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Here at the Canadian Digital Service, we’re committed to building accessible and inclusive services. Building accessible services means meeting everyone’s needs regardless of the channel they use.
Our research, design and development decisions are not neutral. Every decision either raises or lowers barriers to participation. We must make decisions that lower barriers to create inclusive products, services, environments, and experiences. Our goal, for whatever we’re working on, is to make it better than it was yesterday.
Inclusive design is more than meeting accessibility compliance. It is much more than checking a few boxes to make sure colour and contrast ratios meet standards. Inclusive design starts at the very beginning of any project, before pixels get pushed, before pens even hit sketchbooks. From the start, we work with the people who will use a product, including people with disabilities. We work across all disciplines — blurring the lines between research, development, design, and accessibility.
“Disability is not just a health problem. It is a complex phenomenon, reflecting the interaction between features of a person’s body and features of the society in which he or she lives.”
–World Health Organization
At a minimum, our services need to meet level AA of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 (WCAG 2.1). We’ve created this information to meet and, in some cases, exceed that standard. Apply a service-design lens to ensure your service is accessible across all channels involved. As well, your service needs to work on the most common browsers, platforms and devices people will use to access your service. You must also make sure your service works with common assistive technologies.
About our guidelines
The following guidelines aim to help everyone at CDS, including our partners, create accessible and inclusive services for everyone.
In creating these guidelines, we have drawn from the work of the Government Digital Service in the United Kingdom, 18F in the United States, Digital Transformation Agency in Australia and the Ontario Digital Service and adapted it to meet our needs and priorities. We will regularly add to and improve this guide.
Principles of Accessibility
- Put people first; follow inclusive design principles to provide equal access by providing a comparable experience to humans with diverse abilities
- Include accessibility from the start of service design
- Strive to have a clear purpose and well-defined goals
- Ensure that content is clear, use plain language
- Provide helpful wayfinding —help people navigate to relevant content
- Accommodate a range of people’s needs by providing choice and flexibility
- Include people with disabilities in user research, design, and testing of services
- Use solid structure by building to standards: work to exceed WCAG 2.1 AA
- Test the online parts of a service for compatibility with assistive technologies
- Have champions for accessibility on product teams and internal support teams
- Resources should be compatible with current and future tools, include redundant modalities by offering choice
- Providing a community feedback layer to partners, users or other stakeholders, such as an accessibility statement, to continually improve services
Together we can build more inclusive and accessible services.