Accessibility Evangelists.

If you ask any web designer or code slinger what semantic design is, they’ll likely fire back a completely correct and concise answer.

Then ask them what web accessibility is. You’ll probably end up getting an almost identical answer.

Many people think that with the development of a clean and semantically coded website they’ve created a fully functioning, accessible website, but this isn’t necessarily true.

Although semantic web design is an important aspect of accessibility, it doesn’t end there. Designing a website accessibly is making sure that people can actually use your site, specifically people with disabilities. It allows them to read, navigate and scan your content, enabling them to become an active, participatory part of your community. Creating a pathway for voices that might not have been heard before to fully express themselves. This is a huge benefit to everybody and is of obvious significance.

You see, Wise & Hammer thinks the web is a right.

We love the web. We’re on it for a good chunk of our day. Whether we’re designing or developing, paying our bills or just goofing around it is in many ways the place where we live. We think everybody should have an opportunity to live in this neighbourhood.

Five years ago, Wise & Hammer decided to take the steps to build accessibility into each of our design projects. It’s our hope that this will help open a door for a new tier of users, allowing and encouraging them to share their ideas, talents and concerns.

However, navigating the internet is still a pretty inhospitable place for someone with a disability. We’ve moved through the early years of flash and table based designs, but even as far as we’ve come, accessibility still isn’t the standard for most web development projects.

Now it’s the law.

Well… not quite yet.

In 2005 the Ontario government passed the AODA act. Now if you’re like us, you probably aren’t up for slogging through a bunch of government legalese, so the gist in it’s most basic form is this:

By January 1, 2014 public sector organizations and large organizations shall make their Internet websites and web content conform with the World Wide Web Consortium Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0.

This is big news. It means that if your website doesn’t meet these standards by next year on January 1, you will be in violation of Ontario law and the government can actually mandate these changes upon you after the fact.

Even bigger news is that this isn’t just for Municipalities, Schools, Universities and Not for Profits. Coming on January 1, 2015 AODA rules will also apply to the Private sector.

The online world is changing and we think it’s time everyone gets on board.

You can find out how you’re effected by using the Ontario AODA Compliance Wizard