This archived Web page remains online for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. This page will not be altered or updated. Web pages that are archived on the Internet are not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards. As per the Communications Policy of the Government of Canada, you can request alternate formats of this page on the Contact Us page.
Possible Purposes Include:
Access to publications for people using screen readers.
Providing text transcripts of multi-media content.
Multi-media content as an alternative to text for people with learning disabilities and low literacy skills.
Real-time distribution of information.
The Internet has opened up a whole new world of information for many people with disabilities.
For people who are blind or have low vision and for some people with learning disabilities, the Internet is an opportunity to access information previously available only in print format. Through the use of a wide range of new technologies such as screen readers that interpret text, web pages can be quickly converted to Braille, audio or large print.
For people who are deaf or hard of hearing, email and chat rooms have become alternatives to the telephone.
Just as significant is the emergence of multi-media on the web in which video and audio are used to convey information as an alternative to text.
In short, the Internet is helping to provide universal access to information.
However, there are two important points to consider in the delivery of web information.
Not everyone has access to the Internet: While it is true more people are going online every day, the Internet cannot be viewed as the answer to providing access for all clients. Automatically directing every enquiry to the web would not be appropriate. Be sure to first ask clients if they have web access.
The web needs to be made accessible: Full access through the Internet is only possible when web pages are produced so they can be accurately converted to other formats. For example, if a text explanation does not accompany a graphic, the meaning behind the graphic cannot be interpreted by a person using a screen reader.
Due to the popularity of the Internet, the role of government webmasters has become critical to information delivery.
Barriers to web accessibility
If a website has not been designed with accessibility in mind, there are many barriers faced by people with disabilities. Common accessibility problems include:
Images without alternativetext.
PDF files not also available in HTML format.
Uncaptioned audio or undescribed video.
Lack of alternative information for users who cannot access frames or scripts.
Tables that are difficult to decipher.
Poor colour contrast.
Text sizes and styles that cannot be easily changed by the user.
Content not presented in a logical reading order.
Mandatory website design for accessibility
Government of Canada (GoC) websites must follow the Common Look and Feel (CLF) Policy issued by the Treasury Board of Canada.
The CLF Standards and Guidelines are designed to ensure that all Canadians, regardless of ability, geographic location or demographic category, are given equal access to information on GoC Websites.
Accessibility requirements include text equivalents for non-textual elements, such as graphics, images, navigational aids and sound tracks.
The accessibility requirements of CLF are based partly on a set of international web guidelines produced by the "Web Accessibility Initiative" (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Canada is a sponsor of WAI.
Testing your websites for accessibility
There are a number of services,both public and private, that will test your websites for accessibility.
Demonstrations of the accessibility of federal government websites can be arranged through the Website Accessibility Testing Service (WATS) established by the Chief Information Officer's Branch of the Treasury Board Secretariat.
Won't accessibility make websites less attractive?
Accessible websites can be just as attractively designed as those that are inaccessible. The guidelines ensure that all kinds of websites, including those using multi-media, work for all users. The goal is not to be different, but rather to be flexible enough so that users with different needs and equipment can still access the information.
Why can't I just produce a text-only version for websites?
While viewed as a solution several years ago, producing a separate version of your website as text-only is not recommended for several reasons:
It is not needed on accessible websites.
It sends the wrong message, treating your audiences differently.
Text-only pages are often not updated at the same time as "primary" pages or as often.
Text-only pages often do not contain the same information as the "primary" pages.
What about PDF files?
Although newer software to produce files in Portable Document Format (PDF) is designed to increase accessibility, using PDF as the only format for a publication is not appropriate.
Ensure that an accessible HTML format accompanies all PDF files.
Does it cost more to make websites accessible?
Not if you plan ahead. Building accessibility into the architecture of a website from the beginning will eliminate the need for costly changes later.
Some aspects of accessibility, such as the use of style sheets that automatically format all text in the same way, will save time and money.
The cost of producing accessible websites will vary greatly, depending upon the size of the site, the complexity and the authoring tools used for design. These same variables would also apply to non-accessible sites.