In a previous post I described [actually the W3C described it] internationalization, localization and accessibility as it applies to Internet content. Design, licensing and redistribution considerations are important in the creation of OER to maximize the audience and to minimize issues related to reuse. Accessibility, however, does bring in another layer of complexity. A significant question is what if any laws exist in Canada that govern accessibility and Internet publishing and in general OER distribution.
The short answer is no. According to CIPPIC:
“Currently, there are no laws in Canada that explicitly require websites to comply with any set of standards that would make them accessible. Further, there are no license requirements for Websites, Online Service Providers (OSP) or even Internet Service Providers (ISP). However, some statutes impose obligations on the Federal government, federally regulated bodies and provincially regulated bodies, to make their respective websites accessible to people with disabilities.”
The latter part of the statement refers to the Federal Government “Common Look and Feel for the Internet 2.0” legislation [now enhanced with the Standard on Web Accessibility and new Standard on Web Usability. The legislation, however, does not extend to other organizations or individuals. Some provincial legislation does exist but these are also generally directed at government organizations and services.
In the end what individuals or specific organizations can turn to for support with accessibility issues is the Canadians Human Rights Act. But even here the act is limited in scope and again according to CIPPIC :
“The Act covers departments and agents of the federal government as well as crown corporations. The Act also covers federally regulated organizations, including chartered banks, airlines, television and radio broadcast stations, interprovincial communications and telephone companies, first nations and other federally industries like mining. Thus, the Act can only be applied to the websites of organizations that come within the categories above.”
The basic interpretation then applies…if a service or product is provided for sale then the laws have to be followed. The question is whether or not what you produce [a website for example] falls within this category. An informational site intended to be used as a resource by teachers may not. This may absolve you of any responsibility to make your site accessible from a legal standpoint but what moral obligation do we have.
In general terms then individuals and organizations like schools or school divisions in Canada are left to themselves to decide to incorporate accessibility in design and distribution. It can make good business and operational sense to consider accessibility but it is not required. From a philosophical point of view educational institutions would seem to have a greater burden to make content accessible but in practice this is not as easy as it seems. As Jonathan Bauer states in his posting [Continuous Learning] on the same topic and with respect to the tools suggested [from the US Section 508 website] that can be used to improve accessibility:
“My reaction after spending time reviewing some of the tools available to promote accessibility via Section 508 (see: tools and resources). My initial skim through some of these tools reveals that they will require a higher technical ability from the user.”
Organizations and individuals are left then to either pay a third-party that has the technical expertise and know-how to create your internet presence or to develop the expertise required. I know from first hand experience that this does not often happen in K12 school divisions. Even if they purchase service from a third party.
So left to our individual or collective responsibility who do we turn to? Once again the W3C comes up big. Make a decision as to what degree you will make the content accessible [let your conscience be your guide] and follow the guidelines set out by the W3C as much as possible.
Checkpoints for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0