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Compliance Management Guide: Processes and Challenges

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Beyond the moral reasons to make your website accessible for people with disabilities, there is a legal obligation as well. But the myriad of legal and regulatory requirements — spanning not just accessibility, but also privacy, data protection and other considerations — can make it difficult to navigate the complex task of making your website compliant.  However, there are steps you can take towards making your website compliant with those regulations and navigating the challenges associated with website compliance. That way, you can enhance your website while, of course, avoiding those hefty penalties associated with non-compliance. 

Understanding Website Compliance

First, what is website compliance? When we talk about website compliance, what we’re referring to is the process of making sure that your website adheres to all the legal requirements that are relevant to your organization’s compliance requirements Though accessibility is a huge component of website compliance, it’s only one piece of the puzzle. Consider, for instance, privacy laws such as Canada’s Personal Information Protection Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) and the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Privacy laws like these govern how a company’s website such as yours handles personal data. Further, many industry guidelines suggest that websites should also adhere to e-commerce, copyright and plagiarism, and anti-spam laws, the most prevalent of which is the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation. The industry in which your website operates also comes into play, as there might be industry-specific regulations that you need to consider when it comes to compliance. For websites that operate in the health care industry, for instance, there’s the Health Insurance Privacy and Portability Act (HIPPA).  However, while there are different considerations, accessibility emerges as the overarching one, which we will focus on the most. When we discuss accessibility legislation we’re referring to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), the Accessible Canada Act (ACA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the European Accessibility Act (EAA), all of which include mandates for the accessibility of websites, apps and digital platforms. While the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) developed and continuously updated by the World Wide Web Consortium are not legally binding, they are used by many accessibility laws as the standard guideline.  Understanding your legislative requirements may seem like an arduous task, but there are concrete steps you can take to manage compliance.

The Process for Managing Website Compliance

It starts with identifying the regulations that are relevant to your website, depending on your industry, country and visitor demographics — and, more importantly, determining the requirements that you have to comply with based on these regulations. Once you identify your requirements, you can then take the necessary steps.
  1. Conduct an audit of what you have so far and identify what else you need to fulfill the regulations. 
  2. Develop the necessary policies and procedures (accessibility policy, privacy policy, etc.) to ensure compliance. 
  3. Roll out compliance training to your IT department and any other employees involved in website management so that everyone understands the legal requirements. 
  4. Consult with experts to decipher the niche areas of website compliance, such as accessibility. At Accessibility Partners Canada, we have hands-on experience guiding businesses through their website compliance with the AODA, the ACA and other relevant accessibility legislation. 

Challenges in Maintaining Website Compliance 

Maintaining website compliance is manageable, but it’s not without its challenges. The most common issue is navigating the legal requirements relevant to your website — especially when we consider the overlapping legislations in play. Adding to the issue is the fact that regulatory requirements can change, just as technologies and digital trends evolve as well.  When it comes to digital accessibility, implementing the necessary technical elements to make your website accessible and meets the WCAG standard, as prescribed by accessibility legislation — including alternative text on web images, sufficient colour contrast and keyboard navigation, to name a few — can also prove to be a challenge.  Finally, it’s important to regularly audit your website for accessibility compliance, but this can be a task easier said than done. While automated website testing tools can be useful, they may not accurately catch all of your accessibility issues especially as new barriers may come up.

How to Overcome Common Website Compliance Challenges 

While challenges exist when it comes to website accessibility compliance, there are steps you can take to overcome them. For starters, involve native assistive technology users and people with disabilities in your website auditing process. This would allow you to ensure that you catch any accessibility issues that could potentially impact compliance and which automated testing tools can miss.  It’s important to note that regulatory compliance is an ongoing process, especially when we consider the fact that legal requirements can change as technology continues to evolve. Therefore, you should also be keeping a close eye on the legal landscape, regularly auditing your website, and consulting with experts who can help you make sense of your regulatory requirements. Book a consultation with Accessibility Partners Canada and together we can help you in your journey towards website compliance.

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