Under the Customer Service Standards of the AODA, service providers must make their goods, services, and facilities accessible to customers with disabilities. In our last article, we outlined features that make municipal and provincial buildings accessible. In this article, we will cover best practices for how to make government information accessible.
Making Government Information Accessible
Residents can use accessible computers or phones to read websites that follow Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. Therefore, facilities should ensure that their websites follow these guidelines. Moreover, they should post as much information as possible about their features, events, and services on their accessible websites. For instance, they should post:
- What accessible structural features they have, and where these features are located
- Where and when meetings will take place
- What issues will be discussed at meetings
- Whether residents can speak during meetings at specific times
- If not, whether residents can observe meetings
- Captions and descriptions on any videos
- Processes residents must follow to receive service, such as:
- What services a facility provides
- Whether residents should book appointments, and how to do so
- What documentation residents need to bring with them, or what forms they need to fill in
Government offices should also provide print information, like forms or meeting agendas, in accessible formats. For instance:
- Large print
- Online on accessible websites
- Accessible Word or html files
Staff should tell every resident about all the formats they have information available in.
Offices can create their own hard-copy large-print or Braille if they have photo-copiers or Braille embossers. Alternatively, they can have a third party produce hard-copy Braille or large-print documents. In addition, offices can produce versions of hard-copy content in accessible web formats.
Likewise, government offices should provide communication supports for residents who need them during meetings or other interactions with staff. For instance:
- Real-Time Captioning (RTC)
- Sign language interpretation
- Plain-language versions of complex documents or speeches
- Communication devices available on-site, such as assistive listening devices or communication boards
- Captioned and described video
Government offices should make residents aware of how they can access communication supports. For instance, a facility might advertise that a certain meeting will be captioned or interpreted. Similarly, they could make residents aware that plain-language information or communication devices will be available on-site. Alternatively, they could let residents know that they can arrange support for a meeting or appointment. In this case, they should specify how far in advance residents should arrange their supports and who to contact.
Accessible government information ensures that all residents have equal opportunities to participate in government and access services. Our next article will discuss how facilities can provide an accessible service experience.