Government of Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Standard on Web Accessibility

1. Effective date

1.1 This standard took effect on August 1, 2011 and was updated March 31, 2013. It replaces Part 2 of the Common Look and Feel 2.0 Standards for the Internet.

2. Application

2.1 This standard applies to "departments" as defined in section 2 of the Financial Administration Act, with the exception of paragraphs (b) and (c), and unless excluded by specific acts, regulations or Orders in Council.

2.2 Section 6 applies to all Web pages:

  • That are public-facing (i.e., available to individuals and businesses outside of the Government of Canada);
  • For which the department is accountable; and
  • That are provided through Government of Canada Web sites and Web applications.

2.3 Section 6 does not apply to:

2.4 Section 6.1.1 is implemented in phases and applies as follows:

  • Phase I (August 1, 2011 – February 29, 2012)
    • All home pages and pages referenced from website and Web application home pages.
    • Significant number of Web pages that provide the most important information and services for individuals and businesses including rights and benefits.
    • Significant number of Web pages that are the most frequently used.
    • All new Web pages published post October 1, 2011 must immediately conform
  • Phase II (March 1, 2012 – July 31, 2012)
    • Additional Web pages that provide the most important information and services for individuals and businesses including rights and benefits.
    • Additional Web pages that are the most frequently used.
  • Phase III (August 1, 2012 - July 31, 2013)
    • Remaining Web pages.

2.5 Specific requirements of section 6.1.1 do not apply to:

A list of exclusions is attached in Appendix B.

2.6 Sections 7.2, 7.3 and 8.2 relating to the role of the Treasury Board Secretariat in monitoring compliance and directing consequences for non-compliance do not apply with respect to the Office of the Auditor General, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, the Office of the Information Commissioner, the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer, the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying, the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages and the Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner. The deputy heads of these organizations are solely responsible for monitoring and ensuring compliance with the standard within their organizations, as well as for responding to cases of non-compliance in accordance with any Treasury Board instruments providing principles and guidance on the management of compliance.

3. Context

3.1 The Web channel is an important part of the Government of Canada's commitment to multi-channel access and service delivery. The Government of Canada is committed to ensuring that a high level of Web accessibility is applied uniformly across its websites and Web applications.

Web technologies and standards are constantly evolving and web accessibility plays a major role in making the Government of Canada Web channel more effective and inclusive. To meet the Government of Canada commitment to Web accessibility, the Government of Canada has adopted the WCAG 2.0. The WCAG 2.0 states: "Following these guidelines will make content accessible to a wider range of people with disabilities, including blindness and low vision, deafness and hearing loss, learning disabilities, cognitive limitations, limited movement, speech disabilities, photosensitivity and combinations of these. Following these guidelines will also often make your Web content more usable to users in general."

3.2 This standard supports the Policy on Management of Information Technology and the management of GC Web presence by providing departmental Chief Information Officers (CIO) or equivalents as well as heads of communications or other officials supporting the management of IT with additional requirements to ensure consistency in IT management processes.

3.3 This standard is issued under the authority of section 7 of the Financial Administration Act by the Secretary of the Treasury Board pursuant to subsection 6(4) of the Financial Administration Act and section 3.5 of the Policy on Management of Information Technology.

3.4 This standard is to be read in conjunction with the Standard on Web Usability, the Standard on Web Interoperability and the Standard on Optimizing Websites and Applications for Mobile Devices.

4. Definitions

4.1 Definitions to be used in the interpretation of this standard are attached in Appendix A.

5. Standard statement

5.1 Objective

5.1.1 The objective of this standard is to ensure a high level of Web accessibility is applied uniformly across Government of Canada websites and Web applications.

5.2 Expected Results

5.2.1 Government of Canada websites and Web applications respect internationally accepted guidelines for Web accessibility and are measured consistently.

6. Requirements

6.1 Managers, functional specialists, and equivalents responsible for Web content or Web pages are responsible for:

6.1.1 Ensuring each Web page meets all five WCAG 2.0 conformance requirements:

A list of exclusions is attached in Appendix B.

6.2 The senior departmental official, designated by the deputy head, is responsible for:

6.2.1 Overseeing the implementation of this standard in their department and carrying out the activities referred to in 7.2.

6.3 The departmental Chief Information Officer (CIO) or equivalent is responsible for:

6.3.1 Ensuring that software and systems acquired by departments enable websites and Web applications to meet the requirements of section 6.1.1 or are modifiable to enable them to meet these requirements.

7. Monitoring and reporting requirements are as follows:

Deputy heads

7.1 Deputy heads are responsible for monitoring adherence to this standard within their departments, consistent with the provisions of the Treasury Board's Policy on Evaluation, and Policy on Internal Audit, and for ensuring that appropriate remedial action is taken to address any deficiencies within their departments.

Senior departmental official

7.2 The senior departmental official, designated by the deputy head, is responsible for supporting their deputy head by overseeing the implementation and monitoring of this standard in their department, bringing to the deputy head's attention any significant difficulties, gaps in performance or compliance issues and developing proposals to address them, and reporting significant performance or compliance issues to the Chief Information Officer Branch of Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat.

Government-wide

7.3 The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat will monitor compliance with this standard in a variety of ways, including but not limited to, the following:

  • assessments under the Management Accountability Framework;
  • examinations of Treasury Board submissions, departmental performance reports, results of audits, evaluations and studies; and
  • work performed in collaboration with departments.

7.4 Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat will review this standard and its effectiveness at the five-year mark from the effective date of the standard (or earlier if warranted).

8. Consequences

8.1 In instances of non-compliance, deputy heads are responsible for taking corrective measures, within their organization with those responsible for implementing the requirements of this standard.

8.2 Consequences of non-compliance with this standard can include any measure allowed by the Financial Administration Act that the Treasury Board would determine as appropriate and acceptable in the circumstances.

8.3 Potential corrective actions, including consequences, are included in Appendix C and align with the Framework for the Management of Compliance.

9. Roles and responsibilities of government organizations

9.1 Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (Chief Information Officer Branch), in consultation with other departments, is responsible for the following:

9.1.1 Developing standards, guidelines, and tools, and providing interpretive advice and guidance on these instruments;

9.1.2 Communicating and engaging the government-wide Web community on the plans, progress, risks and challenges associated with implementing this standard and its supporting instruments in the federal government; and

9.1.3 Providing support to the CIO Council and other committees and working groups, as necessary, to address government-wide challenges and opportunities related to implementing this standard and its supporting instruments.

9.1.4 Publishing and maintaining the list of exclusions from specific requirements of section 6.1.1.

10. References

10.1 Relevant Legislation

10.2 Related Policy Instruments and Publications

10.3 Related External Standards and Specifications

11. Enquiries

Please direct enquiries about this standard to your department's Web Standards Centre of Expertise. For interpretation of this standard, Web Standards Centres of Expertise should contact:

Web Standards Office
Chief Information Officer Branch
Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat
Ottawa ON K1A 0R5
E-mail: webstandards@tbs-sct.gc.ca


Appendix A: Definitions

Archived Web page (page web archivée)

A Web page that is:

  • maintained for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes;
  • not altered or updated after the date of archiving; and
  • stored in a digital repository.

An archived Web page may be provided on the web, but must be clearly identified as being archived.

Conforming alternate version (Version de remplacement conforme)

It is a version that:

  1. conforms at the designated level, and
  2. provides all of the same information and functionality in the same human language, and
  3. is as up to date as the non-conforming content, and
  4. for which at least one of the following is true:
    1. the conforming version can be reached from the non-conforming page via an accessibility-supported mechanism, or
    2. the non-conforming version can only be reached from the conforming version, or
    3. the non-conforming version can only be reached from a conforming page that also provides a mechanism to reach the conforming version

For further information and examples please consult the definition of conforming alternate version on the W3C Website

Content (Web content) (contenu Web)

Information and sensory experience to be communicated to the user by means of a user agent, including code or markup that defines the content's structure, presentation, and interactions (Source: Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Appendix A: Glossary.)

Government of Canada Websites and Web applications (sites Web et applications Web du gouvernement du Canada)

Websites and Web applications for which the Government of Canada is accountable.

Process (Processus)

Series of user actions where each action is required in order to complete an activity.

For further information and examples please consult the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Appendix A: Glossary

Relied upon (technologies that are) (Dépendre [des technologies])

The content would not conform if that technology is turned off or is not supported. (Source: Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Appendix A: Glossary)

Success Criteria (critères de succès)

For each guideline, testable success criteria are provided to allow WCAG 2.0 to be used where requirements and conformance testing are necessary such as in design specification, purchasing, regulation, and contractual agreements. Additional information on WCAG levels can be found in Understanding Levels of Conformance and WCAG 2.0 Layers of Guidance.

Sufficient and Advisory Techniques (techniques suffisantes et techniques recommandées)

For each of the guidelines and success criteria in the WCAG 2.0 document itself, the working group has also documented a wide variety of techniques. The techniques are informative and fall into two categories: those that are sufficient for meeting the success criteria and those that are advisory. The advisory techniques go beyond what is required by the individual success criteria and allow authors to better address the guidelines. Some advisory techniques address accessibility barriers that are not covered by the testable success criteria. Where common failures are known, these are also documented. See also Sufficient and Advisory Techniques in Understanding WCAG 2.0. (Source: Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, WCAG 2.0 Layers of Guidance.)

Technology (Web content) (technologie Web)

Mechanism for encoding instructions to be rendered, played or executed by user agents

Note 1: As used in these guidelines "Web Technology" and the word "technology" (when used alone) both refer to Web Content Technologies.

Note 2: Web content technologies may include markup languages, data formats, or programming languages that authors may use alone or in combination to create end-user experiences that range from static Web pages to synchronized media presentations to dynamic Web applications.

Example: Some common examples of Web content technologies include HTML , CSS, SVG, PNG, PDF, Flash, and JavaScript.

(Source: Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Appendix A: Glossary.)

Video content provided exclusively for reuse by media for broadcast purposes (Contenu vidéo fourni exclusivement pour être réutilisé et diffusé par les médias)

Video content provided exclusively for reuse by media for broadcast purposes (e.g. B-roll, etc)

The video content must be clearly identified as being provided exclusively for reuse by media for broadcast purposes.

Web page (page Web)

A non-embedded resource obtained from a single Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) using HTTP plus any other resources that are used in the rendering or intended to be rendered together with it by a user agent

Note 1: Although any "other resources" would be rendered together with the primary resource, they would not necessarily be rendered simultaneously with each other.

Note 2: For the purposes of conformance with these guidelines, a resource must be "non-embedded" within the scope of conformance to be considered a Web page.

For further information and examples please consult: Web page, Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Appendix A: Glossary

Appendix B: List of Exclusions: Published August 1, 2011

The following exclusions from specific requirements have been put in place for a period of time and will be updated annually as technology advances. Exclusions include:

Web content

Requirements

Complex maps (text alternatives)

WCAG 2.0 Success Criterion 1.1.1 Non-text content

Live Video Captions (closed captions) WCAG 2.0 Success Criterion 1.2.4 Captions (Live)
Audio Description (prerecorded video) except where the video provides information related to health and safety of Canadians WCAG 2.0 Success Criterion 1.2.5 Audio Description

Exclusions for a 10 business day grace period:

  • Pre-recorded videos have a 10 business day grace period from time of publication to when closed captions and transcription of videos must be provided.

Live Video Captions exclusions refer to closed captioning and transcription of live video

Audio Description (prerecorded Videos) are only required for videos that relate to health and safety of Canadians; for remaining prerecorded videos, audio description is not required.

Complex maps: A map that associates information with one or more locations that cannot be represented by postal addresses or proper names such as intersections, landmarks, cities, or regions. An example of a complex map is one that shows the location and intensity of precipitation detected by a RADAR network.

Two clarifications

  • "Essential" images of text are defined as logos, brand names and advertisements for government initiatives and marketing campaigns. As per WCAG 2.0, these "essential" images of text are not required to meet WCAG 2.0 Success Criterion 1.4.5 Images of Text.
  • WCAG 2.0 allows multiple versions of content (including videos) to be made available on websites and Web applications; however there must be at least one version (conforming alternate version) that complies with WCAG 2.0.

Appendix C: Potential corrective actions, including consequences

Recognizing that the appropriate response in instances of non-compliance must be examined on a case by case basis, the following scenarios include a non-exhaustive list of examples of corrective actions that may be taken in cases of non-compliance.

Scenario 1: Compliance scores are 95% or higher as assessed in 2013 and thereafter as per Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) reporting requirements See footnote **

Potential Corrective Actions (undertaken by deputy head or delegate):

  • Develop strategy for reaching 100% compliance score
  • Reduce Redundant, Outdated & Trivial Web pages
  • Archive Web pages, where applicable
  • Implement Web Experience Toolkit
  • Participate in government-wide collaboration to address common challenges

Potential Corrective Actions (undertaken by Treasury Board Secretariat):

  • Provide guidance
  • Lead development of the Web Experience Toolkit and facilitate government-wide collaboration

Scenario 2: Compliance scores are 90% to 94% as assessed in 2013 and thereafter as per TBS reporting requirements See footnote **

Potential Corrective Actions (undertaken by deputy head or delegate):

  • All potential corrective actions in Scenario 1
  • Senior Departmental Official (SDO) commits to corrective actions in writing to TBS, via the Government of Canada Chief Information Officer

Potential Corrective Actions (undertaken by Treasury Board Secretariat):

  • All potential corrective actions in Scenario 1
  • Government of Canada Chief Information Officer requires Senior Departmental Official to commit to corrective actions in writing to TBS and report back on the results achieved

Scenario 3: Compliance scores are 85% to 89% as assessed in 2013 and thereafter as per TBS reporting requirements See footnote **

Potential Corrective Actions (undertaken by deputy head or delegate):

  • All potential corrective actions in Scenario 1 and 2
  • Deputy Head commits to corrective actions in writing to TBS, that could include
    • Ensuring effective controls in order that SDO has authority and span of control to achieve compliance
    • Reorganizing Web publishing activities

Potential Corrective Actions (undertaken by Treasury Board Secretariat):

  • All potential corrective actions in Scenario 1 and 2
  • TB Secretary to require deputy heads to commit to corrective actions in writing to TBS and report back on the results achieved

Scenario 4: Compliance scores are 84% or lower as assessed in 2013 and thereafter as per TBS reporting requirements See footnote **

Potential Corrective Actions (undertaken by deputy head or delegate):

  • All potential corrective actions in Scenarios 1, 2 and 3

Potential Corrective Actions (undertaken by Treasury Board Secretariat):

  • All potential corrective actions in Scenarios 1, 2 and 3
  • Any other measure determined appropriate in the circumstances

** Regardless of overall compliance scores, the Treasury Board Secretariat may still take the action it deems appropriate in the case of a non-compliant website if that website provides, for instance, most important information and services for individuals and businesses.