincorporated association or individual).

As example, penalties for individuals and unincorporated associations would generally range from $200 (for a contravention of minor impact and a minor contravention history) to $2,000 (for a contravention of major impact and a major contravention history).

The range for corporations would generally go from $500 to $15,000. However, in the case of contraventions of major impact coupled with a major contravention history, the administrative penalties can be assessed on a daily basis to a maximum of $100,000 for a corporation, and $50,000 for an individual or unincorporated association.

Of course the government has designated the License Appeal Tribunal as the tribunal responsible for hearing matters arising under the AODA!

After the Canadian Federal government got its knuckles rapped for what the Courts described as...

A systemic system wide problem of inaccessible Federal Government websites. The court also concluded the Federal Government too often does not even live up to its own inadequate website accessibility standard, and that the Federal Government’s 9-year-old accessibility standard for its websites “…has not been implemented, has not been enforced, and has not been made a priority by the deputy heads of the estimated 146 government departments and agencies who are responsible for implementing these standards.

You would think their Provincial counterparts would walk softly with that big stick!  Think again. Ontario Accessibility Fail...

The government is using social media and the web in an effort to raise awareness of the “very important and far-reaching changes”  that took affect on January 1, and has been promoting a informational page to achieve this goal. The new law requires all new web content published by the Ontario Provincial Government after January 2012, to be compliant with the INTEGRATED ACCESSIBILITY STANDARDS.

So I ran a accessibility test on the information page... WAVE has detected no accessibility errors ...but you must still check your page to ensure it is actually accessible.

Alright... dig deeper. On the page it has a explore government section. In no particular order I run tests on pages. Between six and eleven errors depending on the page and which assessment tool I use! But this is not new content and wouldn't be in contravention of the act with the big stick...yet.  Back to the new Government Accessibility pages...  the screen-shot says it all...

Ontario Government Accesability page errors at 2012-02-01

The government's response at being called a hypocrite... thanks for the heads up. We've informed the web-master! While it is generally agreed that inclusiveness of all individuals in society is an ideal that everyone should strive to emmulate, attaining these goals may not be best accomplished by creating artificial time lines while wielding a threat of a big stick. The competitive global nature of the Internet while creating endless possibilities for enhancing Accessibility is not without obstacles that can not be considered solely in the vacuum of one regional area.

And what would the Premier of Ontario Dalton McGuinty say...

Screenshot of Dalton McGuinty Page with ACCESSIBILITY errors