What is the ACA?
The Accessible Canada act (ACA) is a Federal Law in Canada that requires certain Industries to comply with accessibility rules. The ACA came into force on 12th July 2019.
It has taken years of efforts for advocates and other organizations to get the (ACA) passed. Authorities in Canada have conducted months of surveys to determine what legislation would be most beneficial to Canadians. Many people view the ACA as a major step forward in the country’s “Accessible By 2040” initiative, which aims to make all facilities accessible to disabled individuals within the next two decades.
Who Has to Comply with ACA?
Unlike other similar legislation, such as the Accessibility for Ontarians With Disabilities Act (AODA), the ACA is a federal law, applying to almost all geographic areas of Canada
As far as industries and businesses go, the ACA only affects three different kinds of entities:
- Governments, including federal governments, the Canadian armed forces, the RCMP, and Parliament.
- Sectors that are subject to federal regulation include sectors such as finance, transport, and telecoms.
- State-owned companies, known as crown companies.
The ACA makes clear that the new law applies not just to traditional media but also to “technology” and “any medium based on ‘information’ or ‘communication.'” That means that websites related to any of these industries are also affected by the ACA.
If I don’t comply with the Affordable Care Act, what happens?
To ensure that businesses comply with the ACA, it includes severe penalties for non-compliance and creates new structures and roles to monitor compliance.
ACA is enforced by:
- CASDO (Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization), an organization made up of a majority of people who have disabilities, will develop accessibility guidelines for websites in cooperation with the web development community and the disabled community.
- An Accessibility Advisor will provide advice to the minister on systemic and emerging accessibility issues, and will be responsible for monitoring these issues.
- A web accessibility commissioner will inspect websites for conformance and may impose fines and/or penalize non-conformity. The web accessibility commissioner is also a member of a powerful body called the Canadian Human Rights Commission, which has considerable legal enforcement power.
As an accessibility regulator, the Office of the Accessibility Commissioner (OAC) is the most important agency under the Accessible Canada Act. Its responsibilities include:
- Inspections of groups to ensure they comply with federal regulations
- Receiving violation accusations
- An audit of a company suspected of violating securities laws
- Orders and Notices of Violations (NOVs)
- If you don’t comply with the rules, you could be fined.
If you violate the ACA, you could face fines of up to $250,000 per infraction, depending on how severe your violations were deemed to be.
However, the exact processes by which these agencies investigate and charge violators haven’t yet been determined.
How can you tell if a website is ACA compliant?
It’s important to run an accessibility check on any site that might not be accessible to people with disabilities in your region. A tool like accessScan can quickly generate a quick and free accessibility scan for you and provides you with a detailed overview so that you know where to start when making changes. Once you receive this scan, getting started becomes easier and how to get compliant becomes clearer too.
Enforcement and Compliance
The ACA lays out powerful tools to enforce violations.
There is no formal process for dealing with complaints at present. However, existing regulatory agencies and complaint bodies (such as the Canadian Transportation Authority, the Canadian Radio-Television, and Telecommunications Commission, the Canadian Human Rights Commission, and the Federal Public Sector Labor Relations and Employment Board) must now collaborate to develop an effective system for handling complaints relating to accessibility issues.
Similarly, the ACA has few specific regulations. It lists some general guidelines, but they’re not very detailed. For example, one guideline says that insurance companies must remove “barriers” for disabled people.
As we move forward, policymakers plan to develop standards and regulations by the CASDO. However, at present, there are very few rules regarding accessibility requirements.
What do I need to do to comply with the ACA?
The ACA has very few specific regulations regarding accessibility standards. The only rules mentioned are very general, like the “removal of obstacles” to people with disabilities. Because the ACA was designed to allow the CASDO to create the next phase of standards, but for now, there are very few regulations on accessibility requirements.
Despite this, the government has required companies to regularly report on their organizations’ accessibility standards.
Accessible Plan: A report published by companies detailing their strategies for making websites accessible and meeting their legal obligations. Companies must publicly post these plans and notify the government if and when they change. They have to update them every three years, but there is no obligation to keep them up to date.
Progress Reports. These reports detail the company’s progress toward implementing its Accessibility Plan. A timeline for these reports has yet to be determined. It is likely that no deadline will be codified until after the final guidelines for the ACA are published.
There are already other Canadian accessibility laws that are based on the web content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), including the Alberta Association for Persons with Disabilities Act (AAPD) and the Ontario Disability Support Program Act (ODSP). It’s likely that Canada’s new accessibility act will follow these guidelines.
It should be noted that other Canadian accessibility regulations such as the Accessibility For Ontarians With Disabilities Act (AOADA), which is a federal law that until ACA was considered the most important accessibility regulation, were developed using the W3C guidelines. It is very likely that the new accessibility regulations in Canada will also be developed using these guidelines.
The WCAG, the World Wide Consortium Accessibility Guidelines, is a collection of four simple rules that can help make your website accessible to everyone. They’re not laws, but they do provide a framework for ensuring that people with disabilities can access your site. The WCAG provides guidance about how to create a website that is usable by anyone, including those with visual impairments, learning difficulties, physical limitations, and motor skills issues.