AODA and You: What’s in it for me?

An image of an echidna swimming in a pile of money, in support of our third AODA post.

There is no one right answer as to why you should make your Web site accessible. Throughout this series, we're trying to give you a broad perspective of the standard and why it should matter to you. In our first post, we discussed the experience from a first-hand user perspective; in the second post, we outlined what WCAG 2.0 compliance meant and explored some accessibility terminology. Now we get to the stuff that makes the accounting department’s collective hearts flutter.

The dollars and cents. Or, more accurately, the ‘What’s in it for me?’ of AODA.

Before we get into the fun and exciting, “How AODA compliance can make you money” let’s talk about the less happy “giving it away” aspect.

Failure to comply with the standards can result in fines up to $100,000 PER DAY – dun, dun, dun!

Sorry, that’s the journalist in me focusing on the sensational. While it is true that corporations that violate AODA requirements can be fined up to $100K per day (individuals and unincorporated organizations, and directors and officers of a corporation with fiduciary responsibility who are guilty can be fined up to $50K per day) those only apply to repeated major violations.

The Act actually offers a reasoned and scaled approach to enforcement (here's a full description). After all, the goal of the Act isn’t to punish those companies who are not compliant, but rather to encourage companies to ensure their content is accessible to all Ontarians.

Companies will receive notice and have opportunities to explain their lack of compliance and outline efforts to rectify it. Basically, to get hit with the big numbers you have to willfully contravene the key priority requirements of the act – and do so repeatedly.

But more than the threat of fines, the promise of increasing your business’ appeal to a promising market should be all the motivation most business owners need.

How much of a market? The 2010 AODA annual report, referencing the Martin Prosperity Institute’s study on economic impacts of increased accessibility, suggested that the retail sector could increase sales between $3.8 billion and $9.6 billion over the next five years; tourism expenditures could increase between $400 million and $1.6 billion. 

For those with disabilities, increased access to higher education through improved accessibility standards could result in a potential increase of $618 million to $1.5 billion in employment income.

Canada-wise, the numbers are staggering. According to Statistics Canada’s Participation and Activity Limitation Survey, 2,397,960 Canadians needed help with everyday activities in 2001. By 2006, that number had increased to 2,652,890.

We’ve all heard the adage about how Canada’s population is aging. So Statistics Canada numbers that show 18.3 per cent of all Canadians 45-64; 33 per cent those 65-74; and 56.3 per cent of those 75 and older have a disability should serve to underline the importance of accessibility.

And that’s not all. The benefits of making your site more accessible can extend well beyond those officially designated as having a disability. CNIB (formerly known as the Canadian National Institute for the Blind) states that at least 4.25 million Canadians live with some form of vision loss.

Accessibility can also support the needs of people beyond your initial target market. As Google states in its approach to accessibility, providing alternative access modes (keyboard shortcuts, high-contrast views, speech-to-text capabilities) may also make your site more attractive to power users. And accessible Web sites are favoured by major search engines, in part because best practices for Web accessibility often align with best practices for search engine optimization.

So in the end, making your Web site accessible doesn't just make sense -- it can make cents!

Now that we’ve discussed the whos, the whats, and the whys, in our next post, we’ll get to the hows. As always, comments are open.

*Editor's Note: Click here to view the other three sections of this blog

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Questions Answered

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