image of a blind man using his phone on a website that uses a screen reader to assist him.
Digital Accessibility Standards: Going Beyond the Buzzword
Accessibility is not only about screen readers, contrast or big fonts. Accessibility is about people and their right to access information. It is one thing to ensure your website is easily accessible and user-friendly, but it is another to change the paradigm and become a more inclusive and accessible employer as well.

More Accessible Digital Engagement and Interaction

Canadian accessibility laws such as Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), Nova Scotia Accessibility Act, Accessibility for Manitobans Act (AMA) alongside the global Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are now ensuring that web accessibility best practices and fundamentals are ensuring accessible web experiences for all people.

Organizations are now legally obligated to make accessibility changes to ensure inclusiveness among Canadians.

Noted in a previous article by OPIN, a considerable amount of Canadians are currently impacted by hindrances in the digital world: 

“One in five Canadians or 6.2 million Canadians aged fifteen and older have at least one disability that limits them in their daily activities, including their use of the web.”

Compliance for AODA standards extends beyond a need to adhere to new and existing regulatory measures. A non-complying agency stands to infringe on an individual's basic human rights

Just as Canadian rights and freedoms include equal access to education, healthcare, housing, jobs etc., unreasonably restricting an individual’s access to the internet is seen as a breach of global human rights according to the United Nations

Access to many of these basic human rights relies heavily on the proper access to the internet and how it can be accessed by citizens with disabilities. The barriers currently hindering citizens with disabilities to exercise their rights is still a major issue.

In order to expedite lengthy legislative changes that can often be implemented poorly, get ahead of your competitors and create a streamlined accessibility roadmap. Ensure that you also hire the right individuals to assist your organization in becoming a next-generation employer.

Become a Next-Generation Organization

Making sure employers understand the value that employees with disabilities can bring to the workplace cannot be understated.

The upcoming AODA policy changes require that every organization create an accessibility roadmap to set goals that will enable them to become more accessible and inclusive in hiring processes as well. 

Ensuring your business is prepared to make the leap to inclusivity is a very smart business decision. It is estimated that by 2035, 40 percent of Ontario’s consumer base is going to be people with disabilities, making up a huge slice of the market that no business can afford to miss out on.

As explained by Katherine Power, Vice President, Communications & Corporate Affairs, Sodexo Canada:

“As much as it is a nice thing to do, as much as doing any of this corporate social responsibility work is nice to do, the reason we’re doing it is that the marketplace demands it.” 

According to a recent study by ESDC, respondents highlighted the importance of businesses that address barriers and allow people with disabilities to get their first job, succeed in their work and get promoted as leaders.

Respondents also emphasized that employers should understand that workplace adjustments are often a smart investment that helps employees, and their businesses succeed.

In addition to aiding people with disabilities, there’s yet another benefit to your business by implementing better accessibility and inclusivity practices: other consumers.

According to the Ontario Chamber of Commerce:

“While these other consumers may not have a disability themselves, many have friends and family members who do. Combined with the purchasing power of persons with disabilities, this group represents a massive $366 billion market.

And it extends further as well-78 percent of Canadians are more likely to buy from a business with a policy of hiring persons with disabilities over a company that doesn’t.”

 Becoming a next-generation employer is about inclusivity for all. Planning your accessibility road map sooner rather than later will ensure a more diverse, committed and dedicated workforce. Increasing accessibility and making adjustments to your workflow is beneficial for everyone.

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Ryan is a passionate storyteller who thrives on challenging the status quo. He is an avid researcher with a keen analytical mind able to strategize on sales and marketing decisions by analyzing data and behaviours across various industries and technologies.