How to make information accessible
Learn how to make information easy to use for people with disabilities. Find out what is required under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA).
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The basic requirement, under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA) is to let the public and your employees know that you will make written information and other forms of communication accessible, upon request. You could include a note on your website or promotional materials, create a sign or post a notice on a bulletin board.
If a person with a disability asks for accessible information or requires communication supports, work with them to figure out how to meet their needs.
You don’t have to have accessible formats on hand, but you need to provide the information in a timely manner.
You cannot charge more for accessible formats than you do for other formats.
In some cases you don’t need to make information accessible if:
- it is not possible technically to convert a document to an accessible format (you must explain why and provide a short summary of it instead)
- the information comes from another organization
- you don’t control the information as a result of a contractual relationship that does not allow for modification of the product
- the information is found on products or product labels
How to comply
Here are examples of how the requirements apply to these four types of information:
1. Emergency and public safety information
If provided to the public, examples could include:
- emergency plans and procedures (for example, tour boat instructions on how to use a lifejacket)
- maps, warning signs and evacuation routes (for example, a map pointing out emergency exits)
- information about alarms or other emergency alerts (for example, procedure that explains what to do if you hear a hotel fire alarm)
- Maria works for a small, family-run motel. The fire escape procedures are posted on the back of every door. When a guest with vision loss asks for this information, Maria talks to the guest about his needs and walks him through the evacuation procedure.
- A property management company gives all new tenants a guide to its emergency procedures. It’s large, complex and full of legal language. Kamela has a learning disability and tells her landlord that she doesn't understand it. The property manager meets with Kamela and explains the procedures in clear language that makes them easier to understand.
- Ravi works at a wilderness tour company that takes people on hikes. His job is to review emergency procedures, including what to do if you get lost. Serena has an anxiety disorder and gets anxious in group learning situations. She tells Ravi, who offers to go over the procedures with her personally.
- Before customers start to play, Stan’s paintball and laser tag company shows a short video on what to do if someone gets hurt. A customer with hearing loss asks for an accessible format, so Stan gives her a transcript of what’s said in the video.
2. Feedback processes for the public
Instead of offering only one method for feedback (for example, hand-written letters) about how your organization provides goods, services or facilities to people with disabilities, be ready to receive feedback in other ways (for example, over the telephone, by email, questionnaires or comment cards).
- When Jerry bought a new computer, the store clerk asked him if someone could call him for a survey in a couple weeks. Jerry is Deaf and prefers communicating by email, so the clerk sent him an email with a link to their online survey.
3. Employee information
You must provide accessible workplace information when an employee with a disability asks for it. This includes:
- any information that employees need to perform their jobs
- general information that is available to all employees at work (for example, company newsletters, bulletins about company policies and health and safety information)
- information about emergency procedures
To find out what you need to do, talk to your employees with disabilities and ask them what would help make information accessible to them. The format you choose must meet the needs of the employee.
- Suzy has low vision and does not use Braille. Instead, she uses a screen reader for text, so her employer sends her the monthly staff newsletter in a structured Word file that works with her screen reader.
- Shauna works in the office of a large grocery store. Every six months, the store’s human resources department asks employees to complete an online survey about their work experiences. However, Shauna prefers communicating her feedback by speaking to someone because she is blind. To accommodate Shauna’s needs, a human resources worker calls Shauna to ask her the questions on the survey.
4. Public information
This includes all print documents and information provided to the public on web sites and handheld devices.
- Rabiha runs a small family restaurant. A blind customer calls to make a reservation and asks for a braille menu. Rabiha doesn’t have braille menus but the customer says he also uses a screen reader. Rabiha mentions that the menu is available online in a format that a screen reader can access. The customer says that will work just fine.
- Safa runs a company that makes cardboard boxes. One of Safa’s customers is Deaf. Instead of calling to place an order and confirm delivery details, Safa gives the customer her cell phone number so he can text the information to her instead.
Types of accessible formats
- HTML and Microsoft Word
- accessible audio formats
- large print
- text transcripts of visual and audio information, such a video transcript
Types of conversion-ready formats
There are electronic or digital formats that are easy to convert into accessible formats, including HTML and structured Microsoft Word files.
Speak with the person who will be using the content to determine what format to provide. They may already be aware of ways to access it or convert it. If you need to hire an external contractor to convert it, you should consider any privacy issues that may arise.
Types of communication supports
- reading the written information aloud to the person directly
- exchanging hand-written notes (or providing a note taker or communication assistant)
- captioning or audio description
- assistive listening systems
- augmentative and alternative communication methods and strategies (for example, the use of letter, word or picture boards, and reading devices that speak out loud to convey the information)
- sign language interpretation and intervenor services
- repeating, clarifying or restating information
Tools to make information accessible
Other tools to improve the accessibility of information include:
American Sign Language (ASL): Uses hand shapes, positions, facial expressions and body movements to convey meaning to people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Braille: Is a tactile system of raised dots representing letters or a combination of letters. It is used by people who are blind or deafblind and is produced using braille transcription software.
Captioning: Uses subtitles to convey the words spoken in a video. They usually appear on the bottom of the screen.
Digital Accessible Information Systems (DAISY): Is an audio format for people who have trouble with print — including limited vision and learning disabilities like dyslexia. DAISY digital talking books are like audiobooks but include navigation features to help readers skip forward or back through the material.
Screen reader software: Uses a speech-synthesizer to read text from a computer screen or convert it to braille. The information must be formatted properly (in a structured electronic file) for the screen reader to recognize it.
Structured electronic files: Includes information about how elements of the document are formatted (for example, titles, section headings). They can be created using "styles" in most standard word processing programs. Documents created as structured electronic files are easier to convert to accessible formats, including braille, Digital Accessible Information Systems (DAISY) and web pages, and allow screen readers to navigate the information effectively.
How to make educational resources accessible
Educational institutions and producers of educational or training materials have additional accessibility requirements related to educational resources.
For educational institutions
All educational and training institutions are required to:
- provide training to their educators related to accessible program or course delivery and instruction
- keep written training records that include how many people were trained and the dates when the training was provided
Educators are employees involved in designing, delivering and instructing courses. They include:
- teaching assistants
- educational assistants
- early childhood educators
- school-board staff
- parents who volunteer
- students in temporary job placements
- other people who participate in classroom activities or act in the role of an educator on a temporary or short-term basis and are not full-time employees
What to cover in your training
Training may include information about:
- different types of disabilities
- needs often associated with different types of disabilities
- barriers that students with disabilities may face in classrooms and schools
- techniques that improve the learning environment for students with disabilities
- a variety of resources and materials to use when they develop their lesson plans
A career college instructor is trained on techniques to improve the learning environment for students with disabilities. Before playing a movie in class, the instructor thinks about students with vision loss and those who are hard of hearing or Deaf.
How to provide training
The requirements are flexible. You can:
- add to a larger training program
- provide handouts
- create an online learning program
- offer workshops
Provide accessible education information
- provide, purchase or borrow accessible or conversion-ready formats of educational and training resources and materials
- provide student records and information on program requirements, availability and descriptions in an accessible format
If it is not possible to provide information in the requested format, you must provide comparable resources.
Speak with the students who will be using the content to determine what format to provide. They may already be aware of ways to access it or convert it. If you need to hire an external contractor to convert it, you should consider any privacy issues that may arise.
You must act in a timely manner when notified of the need for accessible formats.
- A high school geography teacher uses a world globe and printed maps during lessons. Savi has a visual disability and can’t see them clearly. The school has bought a tactile world map so that Savi can have a similar learning experience as the other students.
- Patricia is blind but doesn’t use braille. She prefers using a screen reader. Her professors arrange to provide copies of their lecture notes in structured Microsoft Word files or HTML, both of which work with her screen reader.
- Tyler asks his university to convert his student records to an accessible format. The registrar’s office is able to convert the records themselves. This avoids the risk of sharing Tyler’s personal information with an external contractor.
For producers of educational or training materials
When asked, you must provide Ontario educational or training institutions with accessible or conversion-ready materials: for textbooks and supplementary print resources.
If you are unable to provide the content in an accessible or conversion-ready format, you must:
- explain to your customers why you cannot convert the information
- provide a summary of the information
A university asks a publisher to provide a medical textbook in an accessible format for a student. Converting the text is straightforward. However, there is no technology to convert the complex medical images, so the publisher provides descriptions of the images.
How to make library materials accessible
Public and school libraries must provide accessible materials and resources.
Sharing accessible materials
Some school or public libraries may have large collections of accessible materials. If your library doesn’t have accessible materials for your users, you may be able to get them through an inter-library loan. You can also contact the publisher to ask if accessible formats are available.
When asked, libraries in educational and training institutions must provide, purchase or borrow accessible or conversion-ready formats, where available for print resources and materials and digital or multimedia resources and materials.
For example, a university library does not have a novel in an accessible or conversion-ready format. The librarian requests an inter-library loan for another university’s conversion-ready copy of the novel.
You do not need to provide accessible formats for:
- rare books
- special collections
- archived materials
- donated books and materials
Content that cannot be converted
To determine what format to provide, speak with the students who will be using the content. They may already be aware of ways to access it or convert it.
If it is not possible to provide information in an accessible or conversion-ready format, your library will need to:
- explain why it can’t provide the materials, as requested
- provide a summary of the information that cannot be converted
A university library does not have the graphics in a journal article in an accessible or conversion-ready format. They explain this to the student requesting the article and they agree that the librarian will provide an accessible text summary of the graphics.
You must provide accessible library materials that you control, either directly or indirectly. This includes information you receive through a contract or other formal arrangement such as:
- literary, musical, artistic and dramatic works
- pamphlets, newsletters and public library reports
- archival materials (if possible)
- special collections (if possible)
- rare books (if possible)
- donations (if possible)
How to comply
- When asked, arrange for accessible formats of existing library materials, if available (for example, large print, electronic, video, DVDs, CDs, audio and braille)
- When buying new library materials, consider the accessibility needs of your users and build collections that are accessible to the widest range of people
- Let the public know that your library provides accessible formats (for example, communicate this on the library’s website or bulletin boards)