Friday, October 21, 2011

Information and Communications Accessibility Standards - What this new regulation means to schools and school libraries

This past summer the Ontario Government filed regulation 119/11, the Integrated Accessibility Standards. O. Reg. 191/11 establishes the accessibility standards for each of the three following areas:
  • Information and Communications
  • Employment
  • Transportation
The following post is a review of the Information and Communications Standards (Part II of the regulation), and how they apply to libraries.

The new Information and Communications Standards sets out the regulatory framework for the provision of accessible formats and communications supports, and accessible web sites and web content: the Ontario Government must ensure the standards encompass both Internets and Intranets / Extranets, while the Broader Public Sector (e.g. schools) will will need to ensure that their Internet sites are standards compliant. The standards which web sites and web content must comply with now are the WCAG 2.0 Level AA standards, and compliance dates vary by institution and site.

Section 14(2) of the regulation states:
Designated 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, initially at Level A and increasing to Level AA, and shall do so in accordance with the schedule set out in this section. O. Reg. 191/11, s. 14 (2).

However, sections 15 through 18 deal specifically with educational and training resources and materials, educators, and libraries of educational and training institutions, and introduce some provisions which may be of interest.

Section 15(1) states the following:
Every obligated organization that is an educational or training institution shall do the following, if notification of need is given:
1. Provide educational or training resources or materials in an accessible format that takes into account the accessibility needs due to a disability of the person with a disability to whom the material is to be provided by,
i. procuring through purchase or obtaining by other means an accessible or conversion ready electronic format of educational or training resources or materials, where available, or
ii. arranging for the provision of a comparable resource in an accessible or conversion ready electronic format, if educational or training resources or materials cannot be procured, obtained by other means or converted into an accessible format.
2. Provide student records and information on program requirements, availability and descriptions in an accessible format to persons with disabilities.
School boards must provide educators with accessibility awareness training.

Section 18(1) focuses on the libraries if educational and training institutions, and compliance is also outlined:
...the libraries of educational or training institutions that are obligated organizations shall provide, procure or acquire by other means an accessible or conversion ready format of print, digital or multimedia resources or materials for a person with a disability, upon request...
Official copies of the full text of O. Reg. 191/11 can be viewed and downloaded at the following locations: