Website Accessibility: Protect your business from the risk of l…

Alya Othman

QA Engineer

In our increasingly digital world, web accessibility has become a crucial consideration for businesses. Failing to make your website accessible to individuals with disabilities not only excludes a significant portion of the population but also exposes your company to legal risks and potential fines. In this blog, we will explore the significance of web accessibility, the legal landscape in Canada and the United States, and practical steps to ensure compliance.

Web Accessibility Laws in Canada and the United States:

In Canada, the government of Ontario passed the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act in 2005 to set an accessibility standard in which no person with a disability is prevented from fully participating in all aspects of society because of his or her disability [1]. This Act would benefit an estimated 3.8 million people, which is about 14 percent of the Canadian population.

In the United States, the Department of Justice signed the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) law in 1990. The law “prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, programs and services provided by state and local government, goods and services provided by private companies and in commercial facilities.” [2]. This law would benefit an estimated 56.7 million people, which is about 19 percent of the American population.

You can find more information about the laws in different countries here.

What does this mean to you?

“The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.” – Tim Berners-Lee

In Canada, the government could fine offenders up to $100,000 per day for not complying with the web accessibility standards. To learn more on how to comply with the act for private business, click here.

In the USA, the requirements of website accessibility have caused confusion to business owners, and plaintiffs’ attorneys are capitalizing on this uncertainty. The confusion is due to the Department of Justice’s changing position on whether all websites should comply with the accessibility standards and its delay in setting the proper regulations.

To explain the situation further, the online accessibility requirements stated by the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) only apply to stores that have a physical location and provide products or service to the public through their websites. As an example, Target was required to pay up to $6 million in damages for failing to abide by those requirements. However, in another instance, the law was applied to a business that did not have a physical location such as Netflix. Netflix was required to pay $800,000 in damages for noncompliance with the ADA.

Also, in 2010, the Department of Justice announced that it would issue separate sets of proposed website accessibility regulations, but they have been delayed. In contradiction, the Department of Justice intervened in website accessibility lawsuits as in the case with grocer PeaPod and the education course provider edX where it secured these companies’ agreements to adopt a set of guideline established by the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG) standard, level AA.

What is the WCAG standard?

The WCAG standard is designed to assist vision and hearing-impaired users through adaptive software and equipment, to quickly navigate through websites and understand the content of text, images, audio and video, and to conduct business by recognizing where to fill out forms. [3]

WCAG has four principles, each principle a set of guidelines totaling to 12 guidelines.

The four principles state that a website should be:

1. Perceivable: This principle is about making the output of web content available through multiple sensory modalities

2. Operable: This principle is about making the input methods of web content functionally accessible to a wide range of input devices

3. Understandable: This principle is about making content and interfaces that people can comprehend.

4. Robust: This principle is about ensuring compatibility with a broad range of user agents, including assistive technologies

Debunking Common Myths

“Accessibility is not a feature, is a social trend.” ― Antonio Santos

Now, let’s look at the common myths about website accessibility.

Myth: Accessible websites are dull and unappealing.

Truth: You can have highly interactive, beautiful, media-rich, engaging AND accessible website. An interactive, accessible website could be achieved by the use ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications). ARIA is an API for communicating information to screen readers.

Myth: Automated evaluation tools are sufficient for web accessibility.

Truth: Automation assessment tools only catch one-third of accessibility issues.

Myth: Making a website accessible does not have any additional benefits.

Truth: Making your website accessible offers multiple advantages beyond compliance. It improves search engine optimization (SEO), enhances user experience for all users, and increases your brand's reputation as a socially responsible organization.

What should be your next steps?

“When speaking of disabilities, the blind and their needs are most often used as an example. It is deceivingly simplistic since accessibility is something most of the population can benefit from.” ― Marcus Österberg

The following actions would reduce your business's risks to get sued or fined:

1. Understand different types of disabilities and how assistive technologies help.

2. Review the WCAG 2.0 checklist.

3. If your website is already implemented, hire a consultant to audit it. Based on the results, you can put a plan for implementing changes that will make your site more accessible.

4. If you are building a new website, include accessibility in your contract with your web developer.

Web accessibility is not just a legal obligation; it's an ethical imperative. By embracing accessibility, you create an inclusive online environment that welcomes everyone, regardless of their abilities. Investing in web accessibility not only safeguards your business from potential legal risks but also demonstrates your commitment to equality and inclusivity. So, let's make the web a more accessible place, one website at a time.

#WebAccessibility #Inclusion #ADA #AODA #WCAG


[1] AODA Compliance & Canadian Web Accessibility Standards." Retrieved from <

[2] Legal Information - OTOjOY. (n.d.). Retrieved from

[3] Looming ADA website rules could take businesses by ... (n.d.). Retrieved from different types of

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