A new AODA requirement for Ontario websites will come into force on January 1st, 2021. Under the Information and Communications Standards, organizations must make their websites and web-based apps accessible. Organizations must do so by making their websites compliant with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Level AA. This international standard gives web developers guidelines on how to make their webpages accessible to computer users with disabilities. Some of these guidelines outline how to make websites accessible to users who operate or interact with them in different ways. Here we will describe a few of these web accessibility guidelines for preventing online barriers.
Web Accessibility Guidelines for Preventing Online Barriers
Adjusting Time Limits
When a designer creates a time limit for an online activity, the user must have a way to adjust this limit. For example, a website should give users the option to:
- Turn off the time limit before time is up
- Adjust the time limit, up to ten (10) times the default setting, before time is up
- Extend the time limit at least ten (10) times, with a simple action such as pressing the space bar
There are three exceptions to this requirement. Time limits must remain in place:
- For real-time activities, such as auctions
- If time limits are essential, such as during tests
- When limits are twenty (20) hours or longer
Information that Moves, Blinks, Scrolls, or Updates Automatically
Designers must provide ways for users to pause, stop, or hide any information that:
- Updates automatically
This requirement applies to information that:
- Starts automatically
- Displays at the same time as other, non-moving content
Users must also have ways to pause, stop, or hide moving, blinking, or scrolling information that lasts for five (5) seconds or more. Furthermore, users must have ways to control how often information updates. The only exception to these requirements is for activities where information that moves, blinks, scrolls, or automatically updates is essential.
Avoiding Seizures or Other Physical Reactions
Designers must create content in ways that will not cause users to have seizures or other physical reactions. For instance, flashes must be below the general flash or red flash threshold. If they are not, flashes cannot happen more than three (3) times per second.
The WCAG webpage provides the full list of requirements, as well as technical guidance on how to implement them. The AODA only requires websites to follow guidelines in version 2.0, level AA. However, the WCAG webpage provides guidelines at level AAA. In addition, the page also includes new guidelines added in Version 2.1. For example, some additional guidelines for preventing online barriers are:
- More guidelines for timing, interruptions, and authentication
- No exceptions for flashes
While websites do not need to follow these guidelines, they can choose to follow them as a best practice. Websites that follow more guidelines have the chance to welcome more visitors and do more online business.