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 community platform in an ecosystem model for updating AODA standards.
Community Platform 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 community platform would be an online forum that anyone in the province could easily contribute to. Contributors could create new accessibility resources to help people and organizations comply with the laws, or describe existing resources. For example, resources could include:
- Training modules
- Software tools or components
- Tools for designing and evaluating accessible products or services
- Examples of best practices in accessibility, including appropriate language for:
- Procurement contracts
- Job descriptions
Moreover, other contributors could review and provide feedback on any of these resources. This feedback would be publicly available on the platform so that resource developers could improve their work. Likewise, contributors could discuss their experience of lacking resources, so that innovators could learn about new products or services to develop. Similarly, contributors could post reviews of organizations based on how well they comply with the AODA. Contributors could describe the positive and negative impacts that organizations’ accessibility, or lack of it, has on their lives.
In addition, the platform could support local communities or groups to hold events or activities about accessibility. Furthermore, contributors could also publicize data on the economic impacts of disability, such as the:
- Needlessly high unemployment rate for people with disabilities
- Frequency of people with disabilities living in poverty
How the Community Platform Supports Other Components of the Ecosystem Model
All the resources in the community platform would be available not only to the public, but also to the trusted authority overseeing the accessibility ecosystem model. The trusted authority could assess resources and recommend them as ways for organizations to comply with the Functional Accessibility Requirements (FARs) of the laws. Likewise, the trusted authority could rely on reviews within the community platform to locate organizations in need of additional support to comply with the laws. 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.