August 2019
Committee Submits Initial Recommendations for Accessibility Standards

2019-08-06 2:02:21 PM

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The Information and Communications Standards Development Committee is proposing changes to accessibility standards relating to Information and Communications under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), 2005. The Act became law in 2005 with a goal to create an accessible Ontario by 2025.

The ICS Development Committee is one of five committees that is required by the Act to review the standards every five years, develop proposed recommendations, and submit them for public comment in. The Committee will review all comments and make changes as they see fit in a final recommendations report to the Minister of Seniors and Accessibility.

There are 31 initial recommendations separated into Phase 1 and Phase 2. Phase 1 addresses specific and technical issues, while Phase 2 proposes a broader cultural change for the province.

To comment on the initial recommendations, please click here.

AMCTO has a long history of ensuring our members are informed and recognized for their work in making Ontario accessible for all. With funding from the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario (ADO), AMCTO provided training on the AODA and provincial accessibility standards for years. For example, in 2015, AMCTO partnered with the ADO to celebrate ten years of the Act by holding accessibility forums across the province and awarded over 100 community leaders with an AODA accessibility award for their contributions to making their community accessible.  

Below is a brief summary of the proposed changes that may be of relevance to municipal governments:

Phase One:

Recommendation 2: Usage of a Portable Document Format

  • The committee proposes that the use of PDFs not be banned as was proposed during a 2016 Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs due to concerns on accessibility. 


Recommendation 3: Final review of regulatory language

  • The committee is proposing the government use the Digital Inclusion Technical Subcommittee as a resource to clarify technical aspects of Section 14 (accessible websites and web content) so that technical standards are being met as required by the Web Content Accessibility Guideline (WCAG 2.0).

  • Many municipal websites currently do not meet the WCAG 2.0 standard. Some elements of the standards that must be adhered to include:

    • Providing text for any non-text content, such as images, that can be changed into forms people need including large print and braille.

    • Providing alternatives for time-based media (video, audio, etc.)


Recommendation 5: Determination of suitability

  • The committee is proposing to change regulation 12.(2) (accessible formats and communication supports) to improve accessibility to not leave sole determination powers with an organization.

  • The existing regulation states that if a person with a disability asks an organization for an alternate format or communications support, the final decision rests with the organization to provide the requested alternate format or communications support.

  • The committee is proposing the language be changed immediately so that agreement can be reached between the organization and the requester to determine the suitability. The regulation wuld take effect six months after the language change.


Recommendation 6: Timely manner

  • The committee proposes to change section 12 of the regulation to provide accessible formats in a mutually agreed timeframe and takes into consideration the circumstances and degree of urgency of the requester.

  • The committee proposes this be changed immediately and that the regulation take effect six months after the language change


Recommendation 7: Agreement between people with disabilities and organizations

  • The committee is proposing to refer any disagreements between organizations and people with disabilities in all sections of the regulation to the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council.

  • According to the committee, this council is best positioned to examine and investigate issues given that no dispute mechanism is currently in place.


Recommendation 9: On-demand conversion ready formats

  • The committee proposes that the Ontario government and legislature produce a ‘conversation-ready’ digital format of all materials available for the public and that these materials be provided on demand by January 1, 2021.

  • The committee specifies that ‘on-demand’ means it should have already been created and it be immediately available.

  • The committee also specifies that a ‘conversion-ready digital format’ mean a format that has the properties necessary to be readily converted into an accessible format.


Recommendation 10: On-demand ASL and LSQ translations

  • The committee proposes the provincial government meet with deaf and hard of hearing stakeholders to determine which materials they should provide to the public in ASL (American Sign Language) and LSQ (Quebec Sign Language).

  • The committee recognizes that recommendation 9 would not be beneficial for users of ASL and LSQ and that following the proposed meeting, materials be identified to be available on-demand one. 

  • The committee recommends one year for the meeting to occur and that the requirement be made effective January 1, 2021.


Recommendation 12: Unacceptable emergency outcomes and preparedness

  • The committee is proposing that disability and accessibility be central during the review of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act

  • The committee has noted that the current preperation level across all three levels of government is unacceptabe regarding emergency outcomes. 

  • The Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act states that every municipality should:

    • Implement an emergency management program as required by section 3;

    • Training programs and exercises for municipal staff that are to be followed in emergencies

    • Public education on the risks to public safety and preparedness; and

    • Any other standards as stated in section 14 of the Act.

  • With the upcoming review, and if the recommendation is accepted, municipal emergency outcome plans will have to change so that it addresses the needs of all Ontarians, including those with disabilities. 


Recommendation 13: Mobile applications and new technologies

  • The committee proposes the definition of website be aligned with the definition used by the US Access Board, the European Union, and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by 2021. Their definitions include mobile application, interfaces, and other technologies as required.

  • The committee noted significant confusion on requirements on section 14 (accessible websites and web content) due to the rapidly changing digital landscape.

  • Currently, the regulation only applies to web-based applications and not mobile applications. If passed, the change would apply to the government and legislative assembly, the public sector, and large organizations. Small organizations (private or not-for-profit with one to 49 employees) would be exempt.

  • This will apply to municipalities that use mobile apps. Many municipal mobile apps currently do not align with the previously used definitions. Due to the use of internet from the mobile apps, standard guidelines of WCAG 2.0 should still be met.


Recommendation 14: Procurement

  • The committee is proposing the Ontario government and designated public sector organizations (including municipalities) incorporate accessibility design, criteria, and features when procuring or buying goods, services, or facilities specific to section 14 of the AODA by January 1, 2021. 

  • While there are procurement requirements listed in the general requirements section of the regulation, the subcommittee suggests that these are not strong enough for accessible digital procurement.

  • Additional criteria to what is listed in the general requirements section includes:

    • Using qualified third-party evaluation certification services established through programs such as, the US Access Board Trusted Tester Program

    • Manual and automated verification of compliance to technical web and software criteria

    • Functional testing of usability by persons with disabilities

    • Interoperability with alternative access systems

    • Sign language and other communication modalities 

    • The requirement to procure accessible authority and development tools


Recommendation 16: Significant refresh

  • The committee proposes that section 14 be clarified immediately, as there is significant confusion as to what ‘significant refresh’ actually implies. The current definition means keeping the same web address but making changes, such as:

    • “A new look and feel to the website;

    • How users navigate around it; and

    • A major update and change to the content of the website.”

  • The committee is specifically recommending the following:

    • Any content on an obligated organization’s website that is new or changed must meet the accessibility requirements WCAG 2.0 section 14 guidelines.


Section 19: Extranet exemption

  • The committee is proposing for websites with a log in to be removed so they are in compliance with accessibility requirements.

  • Currently, organizations can be exempt from WCAG 2.0 guidelines if they have extranet sites (portals for vendors, suppliers, partners, authorized users, etc.) as they are seen as an extension of intranets (sites that can be accessed within an organization’s network).

  • The committee is proposing this to ensure compliance with WCAG 2.0 guidelines for extranet websites thereby not allowing exemptions. If passed, this will apply to municipal websites on extranet sites where, for example, you can view your taxes and bills.

  • New websites with an extranet site must be in compliance with this recommendation by January 1, 2021, and all existing public websites with extranet sites be in compliance by January 1, 2023.


Recommendation 20: Intranet exemption

  • The committee proposes the exemption for intranet websites (websites for an organization’s employees) be removed so all websites will be in compliance with section 14

  • The committee proposes the same timeline as recommendation 19 for this to be in effect


Recommendation 21: Pre-2012 exemption

  • The committee is proposing to immediately create a category to for older archived content thereby removing the existing exemption of making web content accessible if it was first published on a site before 2012.

  • This would apply only to non-active documents (i.e. documents that can be changed such as forms).


Recommendation 22: Live captioning and audio description

  • The committee is proposing to remove the requirement in the WCAG that exempts all obligated organizations, except for the Ontario government and Legislative Assembly, to meet live captioning and audio description requirements by 2025


Recommendation 24: Purchase of accessible teaching/training materials

  • The committee is proposing that obligated organizations that are educational or training institutions be immediately required to order teaching/training materials from producers who agree to provide accessible or conversion-ready versions in the same timeframe as print copies.


Recommendation 27: Accessibility in education

  • The committee is proposing the provincial government look into making education and skills development about accessibility immediately to increase accessibility-content in all levels of education in Ontario.


Recommendation 29: Accessibility in provincially regulated professions

  • The committee is proposing that certification requirements of provincially regulated professions require knowledge and application of accessibility and that they be worked into the planning and design of courses offered by education or training organizations.

  • It is recommended this occur within one calendar year.


Phase Two

Recommendation 31: A new model for accessibility regulation

  • In light of concerns from stakeholders indicating that the current model regulating the accessibility of information and communications is flawed, the committee is proposing the Accessibility Ecosystem model that is reflective of the changing digital age.The committee is specifically proposing:

    • The government adopt and operationalize Phase 2 as the new regulatory approach in Ontario within two years of the Committee submitting the final recommendations. 

    • The Accessibility Ecosystem model essentially reframes the current approach as ensuring organizations approach for the benefit of all Ontarians and themselves instead of as an obligation. This includes responding to new opportunities, keeping up with changes in technology and providing continuous information as to how requirements can be met.

For more information, please see below:

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005

Review of the Information and Communications Standards - 2019 Initial Recommendations Report

Accessibility Services Canada: AODA Questions & Answers 


 


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