In the third review of the AODA, the Honourable David Onley recommends needed improvements to the Act. One of these improvements is the need for updating the Information and Communications Standards. During the public meetings Onley held while preparing his review, attendees state that the existing standards do not make current technology accessible. As a result, the standards must address the accessibility of new ways that people access information.
Updating the Information and Communications Standards
Currently, the Information and Communications Standards address many important ways of making information accessible to people with disabilities. For instance, the standards include rules about providing:
- Information in accessible formats and with communication supports, upon request
- Accessible web content
- Public emergency information in accessible formats, upon request
- Accessibility training for educators
- Accessible education resources
- Accessible library resources
However, attendees at Onley’s public meetings state that the standards’ website requirements are out of date. The standards will require public-sector organizations, and large private-sector organizations, to make their web content accessible by January 2021. Organizations must do so by complying with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0), level AA. However, version 2.0 of these guidelines was created in 2008. As a result, this version of the guidelines does not help make modern technology, such as phone apps, accessible. Onley’s review explains that a new version of these guidelines, version 2.1, was released in 2018. The updated version includes guidelines about:
- Making websites accessible on mobile devices
- Web accessibility for people with:
- Cognitive disabilities
- Learning disabilities
- Low vision
Therefore, the review recommends that the Standards require organizations to comply with this updated version of the guidelines. Alternatively, attendees suggest that the Standards require organizations to comply with the most up-to-date WCAG guidelines. This change would mean that the Standards would not have to update this requirement every time a new version of the guidelines is released. In addition, the Information and Communications Standards Development Committee is creating a process to help organizations remain accessible online. This process should support organizations as they adapt to ongoing technology changes while maintaining web accessibility. Consequently, Onley’s review recommends that the government consider making this process part of the updated Information and Communications Standards.
More Updates to the Information and Communications Standards
Furthermore, attendees also state that organizations do not understand how to implement current WCAG guidelines. For instance, workers do not know how to create accessible documents using the programs available in their offices. Likewise, workers do not know how to present visual elements, like maps, in accessible ways. In addition, people have different ideas about what it means to comply with guidelines. Therefore, attendees suggest that the government implement training for people to learn how WCAG applies to their organizations. For instance, the review states that the Enabling Change Program has helped develop courses on this topic. Therefore, the government could offer these courses regularly or develop them further.
Similarly, attendees state that organizations do not have enough awareness about how to provide accessible formats and communication supports. For instance, attendees find that many government communications and processes are not accessible, including:
- Program intake forms
- Government social media pages and online discussion forums
- The Ontario Disability Support Program’s process for reporting earnings
In addition, organizations in the public and private sectors should know more about communicating with people who are:
- Hard of hearing
The government could increase awareness by updating the Information and Communications Standards and mandating more extensive AODA training.