Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Cancel Anytime
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Businesses are under pressure to make their websites easier to use for people with visual impairments, hearing issues and other disabilities. As of January, 2021, many Ontario businesses will be required to meet a standard of accessibility that includes alternative text for images, contrast guidelines and proper labelling of content. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) mandates compliance from organizations with 50 or more employees in the province, including full-time, part-time, seasonal and contract workers.

The standards adopted by Ontario – Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 Level AA – were created by the World Wide Web Consortium, an international working group led by web pioneer Tim Berners-Lee. Ontario’s law says those found guilty of an offence under AODA will be fined $50,000 a day for a person, or $100,000 a day for a corporation.

“Every director or officer of a corporation has a duty to take all reasonable care to prevent the corporation from committing an offence,” the law states.

Story continues below advertisement

Those fines are provided the government actually enforces the legislation, notes Jennifer Jahnke, co-ordinator and faculty in Mohawk College’s accessible media production graduate certificate. “There are lots of standards under AODA they aren’t fully enforcing, but they aren’t as public as this one is.”

She also notes that the way the law is written is not completely clear: It states that all content published since 2012 will have to be accessible by January, but also says the rules apply to “new and significantly refreshed” sites. “It leaves it open to interpretation, but a lot of organizations are deciding it’s best to be safe.”

Only Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia have thorough accessibility legislation, while British Columbia is in the process of creating such laws. Ms. Jahnke notes that despite not having an overarching law, Alberta has many regulations that take accessibility into account.

In June, the federal government passed the Accessible Canada Act, which aims to “create a barrier-free Canada through the proactive identification, removal and prevention of barriers to accessibility wherever Canadians interact with areas under federal jurisdiction.” The act mandates the development of regulations that will apply to federally regulated workplaces, such as the banking, telecommunications and transportation industries, as well as the Canadian government itself.

Avery Swartz, author of See You on the Internet: Building your small business with digital marketing, says having an accessible website is not only the “moral” thing to do to – it’s also good for business. “In Ontario alone, one in seven people has a disability ... that can impact their ability to participate in the web. That number is going to rise as the population continues to age.

“Why would you want to exclude one in seven people from being a potential customer or client?”

Ms. Swartz says adding accessibility features, such as proper semantic markup – code that describes the content’s structure – has the added benefit of improving a site’s search engine optimization.

Story continues below advertisement

She recommends companies start by taking a website audit. Is the code clean, so a voice search or page-reading tool could easily distinguish between headers and body text? Is the contrast high enough for someone with colour blindness? Are the buttons large and easy to find? Sites such as the Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool,’s colour contrast checker and are good starting points, she says.

Ms. Swartz notes many small businesses use website builders such as Wordpress, Squarespace and Shopify, that “give people the ability to add the markup that is required for an accessible website, without having to know code.”

On the other end of the spectrum, “a lot of really, really large legacy organizations have giant and extremely complicated websites. Those are much harder to retroactively work on … You might be thinking more about the teardown-and-rebuild as opposed to the renovation.”

She points out that even after an initial retrofit, maintaining accessibility is continuing work; anyone charged with adding new content will have to be trained and vigilant.

Brandon Aubie, CEO of QReserve, a Hamilton-based software platform that helps organizations share and track equipment, says improving accessibility has made his company’s product easier to use for everyone, himself included. “That’s been the biggest mindset change … We look at them more like user-experience guidelines now. It has become a priority.”

He advises businesses undertaking this effort to make sure to test their improvements with actual users; a process that helped QReserve find several roadblocks they wouldn’t have otherwise identified. He adds that even though his company is too small to be affected by the 2021 deadline, many of its clients in Canada and globally are insisting on these standards.

Story continues below advertisement

“‘Are you accessible?’ wasn’t a question we were asked five years ago,” he said. “It is becoming more well-known that it can be done … so there is less of an excuse not to.”

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Tickers mentioned in this story
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies