Legal Requirements

Learn about the legal requirements around accessibility in digital content under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and the Ontario Human Rights Code.


The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognizes accessibility of information and communication technology as a human right. There are two main laws about accessibility in Ontario: the Ontario Human Rights Code (OHRC) and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

In Ontario, the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (IASR) of the AODA sets legal requirements for organizations in the “broader public sector” and to “educational or training institutions.”

The following AODA requirements relate to technology used within colleges and universities:

  • They must think about accessibility when buying goods and services. Section 5 of the AODA says that organizations must “incorporate accessibility design, criteria and features when procuring or acquiring goods, services or facilities, except where it is not practicable to do so.” O. Reg. 191/11, s. 5 (1); O. Reg. 413/12, s. 4 (1).
  • Websites that the public can access must conform with WCAG 2.0 Level AA. This is interpreted to include applications and social media accounts. O. Reg. 191/11, s. 14 (2).
  • When someone asks for it, they must give educational or training resources or materials in an accessible format that meets the needs of the person with a disability. This must be done by getting a conversion-ready electronic format or arranging to give comparable resources in an accessible format. Conversion-ready means information in an electronic format that is easily converted into an accessible format (e.g. HTML and structured Word files). O. Reg. 191/11, s. 15 (1).
  • Organizations that produce educational or training textbooks must make accessible or conversion-ready versions available. O. Reg. 191/11, s. 17 (1).
  • Libraries of educational institutions must provide conversion-ready formats upon request. O. Reg. 191/11, s. 18 (1).
  • Report on how they are following AODA requirements by December 31, 2021.

By law, “conversion-ready” means that an electronic or digital format facilitates conversion into an accessible format. For example, a conversion-ready document might be in Microsoft Word or HTML.

There are some exceptions to these general obligations, such as:

  • Where it is not practicable to incorporate accessibility criteria into procurement
  • Information that the institution does not control directly or indirectly
  • Special collections and rare books

For further details, consult eCampus Ontarios Digital Accessibility Toolkit.


In Ontario, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) makes reference to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines as a framework to ensure the accessibility of digital content.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)

  • Developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), WCAG is a set of guidelines that establishes a universally recognized standard for web accessibility.
  • WCAG has three levels of conformance—A, AA, and AAA—indicating increasing levels of accessibility requirements. The AODA currently relies on Level AA conformance for publicly facing websites.
  • The acronym for the four key WCAG principles is POUR:
    • Perceivable: Information and user interface components must be presented in ways that users can perceive.
    • Operable: User interface components and navigation must be operable.
    • Understandable: Information and operation of the user interface must be understandable.
    • Robust: Content must be robust enough that it can be reliably interpreted by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.
  • WCAG is informative. However, creating and delivering accessible content goes beyond meeting WCAG criteria. It’s best to view WCAG as a helpful resource, instead of a mandatory checklist.

WCAG can also be extrapolated to non-web information and communications technology (see Guidance on Applying WCAG 2.0 to Non-Web Information and Communications Technologies, as an example).

Other international standards

There are a few different international standards of accessibility in technology. WCAG, Section 508, and ETSI 301 549 are the most prominent and work well together. While there are differences among the standards, they all have similar underlying principles.

  • ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute) EN 301 549 standards, issued by the European Commission, define functional accessibility requirements that can apply to different information and communications technology (ICT) products and services.
  • Section 508 (from the US Rehabilitation Act) mandates that federal agencies make their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities.

Additional Information