The first review of the AODA’s Information and communications Standards became public in 2020. In this review, the AODA Information and Communications Standards Development Committee outlines improvements to make information and communications accessible for people with disabilities by 2025. The Committee recommends changes to the Information and Communications Standards, to identify, remove, and prevent accessibility barriers in information. In addition, the Committee recommends an alternative system for developing, updating, and enforcing AODA standards. This new system would affect the Information and Communications Standards, as well as other existing and future standards. This article will discuss the Committee’s recommended accessibility laws in an ecosystem model for updating AODA standards.
Accessibility Laws in an Ecosystem Model for updating AODA Standards
The Committee reports that the current method for creating and reviewing AODA standards will not achieve accessibility by 2025. Therefore, the Committee recommends a new way to create and update AODA standards. The Committee calls this new structure an accessibility ecosystem model. Moreover, the model has three (3) components that work together:
- Accessibility laws
- A community platform to promote broader interest and innovation in accessibility
- A trusted authority to constantly review the laws and oversee the community platform
These three components should encourage responsiveness to change, as well as participation and innovation in accessibility.
The accessibility laws in the ecosystem model would consist of three (3) parts. One part would state:
- Rules governing how the laws should be updated
- Policies for the trusted authority and the community platform
A second part of the accessibility laws would contain requirements that would create ongoing, systemic change in the province. For instance, this part would include mandates for:
- Providing accessibility in school curricula at every level
- Accessibility in training for professionals whose work impacts products and services
- Procuring accessible goods and services
- Spending public money on accessible structures and services
- Accessible ways for people with disabilities to take part in planning and decision-making
Functional Accessibility Requirements (FARs)
Finally, the third part of the laws would list functional accessibility requirements (FARs). These requirements would provide organizations with guidance about making goods and services accessible. For instance, when an organization delivers presentations with visual aids, they should:
- Provide at least one (1) method for people to access the content without vision
- Present in formats where people can adjust:
- Colour contrast
- Visual emphasis
- Convey information without requiring people to distinguish colours
- Avoid presentation modes that trigger seizures
- Prepare material that they can easily convert into accessible formats, including tactile formats
Similarly, when an organization offers a service involving fine motor control, they should provide alternative ways to access the service. For example, people could access the service in a completely different way, such as using voice rather than their hands. Alternatively, people could access the service using their hands, but without certain actions, such as:
- Path-dependent gestures
- Twisting their wrists
- Grasping tightly
- Multiple actions at once
Likewise, when an organization provides a service requiring extended attention or focus, they should provide at least one (1) way for people to access the service without extended focus.
These guidelines in the FARs are intentionally broad. The FARs would not include criteria or best practices to support organizations in following these guidelines. Instead, the trusted authority would provide guidance and support to organizations finding ways to make their goods and services accessible. In addition, the community platform would also contain best practices and solutions that organizations could learn from. In this way, the three components of the accessibility ecosystem would function together to offer rules and resources for reaching Ontario’s goal of an accessible province by 2025.