Accessibility Technology

Oh, Canada? An Overview of Accessibility in the Great White North

This is my fourth session from the second day at the CSUN conference.  This description of this session from the event guide says that “When you combine developer attitudes with government legislation and online media, the results are uniquely Canadian perspectives on the state of digital accessibility.”  I wonder if this means that all their perspectives are extremely polite and amiable?  We shall see…oh wait, I just spied a picture of Justin Bieber in the slide deck.



Two perspectives:

  1. What’s happening in industry and broadcasting/publishing in general
  2. Legislative perspective


Legislative perspective in 2007/2008

We didn’t really have much.  At federal level, we had committed to WCAG1.0 until WCAG2.0 was adopted later.   The private sector’s timeline was a bit different, which Billy will talk about later.  Ontario largely led the charge, followed by Quebec in 2011.  Until recently, there wasn’t much happening that you’d hear about in the international media.

Patrick talked about the results of his 5 year media review (2009 – 2014) of about 15 major sites in Canada (including CTV, CBC, The Weather Network,, Toronto Star, etc.).  He reviewed top sites for accessibility on forms, multimedia, tables, structure, clear, focus.  2009 only 7.8% of all tests were satisfactory.


Billy talked about the development side of the equation.  In 2009, accessibility was mentioned, but rarely practiced.  WCAG2.0 was only recently published as a recommendation.  Developers were busy building carousels, modals, tabs, and other features that would grow to haunt them later.  The situation was bleak!


Denis then picked up and talked about his experience getting up-to-speed on legislation in 2009.  He contacted all of the provincial governments to find out what they were doing.  He asked the following 6 questions:

  1. Are there any specific web accessibility standards set for your country/province?  (Mostly no)
  2. Are these standards abased on existing W3C accessibility guidelines?  (Yes)
  3. What conformance level if any is expected for these standards?  (mostly level AA)
  4. Are there any implementation deadlines planned for compliance?  (Mostly no)
  5. Do these standards apply only to government web sites?  (Mostly government web sites)
  6. Are the standards enforced as mandatory policies or just as recommendations? (Mostly recommendations)

The responses allowed Denis to build a ranked grid of sites, with ratios of errors to pages.  This was interesting.  He also transcribed these ratios into a heat map of the actual map of Canada.  This was really interesting.


Patrick then took the mic to talk about the 2014 web sites assessment.  This time, 27% of all tests were satisfactory, based on the testing criteria.  The upshot is that ALL CRITERIA IMPROVED.  This is a big deal, but still a long way to go.  Patrick fielded a number of questions about the tests.  Denis answered a question regarding web accessibility for organizations that have a web presence in Ontario (those with a presence over 50 employees).


Billy then talked a little bit about today’s community.  Informal poll shows that accessibility is still overlooked by some agencies.  It’s not mentioned as a service, and is rarely mentioned in past work.  However, accessibility camp attendance is WAY up.  AODA is probably driving a lot of involvement.  Developer attitudes are very positive.  Meetup groups are gaining in popularity, and developers outside of the accessibility community are speaking about it.  Our camps and Meetups fill up immediately…and we have waiting lists!


Denis asked session attendees if they would share some ideas about what they think the future holds for web accessibility.  Elle Waters said that their company is seeing fewer requests from clients requesting assistance with compliance-related issues.   George talked about his concern that accessibility is still aimed at organizations and governments, not individuals.  A comment was made about the law in Canada not having too much wiggle room and “not enough teeth.”  Some municipalities are actually actively avoiding compliance with the law or putting it off.  In some cases, Canada is looking at litigation in the United States as actually being a good thing that can spur action.  Denis wrapped up by saying that our aging populations will likely be a driving force in adoption of and demand for accessibility.  By 2061, over 1/3 of the population will need accessibility.


Online Media Future

  • Room for improvement
  • Change is happening
  • awareness still needed
  • legislation is making an impact
  • improving development culture




By Paul Schantz

CSUN Director of Web & Technology Services, Student Affairs. husband, father, gamer, part time aviator, fitness enthusiast, Apple fan, and iguana wrangler.

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