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What is the Information and Communications Standards?

Ontario businesses must follow the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (IASR) to prevent and remove barriers for people with disabilities. The IASR is a grouping of five standards under the AODA. In this article, we will explain the first standards of the IASR, the Information and Communications Standards.

What is the Information and Communications Standards?

The Information and Communications Standards of the AODA list rules for organizations to create, provide, and receive information and communications that people with disabilities can access. The standards give all people an equal chance to learn and be active in their communities.

Accessible Formats and communication supports

Organizations must provide or arrange accessible formats and communication supports when providing information to people with disabilities, upon request. 

Accessible formats, sometimes called alternate formats, are ways of presenting printed, written, or visual material so that people with print disabilities can access it.  For instance, accessible formats include:

  • Braille
  • Large print
  • Accessible digital files, such as:
    • Html
    • Microsoft Word
  • Audio
  • Text transcripts of visual or audio information

For example, a clinic handing out pamphlets about its programs must have the same information available in different formats, such as digital text. People with print disabilities can read digital text in many ways, including:

Communication supports are ways for people to access audio information visually. For instance, communication supports include:

  • Sign language interpretation
  • Writing, email, or texting
  • Captions
  • Audio description
  • Assistive listening systems
  • Augmentative or alternative communication devices, including:
    • Letter, word, or picture boards
    • Devices that convert text to speech
  • Reading aloud
  • Rephrasing in clear language

For example, a company doing a phone survey should provide communication supports so that people can access the survey in different ways, such as by email or text.

Accessible formats and communication supports must be given in a timely manner when requested. Moreover, organizations cannot charge more for accessible formats or communication supports than for the original format.

Organizations should work with the person asking for the information to find out what format or support the person needs. If conversion to a certain accessible format or communication support is not technically possible, the organization must explain why and summarize the information.

Accessible Feedback Processes

Organizations with processes for receiving and responding to feedback must ensure that those processes are accessible to people with disabilities. They can do so by providing accessible formats and communication supports, upon request. Alternatively, they can arrange for a third party to provide these formats or supports. For instance, organizations could:

  • Create a feedback form in Microsoft Word
  • Photo-copy large-print forms
  • Provide contact information by phone and email, in addition to handwritten forms
  • Arrange Sign Language interpretation or Real-Time Captioning for in-person feedback

Each customer could choose the feedback method which would work best for them.

Organizations must also notify the public that these accessible formats and communication supports are available for anyone who needs them. However, organizations that do not yet have a feedback process do not need to create one.

Emergency Procedures, Plans, and Public Safety Information

 Furthermore, organizations with publicly-available emergency procedures, plans, or public safety information must make this information accessible, upon request. For example, someone might request:

  • An emergency safety brochure in large print, Braille, or an accessible digital file
  • Audio description, captions, or Sign Language interpretation for a safety video

Websites and web content

This requirement applies to:

  • Large and small public-sector organizations
  • Large private-sector organizations

These organizations must make their websites, including web-based apps, accessible. Organizations must do so by making their websites compliant with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Level AA. These guidelines make websites more accessible for people who use computers or mobile devices differently because of their disabilities. People must be able to navigate websites using technologies that make browsing possible without certain actions, such as looking at the screen or clicking a mouse. For example, these technologies include:

  • Speech recognition software
  • Screen reader software
  • Screen magnification software

Organizations must ensure the accessibility of any web content that they own. In addition, any content that they do not own, but have control over as a third party, must also be accessible. This requirement applies to web content created in 2012 or later.

Requirements for Schools and Libraries

Finally, other requirements in the Information and Communications Standards apply to schools and libraries. For example, schools and school boards must provide accessibility awareness training for educators. Likewise, organizations that produce educational resources must make those resources accessible. Similarly, school libraries and public libraries must procure accessible versions of print, digital, and multimedia resources.

Why do we need the Information and Communications Standards?

Information and communication are crucial in every-day life, including:

Everyone deserves full access to information and communication.