Introduction To Digital Accessibility
All organizations are struggling to keep up with the rapidly changing world, and understand the new rules, of the emerging global economy. A paradigm shift in society, driven by miniaturization, mobile wireless devices, and data cloud-sourcing, is placing greater power in the hands of consumers. A society of smarter consumers is shaping the corporate enterprise of the future, by demanding greater Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and greater cultural awareness. To reduce chaos and confusion, governments around the world are implementing legislative regulations, to establish standards and guidelines of expectations for societal behaviour.
The unregulated digital transformation has created enormous barriers for disabled people in participating in many societal activities. Access to information and communication systems is critical to the quality of life in our information technology driven society. To help create a barrier free society, governments around the world, are implementing accessibility standards based on four core principles; dignity, independence, integration, and equal opportunity. There are over one billion people with disabilities in the world, of who between 110-190 million experience very significant difficulties. This corresponds to about 15% of the world’s population. The prevalence of disability is growing due to population ageing and the global increase in chronic health conditions.
In 2005, Ontario became the first jurisdiction in Canada, and a world leader in implementing proactive, enforceable, compliance-based accessibility legislation. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) goal is to make Ontario accessible for people with disabilities by 2025. The standards require Ontario organizations to identify, remove and prevent barriers for people with disabilities in key areas of daily living. If you are an Ontario public sector organization, or a nonprofit/business with 50+ employees, you have to make your public website, and content on that site, compliant with WCAG Level AA.
Fundamentally, accessibility is about expanding market opportunities to achieve sustainable growth in revenue, return on investment, and profitability; And not just about legal compliance. The ability to use new emerging technologies is currently at the heart of social inclusion, with those excluded being left out of many work, entertainment, communication, healthcare and social benefits. As the population ages and as governments enact accessibility regulations, all organizations need to understand what accessibility is and how it impacts their services, customers, employees, and facilities.
Overlooking the AODA requirements can expose organizations to the threat and cost of litigation, public relations issues, loss of government contracts, and hefty penalties. Economic prosperity studies show that, by integrating the AODA Standards into the Ontario fabric, not only is it the right thing to do, but that there are definite economic growth benefits. The business benefits are proven; stronger leadership and more productive employees, more effective talent recruitment, more innovative products and use of new technology, stronger customer relationships and a better overall reputation. As Ontario organizations become more aware of the benefits, there will be a shift in attitude from Compliance to Competitive Advantage. Not only will they experience business growth by including the disabled sector, but they will also gain customer loyalty from their colleagues, friends, and family members, in which they have influence.
Accessibility has become a mainstream requirement that can transform the business; It no longer means compliance. Therefore every part of the organisation should be involved in creating a holistic strategy for embedding accessibility across various aspects of the entire enterprise (from processes to product development to the culture) in order to better manage compliance, improve the user experience on any device, and create an inclusive workplace environment.
Don’t be left behind!