According to Statistics Canada over 15 years, at least one person in seven Canadians has some form of disability. Different kinds of disabilities affect various people, and some of them are related to mental, hearing, mobility as well as a vision among others.
The individuals with various forms of disabilities have a fundamental right just like anyone else to participate in society. Disabled people have a right to shop as well as learn at the same places with their fellow citizens. These individuals also have a right to access the same online information since they are also human just like other people.
Different accessibility laws are specifically designed to protect as well as enforce the rights of people with difficulties. There are also measures that web designers should consider for designing accessible websites for the disabled in Canada.
This guide provides information about legislation that aims to ban discrimination against the disabled. It also offers some updates about building an accessible website for the same group of people in Canada. The learning capabilities of people with disabilities differ from non-disabled people, but they also have a right to access information.
Accessibility Laws In Canada
Canada has a historical background of legislation that bans discrimination against people with disabilities. Disability under the bill also combines with other forms of discrimination that include gender and ethnicity. The laws are for the provincial as well as federal levels of government, and they cover different aspects of social inclusion.
However, specific disability-specific laws have emerged over the recent past. The proposals aim at making it more transparent about what needs to be done to protect the interests of people with disabilities. The accessibility laws include the following:
- Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms– Every person has equal protection under the law including those with mental or physical disabilities. They have the right to enjoy all the freedoms including access to information like everyone. s
- Canadian Human Rights Act– the law protects the rights of all the people and prohibits any form of harassment or discrimination by 11 different grounds. Companies are not permitted from distributing mobile apps that cannot be used by people with disabilities.
- Employment Equity Act- the law requires companies to eliminate the barriers that can affect people with disabilities from equal participation in the workforce. Employers should make sure that technology is accessible to all including the disabled.
- Respecting Equal Access to Employment in Public Bodies (Quebec’s Act)- prohibits all employers in the public sector from discriminating against people with disabilities.
- Provincial human rights legislation- Each province in Canada has a human rights Act. The laws make it illegal for people to discriminate others by their disabilities.
New Accessibility Laws
There are new and upcoming laws across Canada that specifically focus on the rights of individuals with disabilities. These laws should do more to ensure accessibility for all Canadians.
Federal Accessibility Act-
Not yet the official title but the major priority of the law is the need to ensure that technology is accessible to all Canadians with disabilities. It will help them to participate equally in their respective societies.
Accessibility For Ontarians With Disabilities Act (AODA)-
It came into law in 2005 in Ontario, and it compels both private and public entities to follow specific accessibility standards. The Information and Communications Standards Section 14 deals with Accessible Websites and Web Content, and it spells the requirements to protect the interest of people with disabilities. These people should not face barriers online.
Accessibility for Manitobans Act-
AMA includes a standard to ensure that information and communication technology is accessible to all.
Nova Scotia Accessibility Act-
NS Accessibility Act is a new law that aims to remove all barriers that can affect people with disabilities. Information and communication should be accessible to all. The legislation seeks to ensure that all information online is available to all people including those with disabilities.
How To Develop Accessible Websites
The web developers and designer should follow specific web accessibility guidelines to ensure that they are accessible and usable by everyone. There are certain key features that you should include when designing a website to make sure that it is available to all people. These features are, and they include some of the following factors.
Use Good HTML Headings
HTML headings are essential when developing a website since they play a pivotal role in ensuring easy navigation of the site. When the user is searching a website, he should do it using the heading so that he visits the right website. When choosing an HTML heading, the designers need to take into account certain things.
The heading should be simple and easy to read so that it can be accessible to many users. It is vital for web developers to avoid complicated terms in their headings. Such conditions can confuse the users such that they may end up losing interests in searching the website. When deciding the web titles, the designers should always remember the interests of other people with disabilities.
While the HTML heading should be simple to understand, the web developer should also make sure that it is unique. A title that consists of simple wording can quickly direct the user to the site. A combination of words and figures can make the search process a bit complicated especially to the users with different disabilities.
The search process also depends with the browser one will be using, but the golden rule is that it should be short and straightforward. An input of a few words in the heading can quickly direct you to the desired link. As a result, the search process becomes more accessible to various users particularly the disabled who may not be competent in using online technology.
Use Accessible Menus
A good website consists of accessible menus hence the web developers should consider this important aspect. A site has many pages that include a variety of information. Cramming all the information on one page makes the search process complicated and tiresome especially to the users with various challenges.
Menus that have clear outlines make the search process manageable, and they also make the website attractive. It can be challenging to navigate through the site if it does not have menus with clear links that lead the user to the desired information. A list with a clear link to a specific subject helps the user to concentrate on the needed information.
A website that has a good design consists of accessible images, tables, and forms that make the search process easier and enjoyable. A lot of content on a web page can discourage some people from continuing with their search. Many users are interested in reading eye-catching details that go along with available images.
For instance, when one is looking for a product to buy online, he is interested in seeing the image first. A beautiful picture appeals to the interests of many people such that they can read more details later. The other issue is that web developers should avoid the use of images without information about the product.
The effective use of colour on a website can also help to attract more visitors. Some people can understand the context of a site by merely browsing the pictures. The method works well on websites that offer products and services in the travel and hotel sector. Many people can find it difficult to understand various menus, but images can help solve this challenge.
credit: Google developers
How To Check The Website For Accessibility?
There are different steps you need to consider to check the website for accessibility. The following factors are vital since they help you to determine if your site is accessible to the users.
- Validate your HTML-If you misuse your HTML, assistive technology in web development may experience problems in interpreting the page content. Such a scenario can result in access problems to other users. You should utilize an HTML validator accessible online to check if all the codes are correct.
- Test the site using a keyboard– you can use the tab key to test for accessibility. The tab key helps you to navigate the page such that you can access interactive features like links, menus, form and image fields by pressing enter. If you fail to access some features, then your site might have accessibility problems.
- Use accessibility checker– you can access this tool for free online, and it checks your site for accessibility issues. It identifies broken links, spelling errors and other accessibility problems.
- Test with Users– recruit users with different levels of skills and observe them while they interact with your site.
- Ask for help-The other simple technique is to ask for help from other developers to make sure that your web is fully accessible.
- Use WordPress– is another method that you can use to develop an accessible website. It is easy to use, and it also consists of highly flexible content that helps in creating and managing websites. There are free WordPress hosting sites online that can help the developers to address the issues related to accessibility.
Key Elements Of Web Accessibility
When dealing with the issue of accessibility, you should also consider a variety of characteristics of the targeted users of the website. As a web developer, you should not assume that all people access the content using the operating system or browser. There are also other factors that affect their accessibility you should take into consideration.
Visually Impaired People
People who are blind use Braille devices or audible output consisting of screen readers. These can read the content on the website using synthesized speech, and you should consider their needs. When developing a site.
Other individuals with low vision also require screen magnification software that can allow them to zoom the visual screen. Others need to enlarge the font so that they can read the content. Therefore, it is crucial to make sure that the font on your website is enlargeable.
People With Physical Disability
Some people with physical disabilities that affect their hands may not be able to use the mouse. These people rely on the keyboard to navigate your website so you should make sure that it is user-friendly.
Other individuals with similar disabilities use assistive technologies that include head pointers, speech recognition, eye-gaze or tracking systems. Web developers also need to consider the needs of these individuals so that they can also access their sites.
Users With Dyslexia
Certain individuals have learning disabilities, and they require audible output to access the website. They need specialized software that can highlight the words that are read aloud through the use of synthesized speech.
People Who Are Hard of Hearing
People with hearing problems also have a right to access web content. Therefore, strategies like captioning video content are essential. Audio transcription is also vital for these individuals with hearing challenges.
Some people slow Internet connections due to financial constraints to access high-speed connections. Other people in rural areas also face connectivity problems hence the need to use pages that can load quickly. Consider transcripts for videos while at the same time using graphics sparingly. Other mobile devices cannot support other file formats like pdf which affects their accessibility to the web content.
Users Of Mobile Devices
The people who use mobile devices also face accessibility problems to access different websites on their smartphones. The screen of the invention is small, and the users need to zoom the page to see the contents properly. They also use touch interface instead of a mouse so you should also consider these users when developing a website.
Some people have limited time to listen to the entire audio recording or watch the video. However, they can access the content if there is a transcript available so consider this aspect when developing a website.
A web developer should take all these factors into account so that they can cater to the needs of all people including the disabled.