Did you know that 22% of Canadians over the age of 15 live with at least one disability that limits their everyday activities? That’s 6.2 million Canadians who face barriers every day—from limitations in physical environment to inaccessible websites and web content.
The Government of Canada and many provinces are currently working towards making Canada a more inclusive, barrier-free country. Confused about the federal or provincial laws that impact you and your organization? We’ve put together an overview of current and proposed legislation to keep you on top of accessibility requirements and timelines.
Current Accessibility Laws and Legislation
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)
In 2005, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) became law, making Ontario the first in Canada to enact accessibility legislation of this scope. The AODA is based on the 2001 Ontarians with Disabilities Act and mandates a set of standards that public, private, and non-profit organizations must comply with. The aim of the act is to create a barrier-free Ontario by 2025.
Private or non-profit organizations with more than 50 employees and all public sector organizations must make their website and web content compliant with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines(WCAG) 2.0 Level AA by January 2021. Failure to comply could result in fines of up to $100,000 for each day of violation.
The Accessibility for Manitobans Act (AMA)
The Accessibility for Manitobans Act (AMA) became law in 2013. The Government of Manitoba is striving to create a more inclusive Manitoba by 2023 with legislation that aims to remove barriers for not just those with disabilities, but all citizens.
The AMA is made up of five accessibility standards that focus on key areas of daily life. Among these is the Information and Communications accessibility standard, which addresses barriers to accessing information, including information provided on websites. Small print size, low colour contrast between text and background, and the use of language that is not clear or plain are all listed as barriers to accessibility. This standard is currently under development; however, it is expected that requirements will follow internationally accepted WCAG, like the AODA.
Nova Scotia Accessibility Act
Nova Scotia’s Accessibility Act became law in April 2017 making Nova Scotia the third province to enact accessibility legislation. The accessibility standards that constitute the act are currently under development, but information and technology (websites) are already an area of focus.
The Government of Nova Scotia’s multi-year accessibility plan includes the development of a more inclusive website that meets WCAG 2.0 AA requirements. Since the Government is working to ‘lead by example’, organizations should also prepare to meet similar web accessibility requirements.
Compliance timelines and requirements differ for each accessibility standard. Failure to comply could result in a fine of up to $250,000.
The Accessible Canada Act (Bill C-81)
In June 2018, Kirsty Duncan, the Minister of Science and Sport and Persons with Disabilities, proposed Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act: An Act to Ensure a Barrier-free Canada to parliament. This bill was created as a result of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s mandate to develop federal legislation that ensures greater inclusion of Canadians with disabilities.
One of the purposes of the bill is to prevent accessibility barriers in information and communication technologies, including digital content and the technologies used to access it. Requirements of this bill, including web accessibility, will likely follow WCAG. Organizations under federal jurisdiction are required to comply, or face a fine of up to $250,000.
On June 21, 2019, The Accessible Canada Act became law after receiving Royal Assent.
Proposed Accessibility Laws and Legislation
British Columbia Accessibility Act (Bill M 219)
In 2018, British Columbia proposed the British Columbia Accessibility Act, otherwise known as Bill M 219. The act facilitates the implementation of accessibility standards in the province, aiming for an accessible British Columbia by 2024. This goal is in line with the Government of British Columbia’s earlier 2014 ‘Accessibility 2024’ plan, which includes an accessible internet and WCAG 2.0 AA web standards.
The British Columbia Accessibility Act had its first reading in May 2018.
By: Jennifer Doyle Jun 21, 2019