Most public, private, and non-profit organizations that operate in Manitoba (Canada's fifth-most populous province) must comply with the Accessibility for Manitobans Act (AMA). Like other provincial non-discrimination laws — most notably, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) — the AMA requires businesses to maintain accessible websites and other digital resources.
Needless to say, if your business operates in Manitoba, you’ll need to review your web content to make sure that it follows the AMA’s standards. Below, we’ll explain some of the requirements of the law.
What is the Accessibility for Manitobans Act?
Enacted in 2013, the Accessibility for Manitobans Act is a set of laws intended to remove barriers for people with disabilities. It establishes the Accessibility Advisory Council, which recommends accessibility standards to an appointed minister. After a period of public review, the minister determines whether or not the standard should become law.
The Accessibility Advisory Council has established committees to create standards focused on five areas:
- Customer Service
- Information and Communications
- Design of Public Spaces
While employers must comply with all of these standards, we’re focusing on the information and communications standard (which includes website accessibility) for the purposes of this article. For guidance on other AMA standards, visit Manitoba’s Disabilities Issues Office resources page.
Does the Accessibility for Manitobans Act require WCAG compliance?
Yes, the AMA requires conformance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
On April 22, 2022, Manitoba published the Accessible Information and Communication Standard Regulation (PDF), which requires that “an organization’s web content must meet or exceed the standards set out in WCAG 2.1 Level AA.”
This requirement is effective if any of the following statements are true:
- The web content is published on or after April 22, 2022.
- The web content is required to access the organization’s goods and services.
The standard contains exceptions for certain situations. For example, if the organization does not have direct control over its web content, they may be exempt. Additionally, if meeting WCAG 2.1 Level AA would result in “undue hardship,” the organization is not required to meet the standard.
Of course, organizations must prove that meeting WCAG constitutes an “undue hardship" to qualify for this exemption. Given that most of the guidelines in WCAG are aligned with the best practices of web design, the safest course of action is to follow WCAG 2.1 Level AA.
What accessibility issues could cause AMA compliance violations?
WCAG 2.1 is the most widely cited international standard for digital accessibility. Published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), it contains 78 success criteria, which are written as testable statements.
These success criteria are organized by three levels of conformance: Level A (least strict and most essential for accessibility), Level AA, and Level AAA (most strict). Generally, websites and mobile apps that meet all Level A and Level AA criteria are considered reasonably accessible for most users with disabilities.
Some examples of common WCAG 2.1 Level AA conformance failures include:
- Missing image alternative text (also called alt text), which describes visual content for people who use screen readers and other assistive technologies.
- Missing captions on videos and other multimedia content.
- Keyboard accessibility issues, which affect the navigation experience for people who don’t use a mouse.
- Low-contrast text, which may make text unreadable for people with color vision deficiencies and other vision disabilities.
This is not a complete list of potential accessibility issues. For more guidance, read: The 5 Most Common Website Accessibility Issues (And How To Fix Them)
WCAG can help Manitoban businesses reach a wider audience
If your business operates in Manitoba, you should test your content regularly against WCAG 2.1 Level AA standards. Since other provincial non-discrimination laws (such as the AODA and the Nova Scotia Accessibility Act) use WCAG as a framework, following WCAG may significantly reduce your accessibility compliance risks.
Compliance is an important consideration, but it’s not the only factor to keep in mind: About one in five Canadians aged 15 years and older have one or more disabilities. Every organization has an ethical responsibility to create accessible content for these individuals — and ignoring 20% of your potential audience isn’t great for business.
To begin creating a sustainable digital accessibility strategy, download the Ultimate Guide to Web Accessibility or see how your website compares to WCAG 2.1 Level AA standards with our free automated accessibility analysis.