Edge Summer 2020: Understanding Accessibility

Edge Summer 2020: Understanding Accessibility

Big Ideas

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June 30 2020
Big Ideas

Until recently, we relied solely on advocates of various causes to bring attention to the unique challenges and barriers persons with disabilities faced in the workplace. The Government of Canada has taken note, and Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act, was passed by the Senate on May 13, 2019. This legislation will allow people with disabilities to better maneuver in Canadian society independently and with dignity. As designers, one of our first mandates is to communicate clearly. Our entire careers are focused on making information easier to navigate and to engage the widest audience possible.

So far, our industry hasn’t adopted accessibility as something that is essential and, as far as I know, design programs aren’t teaching it as part of their curriculum. The Sherpa management team proactively sought to fill this gap; ensuring that accessibility is a requirement of any successful project's deliverables.


So how does this affect you and your Canadian business?

On June 21, 2019, The Accessible Canada Act became law. Going forward, private or non-profit organizations with more than 50 employees and all public sector organizations must make their website and web content compliant with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA by January 2021. WCAG is considered a global guideline, and most jurisdictions' standards are based on this. Failure to comply could result in fines of up to $100,000 for each day of violation.

In addition, various regions have set goals for when their provinces can be considered “barrier-free” for all citizens (Manitoba has set a target of 2023, while Ontario is 2025). Currently, large organizations and the government sector are expected to lead by example, to allow smaller businesses to catch up.

Edge summer 2020 - accessibility 'how it works'


What does that mean for us at Sherpa?

Since we have quite a few educational institutions clients in Ontario, we’ve been creating AODA-compliant materials (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act) for quite some time, but we felt there was more to learn. In the fall of 2019, the creative and user-experience departments undertook a full day training course to ensure we are producing client materials that are free of barriers for all users, in all Canadian jurisdictions, as well as a general understanding for regions outside of Canada. This training went through a full auditing process, beyond the aesthetics, to ensure our material works with assistive technologies. Sherpa is now being inclusive by default, rather than adapting according to where our client falls under legislation. We begin our process being proactive and anticipating the issues, rather than working to solve issues after approvals have been made.

Edge summer 2020 - accessibility Winpak mobile

Since Sherpa has always operates on the basis that “usability is everything” we have always been aware of the user’s experience when developing apps, websites, or even PDFs. This new information we learned isn't a completely new process, seeing it as an evolution of a lot of the things we’ve always strived for; we are now confident that we can resolve issues beyond our own lived experiences. We want our work to help improve the quality of everybody's life, and the way we can do that is to make sure we aren’t leaving anybody out of the conversation.

To find out how Sherpa can help your marketing materials become WCAG-compliant, reach out to Jaime at 204.818.8919.

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