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Home  »  Resource Center  »  Country Profiles  »  White Paper - Web Accessibility Policy Making  »  Country Profile - Canada

Web Accessibility Policy Making:
An International Perspective

This document is an excerpt from the G3ict White Paper “Web Accessibility Policy Making: An International Perspective,” (Revised Edition 2012) researched and edited by Nirmita Narasimhan of Centre for Internet & Society, India, in collaboration with accessibility and disability policy experts from around the world. The paper seeks to identify some of the initiatives and best practices which have been adopted by 14 countries and the European Union as a first step towards policy formulation for countries.

You can read the full report here. View the complete list of publications and reports here.


Canada has a combination of web accessibility standards and human rights legislations that stipulate accessibility requirements. These guidelines apply to all government departments, ministries and agencies but not to private organizations. Canada has also established mechanisms for updating the guidelines and monitoring adherence to the standards. Canada has signed and ratified the UNCRPD.

1. Overview

Canada has one important set of standards known as the "Common Look and Feel Standards for the Internet" (CLF standards) under which it has adopted much of the WCAG 1.0. The standards also address additional accessibility issues not covered by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). The standards comprise four parts - Web Addresses, Accessibility, Interoperability and Usability of Websites, and Standard on Common Web Page Formats and Email. Where it is not possible to make the content accessible, the standard directs institutions to provide an accessibility notice outlining inaccessible sections and alternative ways by which users may obtain accessible content. Additional human rights legislations that advocate accessibility and other offices and reports that deal with the issue include:

  • The Employment Equity Act14 and the Treasury Board Policy on the Duty to Accommodate Persons with Disabilities in the Federal Public Service
  • Task Force on Access to Information for Print-Disabled Canadians
  • The Canadian Human Rights Act,16 which prohibits disability as a ground for discrimination and provides for accommodation short of undue hardship. It also states that access to goods, services and facilities must not be denied to any individual on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination.
  • Communications Policy of the Government of Canada
  • Industry Canada's Assistive Devices Office, which works with private sector entities, including telecom companies and banking institutions, encouraging them to enhance the accessibility of their products, systems and services.

2. Compliance with WCAG:

The CLF standards are aligned with the WCAG. They emphasize adapting to Priority 1 and 2 of WCAG 1.0 (double A conformance level)

3. Applicability:

The CLF standards are applicable to all institutions listed in schedules I, I.1 and 2 of the Financial Administration Act, which essentially includes all government departments and ministries and agencies but no private organizations.

4. Protocol for evaluating and monitoring:

Deputy heads of all the institutions are responsible for implementation in their respective institutions. Consistent with the requirements above, deputy heads will monitor adherence to this standard within their institutions, taking direction from the Treasury Board's ‘Active Monitoring Policy, Evaluation Policy and Policy on Internal Audit'. Some of the compliance requirements include adherence to WCAG, use of and conformance to XHTML 1.0 Strict and CSS 1.0 as baseline technologies, and the availability of accessible alternate versions and accessibility notices. The Treasury Board Secretariat monitors compliance with all aspects of this standard in a variety of ways, including but not limited to assessments under the Management Accountability Framework, examinations of Treasury Board Submissions, Departmental Performance Reports and results of audits, evaluations and studies.

5. Mechanism for updation:

The Treasury Board of Canada delegates to the President of the Treasury Board the power to amend, revoke or add to the approved CLF Standards for the internet. The Treasury Board is to be kept informed of updates and amendments. The Discrimination Prevention Branch is responsible for all aspects of prevention and communications activities, as well as ensuring that federally regulated employers meet the requirement of the Employment Equity Act.

6. Links:
1. Common Look and Feel Standards for Internet
http://goo.gl/ZQDYq / http://goo.gl/vRCxz

2. Canadian Human Rights Act of 1977

3. Task Force on Access to Information for Print-Disabled Canadians

4. Web Accessibility in Canada
http://goo.gl/nJVxF / http://goo.gl/G93zw / http://goo.gl/ieak1