How to Create an AODA Web Accessibility Plan
After reviewing your organization’s current state of accessibility and gaining an understanding of what barriers you will need to work on, you can then develop a strategy that includes these three main elements:
- An accessibility statement
- An accessibility policy
- An accessibility plan
The Accessibility Statement
Having an accessibility statement helps you communicate your commitment and your organization’s goals towards meeting the accessibility needs of your users. It is extremely important to have an accessibility statement if you are planning to work your accessibility as it demonstrates intent. You are informing your audience about your awareness of the accessibility barriers, showing that you care for their needs, and explaining how you are working on them. So even if you are just starting out with accessibility and your organization is not accessible yet, having the statement informs the public that you are not ignorant of the issue.
When drafting an accessibility statement, keep in mind that it will need to address both the issues that your organization has found during the audit, your organization’s own goals, your accessibility plan, as well as clarifying the level of accessibility you are aiming to achieve. Accessibility statements are often posted on the organization’s website, so web accessibility is often a crucial aspect of the statement.
Writing an Accessibility Statement
- State your commitment to accessibility for people with disabilities.
- Specify the accessibility standard that you are aiming to apply. The AODA references the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) level AA as its accessibility standard and it is the most universally accepted standard.
- Contact information that your users can use in the event that they encounter an accessibility issue. This can include a phone number, accessible chat services, forms, or an email address.
Extra information that is best practice to include are:
- The measures your organization will be taking to ensure accessibility
- The specification of any known organizational limitations
- The technology that your website and organization will be relying on to implement accessibility
- References to local or national legislation where applicable.
Be sure to place the accessibility statement in a location on your website that is easy for your users to find. Most websites place their statements in their footer next to links to policies.
To save time, you can use an accessibility statement generator to create a statement customized to the needs of your organization and its users based on a standard template. Monsido has its own free WCAG compliant accessibility statement generator.
The Accessibility Policy
But before you create a new policy, review your existing policies to see if there are any accessibility gaps or barriers in them that you need to account for or if they can adapt to include accessible practices. Address these existing gaps in your old policies first before making new policies about accessibility. Also remember that just like your accessibility journey, your accessibility policy is a dynamic, living document. Your accessibility policy should be updated and reviewed whenever your organization changes any practices or procedures.
The Accessibility Plan
Building a plan
Within your accessibility plan, consider your resources: do you have the tools or the expertise to address these issues? Which person or department should own the accessibility plan? If your internal resources are not well versed in accessibility, how about turning to accessibility experts or consultants, sending your team for accessibility training, and user testing on people with disabilities to ensure usability? Accessibility is a marathon, not a sprint, so you don’t have to remove all your prioritized issues right away. There may be solutions out there like accessibility widgets and overlays that claim fast and immediate fixes, but these are just temporary solutions that don’t really address the root cause of the issue. Work with a consultant or get accessibility training to really understand the issue at hand and build the solutions into your website.
Once you determine and plan for your resources, work on a timeline that aligns with any legal compliance deadlines and your organization’s progress. Accessibility is never a set-and-forget process, it’s an ongoing, multi-year project, so ensure that your plan accommodates that.
For help and examples on how to write an accessibility plan, see the accessibility plan guidelines on Ontario.ca.
With a plan ready, make it available to both your whole organization and the public. Publish your plan on your website and inform your users about it by announcing it via social media, emails, etc. Make sure that the plan is available on your website in an accessible format.
Monitor, review, and update your plan
- Private sector and non-profit organizations: every three years
- Next deadline: June 30, 2021
- Public sector organizations: every two years.
- Next deadline: December 31, 2021
As you make strides in improving your accessibility, and as laws, guidelines, and technology are constantly changing, remember to review and update your accessibility plan every five years to accommodate for any of these changes.