Darrell Keezer and Jerry Agar Debate New AODA Regulations

Candybox Marketing Founder and CEO, Darrell Keezer, joins Jerry Agar on NEWSTALK 1010 to discuss the new regulations under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

Watch our video to listen or read the summary: Business owners in Ontario may be scrambling to keep up with new regulations under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). As of January, 1st 2021, all companies with 50 or more employees and educational institutions are required to make their corporate website accessible and AODA compliant.

What Does ‘Accessible Website’ Mean?  

An accessible website allows people with visual and hearing impairments to access online information, including anything on a website, from videos to text and images. Accessibility means you are not dependent on your customers to see or hear, to access information on your website.

Why Should the Government Dictate How Business Owners Run Their Companies? 

Think of it like this: Years ago, businesses could open up office buildings without having an elevator to access higher-level floors, automatically disqualifying any person with a wheelchair from working at their company.

AODA protects Ontarians with disabilities from this type of discrimination. In 2021, we require people to go online to complete basic tasks such as applying to a job and even getting medication. Therefore, we need organizations to enable the entire population of Ontario to do these things, including those with disabilities.

Think about the hiring process, if you label your business as an equal opportunity employer, but your website is not accessible for people with visual impairments, then you are not a true equal opportunity employer. Essentially non-compliant websites are locking the door for people with disabilities, and AODA aims to remove these barriers.

What About The Apps and Online Tools That Already Help People with Disabilities Access Websites? 

While there are online tools, such as screen readers, that help people with disabilities access information, screen readers cannot read images, they can only read text. AODA means building websites so that online tools, such as screen readers and other online aids, can access all information online.  As it is now, many websites are not in compliance with AODA regulations, meaning screen readers cannot work to their full potential. AODA compliance requires both a screen-reader and a website that is accessible so that screen readers can access the information.

What Will It Cost Businesses to Make Their Websites AODA Compliant? 

Website compliance fees can range depending on the size of a website and the type of improvements required to make the website compliant. Small sites may be looking at costs up to $1000, while larger sites that need to be redesigned entirely may be facing fees up to $10,000.

Making a website compliant goes far beyond just the back-end coding. Accessibility covers all aspects of a website, from its design to how it functions. For example, PDF documents for download must be accessible for those with visual and hearing impairments. If your website has over 1000 PDFs and none of them are accessible, that could add to the cost of what it will take to make your website compliant.

Listener Question: If I Sell Cars, Do I Need to Make My Website Accessible for People With Visual Impairments? I Assume They Do Not Drive. 

The common misconception with accessibility is that it is just for the end consumer, but accessibility also applies to employees working or applying to your business.  If you own a car dealership and your company employs 50 or more people, then yes, your website must be AODA compliant under the new government standards.

At this time, AODA is targeted at companies with 50 or more employees and educational institutions, however, it’s likely that the number of employees will lessen so that more websites become accessible in Ontario.

In Some Cases, Government Can Set Unreasonable Expectations for Businesses. How Is AODA Different? 

AODA is hard on businesses and does require organizations to invest in their websites to become compliant. Most websites, up to 95% of companies, are not accessible, and ~10% of the Canadian population has some type of impairment that prohibits them from making a purchase or applying for a job online.

For this reason, many companies view AODA as an opportunity. Suppose your business is the only company out of your competition that allows people with visual and hearing impairments to order online; that’s a massive advantage for your company! – especially this year when everyone is online-dependent.

We are still in the process of defining accessibility, and there are many grey areas when it comes to accessibility and websites. Candybox Marketing is offering free AODA consultations for Ontario businesses.

Connect with Darrell to claim your free website audit today!

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