Please note, the Accessibility Toolkit was last updated in 2014. Recommendations included in the Toolkit may not reflect current standards or best practices.

AODA and university libraries


This section of the toolkit addresses key questions pertaining to law and administration and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, S.O. 2005, ch.11 (AODA) as they relate to university libraries. It is intended to provide library personnel with basic information, links to useful resources and relevant legislations, and working examples to consider when applying the AODA standards in their local contexts.

This toolkit does not provide definitive answers, but instead provides a series of questions and supplemental information for library personnel to consider and take to their internal legal counsel.

What is the AODA?

The goal of the AODA is to make Ontario accessible by 2025 through the development, implementation, and enforcement of standards relating to five areas: customer service, employment, information and communications, transportation, and the design of public spaces.

The Accessibility Standards for Customer Service, O.Reg. 429/07 (Customer Service Standard) is already in effect. The deadline for compliance was December 31, 2010.

The other four standards are part of the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation, O.Reg. 191/11 (IASR). Sections of the IASR that are particularly relevant to libraries are discussed briefly in the following sections.

Where can I learn more about the AODA?

Customer Service Standard

About the standard

At a high level, this standard requires libraries to develop policies, practices and procedures on the provision of goods and services to persons with disabilities that are consistent with the following principles (from Section 3: Establishment of policies, practices and procedures):

  1. The goods or services must be provided in a manner that respects the dignity and independence of persons with disabilities.
  2. The provision of goods or services to persons with disabilities and others must be integrated unless an alternate measure is necessary, whether temporarily or on a permanent basis, to enable a person with a disability to obtain, use or benefit from the goods or services.
  3. Persons with disabilities must be given an opportunity equal to that given to others to obtain, use and benefit from the goods or services

These principles provide good criteria for assessing services and supports in a wide range of contexts including information and communication accessibility.

Relevant sections

What does the Customer Service Standard require university libraries to do?

  • Section 4: Use of service animals and support persons
    ​Permit the use of both guide dogs and support persons by persons with disabilities on library premises
  • Section 5: Notice of temporary disruptions
    Provide public notice of any temporary disruption to library services, including duration of the disruption and alternative access to services, and post it both in print and electronic format in conspicuous places.
  • Section 6: Training for staff
    Provide training on accessible customer service to all library employees who have contact with the public, as well as staff who develop library services and policies dealing with the provision of public services
  • Section 7: Feedback process for providers of goods or services
    Create a feedback process for receiving and responding to feedback from individuals with disabilities by telephone, in writing, or through e-mail regarding the accessibility service provision.
  • Section 8: Notice of availability of documents
    Notify all library users of the availability of documents in an accessible format upon request. This notice may be posted in a conspicuous place on the premises, on the library’s website, or by other suitable methods.
  • Section 9: Format of documents
    Provide a copy of the requested document, or the information contained in the document, in a format that takes into account the person’s disability.

Frequently asked questions

Do my library’s student helpers, temporary employees, and volunteers need to be trained in providing accessible customer service?

Yes, if these individuals have contact with the public or are developing policies and procedures for public services. Refer to the Customer Service Standard, Section 6: Training for staff.

Where can I learn more about the AODA Customer Service Standard?

Useful resources include:

Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (IASR)

About the regulation

As with the Customer Service Standard, your university may already be addressing a number of the IASR requirements. While it is valuable to review and develop library- specific information and communication-related policies and practices, you may wish to confer with your University AODA officer to coordinate your plans with existing campus initiatives.

Relevant sections

What does the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (IASR) require university libraries to do?

  • Section 11: Feedback
    Ensure that the processes for receiving and responding to feedback are available to persons with disabilities in accessible formats or with appropriate communication supports, on request. This only applies if there is a process for receiving and responding to feedback.
    Compliance date: January 1, 2014
  • Section 12: Accessible formats and communication supports
    Provide information and communicate in accessible manner about their goods, services or facilities to people with disabilities upon request in a way which meets the following criteria:
    • In a timely manner which recognizes that persons with disabilities may require more time to assimilate the requested information
    • At no additional cost than paid by other persons
    • Persons making the request are consulted regarding suitable accessible formats
    • The public is notified regarding the availability of accessible formats

    Compliance date: January 1, 2015

  • Section 14: Accessible websites and web content
    Library websites and web content posted since January 1, 2012 must conform to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level A by January 1, 2014 and Level AA by January 1, 2021.
    Compliance date: January 1, 2014: new internet websites and web content
    Compliance date: January 1, 2021: all internet websites and web content
  • Section 15: Educational and training resources
    Provide educational or training resources in an accessible format upon request to a person with a disability in a format that takes their accessibility needs into account, either by purchasing them or acquiring them through other means. If these resources cannot be procured or converted into an accessible format, a comparable and accessible resource must be provided.
    Compliance date: January 1, 2013

  • Section 18: Libraries of education and training institutions
    Provide or procure accessible versions of print-based materials in their collections when requested by a person with a disability beginning on January 1, 2015. By January 1, 2020, this will be expanded to include accessible versions of digital and multimedia materials.
    Compliance date: January 1, 2015: print-based resources or materials
    Compliance date: January 1, 2020: digital or multimedia resources or materials

Frequently asked questions

What are some examples of accessible formats and communication supports?

Accessible formats include “large print, recorded audio and electronic formats, braille and other formats usable by persons with disabilities.”

Communication supports include “captioning, alternative and augmentative communication supports, plain language, sign language…”

Do the Integrated Standards provide a standard for document accessibility similar to their use of the WCAG 2.0 as a best practice for Web accessibility?

Beyond the accessible formats listed above, no accessible document definition or standard is given in the Integrated Accessibility Standards to guide document creation practices. However, the general principles of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 can be adapted to provide best practices for accessible document creation.

What are some common document accessibility issues?

Common issues include:

  • Use of bolding and font size to indicate headings rather than actual heading styles, thus making it harder for screen reader users to navigate documents
  • Image files in documents lacking alternative text ‘tags,’ so that the image content cannot be deduced by screen reader users
  • Insufficient contrast between the text and background, or use of colour combinations that individuals who are colourblind find difficult to distinguish
  • Scanning a document into a PDF such that it is a ‘flat’ or no-text PDF, containing only the image of text as opposed to actual text. Flat PDFs cannot be accessed by screen reader users.

Do we have to provide accessible articles through our online catalogue and journal databases even if they haven’t been requested by a user?

Section 14 of the IASR is limited to web content “…that an organization controls directly or through a contractual relationship that allows for modification of the product.” Therefore, journal articles and other web-based electronic documents that are purchased from external vendors are outside the scope of this section. However, Section 5 of the IASR requires institutions to “incorporate accessibility criteria and features” when acquiring goods when practicable, so libraries should start thinking about accessibility considerations when purchasing content from software vendors and publishers.

What exactly does WCAG 2.0 Level A require us to do our website?

There are numerous, reliable websites that provide a simplified guide to understanding and implementing the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, including:

Do the documents and videos on electronic reserve and in our University’s Learning Management System have to be made accessible under IASR Web accessibility requirements?

If these resources are behind authentication, this is probably not the case. Section 14 of the IASR only requires the provincial government to make its ‘Intranet’ material accessible. Given the definition of intranet in the Integrated Standards (“…an organization’s internal website that is used to privately and securely share any part of the organization’s information or operational systems within the organization…”), the prevailing interpretation is that electronic reserves and learning management systems fall into this category and are therefore exempt from Section 14 but not Section 12 or Section 15. Before adopting this position, you should consult first with your institution’s AODA officer and legal counsel.

We couldn’t revise our website to meet all the WCAG 2.0 guidelines by January 1, 2012. Should we be concerned?

According to Section 14, web accessibility requirements only apply to areas where meeting them is practicable. The section provides a partial definition of practicability indicating that organizations may consider, "...among other things, (a) the availability of commercial software or tools or both; and (b) significant impact on an implementation timeline that is planned or initiated before January 1, 2012." Therefore, a library could cite practicability in deciding not to automatically provide audio description or descriptive transcripts for web-based video because of the lack of commercial software or tools for generating them.

Since the definition of practicability given in Section 14 is somewhat open-ended, other factors could reasonably be considered as well, such as expense, staff resources, or the relative importance of document/multimedia content and whether this content is duplicated elsewhere in an accessible format. Ontario Human Rights legislation already includes an Undue Hardship Standard, which stipulates that students with disabilities have a right to be accommodated up to the point of undue hardship for the institution; costs are cited as one factor in determining what constitutes undue hardship.

When considering if or how to integrate practicability into your web accessibility policy, it would be important to consult your University AODA officer and legal counsel to ensure that your practices are congruent with your institution’s policies.

We have never received a request from a student with a disability to provide accessible versions of their course textbooks and training materials. Do we need to create accessible-format course materials service to comply with Section 15 of the Integrated Accessibility Standards?

Check with your campus accessibility services office – if you’re not providing this service, it is likely that they are doing so.

We have web-based resources in our collection that could fall under Section 14 but could conceivably also fall under Sections 12, 15 or 18. Do we need to make the resources accessible by January 1, 2014 in accordance with Section 14 or, as stipulated in the other sections, do we wait until we receive a request from an individual with a disability?

A reasonable solution to this issue is to treat any resources that are posted on a library’spublicly-accessible website in accordance with Section 14 (for instance, automatically make them accessible) regardless of their subject matter or whether they are part of a library’s collection. Otherwise, categorizing web-based library resources as Section 12Section 15, or Section 18 materials quickly reduces Section 14 to a meaningless category.

What if a person who is not registered with our University’s accessibility services office asks for a print, digital or multimedia resource to be made accessible?

The immediate concern is verifying their disability claim. This is a good discussion to have with your University’s AODA officer.

Where can I learn more about the AODA Integrated Accessibility Standard?

Useful general resources include:

Useful document accessibility resources include: