It's strategic planning season. As companies and organizations focus on their plans for 2014, they will also have consider how to comply with new or changing government regulations in the new year.
Specifically, one major challenge facing businesses and organizations of a certain size this year, one that will be getting a lot of attention within digital communications, is the evolving compliance requirements with the Access for Ontarians with Disabilities Act or “AODA”. This is an extension of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act (2001) and the earlier Access for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (2005), the ultimate goal of which is to make the entire province easily and freely accessible to those with disabilities by 2025.
Why are we realizing the impact of this more significantly in 2014? According to recent reports, 70% of private businesses with more than twenty employees are in a state of non-compliance with the Act. In 2012, businesses had to file an electronic report with the province detailing their efforts to make themselves accessible to customers and employees with disabilities -- everything from ramps and rails to web design and new fonts on brochures. An overwhelming majority of businesses failed to comply or even report, and not one of the businesses in question was investigated. That means that the $24 million dedicated to assuring compliance has gone unspent. When the AODA Alliance filed a Freedom of Information request on the matter, they brought the issue to public attention and the province vowed to enforce the Act more vigourously.
What does this mean for hiring managers and those seeking new employees in the field of creative technology? If you're an Ontario business of over 50 people, you need to make your websites and content compliant with WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) 2.0 . And that's not all: when a person with disabilities asks an Ontario business for brochures, literature, or other "communication supports," they must be provided as quickly as possible and at no extra cost. This includes feedback -- if your company's website has a feedback or review option, it also needs to be accessible. The same goes for educational institutions and libraries. If this is all sounding like a bit much, consult the AODA Compliance Wizard to learn exactly what you need to do and when. And don't forget to file your 2014 report early.
What does this mean for interactive and digital content? Businesses will need, primarily, to ensure that digital content includes alternatives for disabled users. For instance, text alternatives must be provided for any non-text content such as images or videos. Captions should be provided for video. For text-based content such as CAPTCHA logins, an auditory alternative should (and usually is) provided. Colour contrast should be high enough to ensure that all users are able to distinguish text from background. You can see a much more complete list of guidelines at the WCAG website.
The reality is that demands for particular skill sets often evolve commensurate with changes in government standards, regulations and compliance needs… remember Y2K and what it did for the tech sector? As such, designers, coders, technologists, project managers, and other candidates with AODA experience specific to interactive media and digital communications will be in higher demand as more and more existing companies come into compliance. Further, as Toronto still enjoys its status of having one of the largest digital start up communities in the world, the next Mark Zuckerbergs will have to pay very close attention to what the government has to say about the user experience of their new brainchildren.
How 3 Degrees can help:
Part of our ongoing mandate at 3 Degrees is to gear our networking strategy to be ahead of evolutions in the industry. As such, when it comes to compliance with AODA, we know exactly who you need to help get your products up to date with evolving regulations. So: if you are looking to make new hires in these areas, or are figuring out how to make your business more accessible, give us a call. We know how to make your customers - and the province - happy.