Website Accessibility: A Guide for Canadian Car Dealers
If you’re responsible for your dealership’s website, you may not be aware that its design could be required by law to follow an international set of standards established to improve digital accessibility for people with disabilities. This includes making it easier for people with vision, hearing and cognitive limitations to find important information online.
Following the lead of the federal government, which passed the Accessible Canada Act in 2019, Ontario is soon set to become the first province to legally mandate private businesses to follow an international set of standards known as Website Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to make web and digital content more accessible to people with disabilities.
In Ontario, any private or non-profit organization with 20 or more employees has until June 30 of this year to file a compliance report to prove that they are abiding by the digital accessibility rules in the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA). Organizations with 50 or more employees that don’t comply with the law could face fines of up to $100,000.
So, what is WCAG and how does it apply to your dealer website?
WCAG was developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an international community of member organizations and members of the public who work together to develop technical standards for the web, including a single global standard for web content accessibility.
The type of web content addressed by WCAG includes information such as text, images, and sounds, as well as the computer code or markup language that defines website structure and presentation.
WCAG has been updated over the years to account for changes in web-based digital technology, design and development trends, and the growth of mobile offerings. Under AODA, Ontario businesses are required to prove they are complying with the standards set out in WCAG 2.0.
WCAG 2.0 is divided into four guiding principles, which state specifically that web content must be:
- Perceivable – Content must be presented to users so that it can be clearly sensed (primarily through vision and hearing) either through the browser or through assistive technologies.
- Operable – Users can interact with all controls and interactive elements of the content using either their mouse, keyboard, or an assistive device.
- Understandable – The content must provide a message clearly, in plain language, to avoid misunderstanding or mistakes.
- Robust – A wide range of technologies (including current and future assistive technologies) must be able to access the content.
Each of the four WCAG principles above has specific testable “success criteria” that are rated at level A, AA, or AAA.
In Ontario, businesses and other organizations will soon need their web properties to adhere to a minimum level of WCAG 2.0 AA. The efforts also need to be supported by documentation that identifies the methods and techniques being used to create or fix existing websites to meet the accessibility requirements. In other words, there has to be a real accessibility plan in place. It can’t just be a fluke that a website happens to meet the WCAG standards.
The specific elements of WCAG 2.0 that dealers and other businesses in Ontario need to adhere to include focusing on technology-specific factors such as HTML coding, scripting, audio and video multimedia, captioning, text size and color design.
For dealers in other parts of the country, it is still smart business practice to put a strategy in place to evaluate your web and digital platforms to ensure they comply with at least WCAG 2.0, if not the higher standards in WCAG 2.1. Besides the customer goodwill such efforts can earn your dealership, it’s wise to be prepared for impending accessibility legislation that will likely be forthcoming down the road.
In Manitoba, for instance, the Accessibility for Manitobans Act (AMA), which passed into law in 2013, is soon expected to be updated to require provincial government agencies to adhere to certain WCAG 2.0 digital accessibility standards by 2023. Specifically, the Manitoba regulations are expected to focus on small print size, low color contrast between text and background, and the use of language that is not clear or plain as accessibility barriers that will need to be addressed.
Nova Scotia is also in the process of updating its provincial Accessibility Act to incorporate aspects of WCAG that will compel public sector organizations to improve their digital accessibility practices by the year 2030. British Columbia has also expressed its support of implementing WCAG standards into its provincial accessibility law, but no timeline has been set.
Businesses and other non-governmental organizations are not yet required to comply with WCAG standards outside of Ontario, but the sense among many Canadian accessibility experts is that it is only a matter of time before digital accessibility legislation is more broadly extended to include the private sector.
If you’re uncertain as to where to start on the path toward WCAG compliance, the TAdvantage team of website design professionals is here to help. Simply visit go.trader.ca/TAdvantage today to sign up for a free website assessment. If you are already a TAdvantage customer you can have peace of mind in knowing that your digital platforms are accessible to all potential customers and that you won’t run into trouble with the law!