With 96 percent of the almost 35 million Canadians surfing the web at any given time, giving the country one of the world’s highest availability rates percentage-wise.
With a country catering to that many users comes a series of compliance rules and regulations Canadians need to adhere to online. All website owners need to make sure that all Canadians can visit their website regardless of any disability or impairment with the same access as anyone else would have.
There are many factors into making a website accessible for all Canadians, which include website optimization, hosting efficiencies and website file compressions and will allow for all users to access a website with any condition. For users with impaired vision or impaired hearing, it’s important for them to get the correct information and making sure your website is fully accessible is a way they can access it fully.
Ensuring your website hosting is up to speed can solve a lot of these issues, but there are also many steps in the development stage of a website that will help make your website accessible to all.
Why is Website Accessibility so important?
Website accessibility is basically a means to access a website that has all the correct protocols in place that go into a fundamental user experience. By making your website accessible, it allows for all users, including ones with disabilities and speech, hearing and sight impairments, to access a website through alternate means and methods.
Those users normally have difficulties accessing websites through the normal channels and often require a set of tools and devices to help them navigate online. Often time, the disabled community use smaller, older devices that often use smaller keyboards, which further give more credence to accessibility concerns.
Accessible websites also give those with temporary connectivity issues and situational limitations more tools to know what’s on a website. Not only is keeping your website accessible for all users justifiably appropriate for every website owner to implement, it also helps garner a loyal audience for your brand.
In Canada, where six million over the age of 15 live with some form of disability, it’s now a requirement to have your website fully optimized.
There are a few regulations that a website needs to cover in order to be accessible for the incapacitated. The laws that we’ll outline apply to all website publications, materials and content. What we’ll also outline below are ways you can make your website available to all audiences legally.
Canadian Accessibility Laws
Even before the digital age of computers and mobile devices, laws were put in place for Canadians living with disabilities and were protected by legislation. Most of those laws remain intact throughout the country and have been amended to meet the digital needs as well.
There have also been many new laws and regulations to comply with the online world in accordance with Canadian and US law.
Canadian legislatures throughout Canada created their own set of rules as it pertains to websites and accessibility. In 2016, as part of the Canadian Human Rights Act, it was proposed to all website owners to have websites in full compliance of these rules.
Business owners in Canada with over 50 employees, whether in the private or public sector, were required to create or refresh their websites to meet the WCAG 2.0 Level A – AA guidelines by January 1, 2021.
Website content includes all pages, text, video, images or any sound files.
By 2025, the AODA also requires noteworthy changes that need to happen for all public, school or business websites.
The list includes such items as:
- Having all school materials in their library accessible
- Creating videos that are accessible and include captions for the hearing impaired
- Developing accessible training and educational materials
- Creating accessible forms and emergency materials
In fact, business owners will have to ensure that all materials, emergency response information and communications are all accessible. If one is not compliant, a fine of up to $15,000 may be issued depending on the website’s severity of the infraction and its environment.
Best Practices to making accessible websites
By making your website in compliance with all Canadian regulations and having all of the considerations reflected on your website can truly go a long way into appeasing a wide range of users. Not only will the government recognize your website with a satisfactory user experience, your user base will also laud you and customers will stay loyal give your website’s social conscience.
Compliance will be given by building a website with accessibility tools in the website design and creating different methodologies for the disabled community to help navigate your website as a normal user would.
Some of the best practices we advise for those wanting to comply with the accessibility rules and regulations are listed below for your perusal.
An amalgamation of tech innovators compiled a full list of different tools and measures to take in order to have a website in full compliance. In order for you to help serve the entire community, take the time to follow these best practices to incorporate into your website and its accessibility.
Typesetting and readability
Above all considerations is the notion to have consistent fonts and colours on your website in an organized fashion to help all disabled users to navigate your website easier and more efficiently. A few things to consider:
- Using text instead of graphics.
- Having one or two easy to read large fonts
- Ensuring the contrast between the text and background is high enough to read the text.
- Avoid fancier fonts and stick with web friendly fonts
- Avoid using variations with caps, bold or italicized fonts and text that blinks or moves
Accessible headers in HTML
A large consideration in coding websites is a hierarchical structure to each page. By having websites in a clear, concise order can give visually impaired users an easy roadmap to follow. It allows for easy flow of the website, readability and provides your website users with a clear navigation and direction.
The W3 organization created clear guidelines on how to create the different HTML headers (H1, H2, H3, etc) and how they should be used with its optimal placement.
The recommendation is that the largest header (H1) should be at the top of the page, followed by the other subsequent headers in any given page. Each subsequent header should differ in size, gradually getting smaller as the page goes down.
Accessible through Keyboard
A major factor in making websites accessible is the ability for non-mouse users to be able to navigate your website through the keyboard.
Methods to create keyboard accessibility can be used by lining up the tab feature and can help eliminate the use for a mouse. Proper testing should be done on your website to ensure this action is in good working order.
Content in HTML: Colours / Images / Layout
Have those colorblind individuals in mind when considering colours on your website. What might look marvelous to some, will no doubt look vastly different to those that deal with colour blindness.
In order to keep all parties happy, the recommendation is to choose a text colour that stands out against its background and use darker colors against a lighter backdrop.
There are various tools online to gauge the contrast between colours and how they are in compliance with the guidelines.
Images on websites should always have its “alt” tags filled and clearly specified as to what the image portrays for those visually impaired.
Another thing to consider is to make sure your text and images are all responsive and can increase or decrease in size depending on the device used. This can have large effects on accessibility and affect layout and functionality.
The recommendation is also to incorporate a lot of white space, a well-sized font size and visible blocks of text. Keeping compliance with most mobile standards, it’s also recommended not to use tables unless absolutely necessary.
In keeping with compliance there are a few main concerns when considering adding video to your website. Autoplaying a video on a website is also something to refrain from doing as non-visual people may not be able to find the means to stop the video. A few accessibility considerations when posting videos on your website include:
- Captioning: The video’s text should be captioned and synched with the video. The captioning should be viewable to all users and be available in a simple toggle form beneath the video player.
- Transcript: the transcript of the actual video should be factual and be a true representation of the content on the video.
- Descriptions: by having audio descriptions for the visually impaired or blind people, it will allow them to enjoy the video content as well. All actions in the video should be portrayed and properly conveyed as it does on the video.
Many websites feature content that might include documents linked from the web pages. Those files should be clear and concise as to what the different documents convey to every end-user.
Other important considerations include using headers and formats to ensure an enhanced flow and having the documents in a clear list format.
Give attention to different languages and their nuances to determine the right punctuation and dialect. If images are used to link to the documents, be sure to use the “alt” tag to properly associate the image to the document.
Accessible Online Forms
When developing forms on a website, whether as a signup form, a helpdesk ticket system or e-commerce forms, it’s important to make sure the fields are large and unique for the end-user. The user should know which field is for which label and are all attributed correctly.
By being compliant on your website, it shouldn’t mean deconstructing your website to allow for accessibility. Our recommendations can be implemented at any time and won’t impede your design throughout your website.
Luckily, most website tools and builders are already built-in with accessibility concerns. If you’re not familiar with the backend tools, consider checking with a seasoned website developer to ensure this is being followed.
All The Way Up Media is an internet marketing company that is experienced with web accessibility guidelines.
Give us a shout to see if your website is in full compliance with the Canadian Web Accessibility Standards.