For Federal Departments
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What is the Jodhan ruling (Federal Departments)?
Ms. Jodhan, who is legally blind, took the Federal Government to court in 2007 claiming that Federal Department websites were not accessible to disabled Canadians thus barring them from key government services. She claimed that the practice violated her right to equality under the Charter. On November 29, 2010, the Federal Court rendered its decision and found that there was a violation. It also found that this inability to access websites was representative of a system wide failure by government institutions to implement the Common Look and Feel Standards (web standards applicable to all Federal Government sites). The Federal Court ordered the government to make its sites accessible "within a reasonable time period, such as 15 months" (by February 29, 2012). The Federal Court also recommended the adoption of the internationally recognized Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. The ruling dictated that it would supervise the implementation of its order and directed the Government to demonstrate how it has complied with the order by February 29th, 2012.
The implementation will take place as follows:
- Phase 1: By February 29, 2012, we are required to focus on what is "important to Canadians" first by converting the following website content:
- Web pages and web applications that provide the most important information, including rights and benefits, health and safety.
- Web pages and web applications that are the most frequently used.
- Website home pages and pages referenced from website home pages.
- Phase 2: By February 2013, we must convert additional content and applications (TBD) to WCAG 2.0.
- Phase 3: By February 2014, all remaining content and applications must be converted to WCAG 2.0.
- The Attorney General of Canada filed an appeal of the Jodhan decision on December 29, 2010, with the Federal Court of Appeal. However, it is important to note that even though an appeal has been filed, the 106 government institutions captured by the Federal Court order are still bound to comply with the order and make their Websites accessible by the deadlines stipulated.
- On February 9, 2011, the Court released an amended judgment, and reasons for judgment, indicating that the order regarding web accessibility applies to 106 government departments and agencies, and not the 146 departments and agencies referred to in the original judgment. The number "106" is meant to correspond with the number of departments and agencies listed in Schedules I, I.1 and II of the Financial Administration Act. In addition, with respect to the scope of the remedy, it was clarified that the order to make Websites accessible did not to apply to "stored government historical and/or archived information".
What are the Federal Accessibility Standards?
Federal accessibility standards are part of the Common, Look and Feel 2.0 guidelines issued by Treasury Board. These standards were drawn from the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) recommended by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an international web standards body. The intention of the standards are to provide approaches to web development that allow both able and disabled people to access the same information and services through web sites.
The standards consist of a number of web design and programming approaches that ensure text, images, forms, search functionality, information processing and interactive functionality are done in a way in which people with disabilities can interpret or access it. They range from simple alterations to the colour contrast of the site's design, to how audio and video content is rendered, to how forms should be programmed, to the type of HTML a content management system outputs.