Why AODA Compliance is Important to Your Association
Before I get started, let's be clear that AODA compliance is not required for every association website. The Government of Ontario's website outlines who must be Accessibility of Ontarians with Disabilities Act compliant, and it certainly isn't a bother if your association is not located in the province, right? Wrong.
AODA compliance means following the international effort that is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG2.0), which extend beyond Canada's borders, let alone Ontario.
The Value of AODA Compliance Beyond Ontario
If your province (or country) does not have an equivalent of AODA compliance legislation, your organization should still take a look. Consider who your association's online audience is and how the intentions beyond AODA compliance requirements are still worth looking at for the value they may bring to that audience. Do it for your audience's benefit it no other reason.
The Costs of Accessibility Compliance
Depending on how out-of-date your organization's website may be (or its web platform, for that matter), bring it up to AODA compliance standards or otherwise making it disability-friendly can cost a lot of money. You will not have a choice, however, if you must meet the standard. Outsourcing to a knowledgeable website design company may cost more but means something is less likely to be overlooked. Future costs can be mitigated, however, with some forward-thinking.
When adding new sections or content to your website, modify your process so that ADODA compliance is a part of it. Doing so prevents double-checking and spending more money to go back later and fix things piecemeal. Also, keep future changes to web standards and attempt to be ready for them by considering how coding and other technology changes may be affected by disability regulation changes down the road.
Save money in the future by thinking ahead and getting involved now.
The Costs of Accessibility Non-Compliance
Yes, there are costs involved with updating your website to be more (if not fully) accessible to disabled audience members, whether or not AODA compliance is required. There are also costs to not doing so, however, even if you are not required by law to have a disability-friendly website.
Technology continues to improve in ways that make it increasingly more accessible to people with disabilities. Changing web standards reflect this, as does the incorporation of regulations such as AODA compliance. As such, people with disabilities are a growing share of most markets, including those that make use of online resources and access websites. So, what is the cost of your organization not being ready for this shift?
Obviously, you will miss out on the benefits of an extended audience represented by the people with disabilities your website is unable to service. AODA compliance is important because it serves a genuine need, and if your organization cannot meet that need, that traffic will go elsewhere. As with any audience leaving your website to go elsewhere, an absent audience is a missed opportunity.
Another problem you may encounter is brand damage to your association. Earning a reputation for your website not being accessible to people with disabilities is obviously something to be avoided. Such an outcome is even worse if your not-for-profit is even peripherally related to that community, such as a healthcare or social wellness association.
Ultimately, regardless of the law and regulations, all associations need to consider and weigh the benefits your website meeting the requirements laid out by AODA compliance. Don't leave it to your organization's IT people to decide for themselves what to include and what to leave out.
How best to modify your association's website so it is in AODA compliance standards are met will vary from one organization to the next. Figuring out who is responsible for this decision can be a problem for some, to begin with. Is this up to your board? Your IT person? Is it purely a matter of meeting any legal obligations or is it otherwise an issue of content best practices? This is the sort of concern addressed at our CASE Governance Forum events. There are two such events upcoming, taking place in Ottawa and Calgary.