How to Create an AODA Web Accessibility Plan

As part of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, organizations should, besides the accessibility audits and reviews, develop a solid, sustainable plan to both address the issues found in the audit, and to build and maintain accessibility. An accessibility plan is the secret to an organization’s success in both implementing accessibility as well as ensuring that their users are informed about their practices, and is also a crucial part of many laws governing accessibility like the

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

The core information to include are:
  • 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

An accessibility policy is just like any internal policy that governs your organization’s operations. Having an accessibility policy outlined in your company provides the framework to implement any accessibility plans later on. Create an accessibility policy that aligns with the goals of your organization and keep it flexible and open to any new iterations of accessibility standards and advancements in technology.

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.

Just like a privacy policy or a data protection policy, you must make your accessibility policy available to the public. Most websites place them next to their other policies in the footer of the website. And just like with other publically available policies, you should inform your customers or website users of any changes to the document.

The Accessibility Plan

Your accessibility plan is how you will execute the requirements and policies outlined in our policy. In your accessibility plan, you should outline your accessibility barriers, strategies to address them, and your task priorities.

Building a plan

Think about the accessibility barriers and limitations that you have identified and outlined to address in your policy. Also important to consider are any legal requirements or legislation for accessibility that your organization might be subject to. Draw up a plan around these limitations and requirements and prioritize the most pressing issues first.

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

As mentioned above, an accessibility plan is not set in stone. Once your plan is created and set in motion, you should ensure that all progress is tracked. For web accessibility, use a web accessibility monitoring tool that can scan for errors and track compliance efforts. A tool like Monsido offers a History Center and WCAG compliance level indicators that are especially useful as part of the monitoring and review process. It is recommended to monitor the progress of your plan every six to 12 months. Ontario’s accessibility laws also require organizations to submit a report on their accessibility efforts and progress on the following deadlines:
  • 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.