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Accessibility at HWDSB

Accessible Sign at Reception

A sign at the HWDSB Education Centre reception desk reads: “Let us know if you need accommodation”.

Please read and review the Accessibility guidelines below.

Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact:

Sarah Lennox, Web & Graphic Designer
Communications and Community Engagement
905-527-5092 x2219

View the Compliance Timeline
View Accessibility Resources


Barrier-free HWDSB

As a public organization, HWDSB has a legal responsibility to communicate in an accessible way. Corporate Communications wants everyone, regardless of ability, to find the information they need.

Creating a barrier-free HWDSB requires safe and accessible schools as well as accessible communication materials like signs, ads, flyers, brochures, websites, emails and more.

“The ‘keep it simple’ principle should be the primary goal of site and content design. Users are rarely on a site to enjoy the design and the images; futhermore, in most cases, they are looking for the information despite the design. Strive for simplicity instead of complexity”.

How do we do this?

  • Readability/Font sizes and styles – use simple, sans-serif fonts like Calibri and/or Legacy Sans. Avoid complicated or decorative fonts. Choose standard fonts with easily recognizable upper- and lowercase characters. For font size, use 12pt as a minimum and 14-16pt for headings. Avoid underlining when content is printed. Use clear and consistent headings.
  • Contrast – high-contrast colours make reading easier. Black text on a white background is the best way to ensure everyone can read your document.
  • Paper  – use a matte or non-glossy finish to cut down on glare. Avoid distracting watermarks or complicated background designs.
  • Clean design and simplicity – use distinctive colours, sizes and shapes on the covers of materials to make them easier to tell apart.
  • Content – keep your language simple and clear. Avoid jargon or “edu-speak” when addressing non-educators. Corporate Communications can help you rethink, rewrite and restructure your content so that it is accessible to all.
  • Captions – for videos and any content that is presented as a video medium.
  • Alt-text – inserted words or phrase to describe the image for people who cannot see or understand the image.
  • Text-to-speech – speech-to-text dictionaries and glossaries.
  • Zoom, magnification and text size options – allows users to view at a comfortable and easy to see size, regardless of their abilities.
  • Training and supporting staff – at the end of the day, accessibility is up to all of us. We must strive to educate ourselves and each other about accessibility best-practices.


Accessibility helps everyone.

Accessibility isn’t just something we have to do; it is something we should embrace since accessible design makes learning, engaging and communicating easier for everyone. Here are some of the benefits:

  1. Improves student learning. Inaccessible materials put up unnecessary roadblocks for students with disabilities.
  2. Accessibility makes user experience better. Being mindful of accessibility while creating resources will improve the ability to search, retrieve and engage with content. Accessible design reduces barriers and ensures device compatibility.
  3. Saves valuable time. By incorporating accessibility from the start, organizations can avoid costs of compliance lawsuits, retrofitting devices, and unnecessary accommodations.


School & Board Websites

By law, you must make new and significantly refreshed public websites accessible if you are a public sector organization. Web accessibility encompasses all disabilities that affect access to the web, including visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, and neurological disabilities.

Much of the focus on Web accessibility has been on the responsibilities of web developers. However, because many staff are using digital means of communication either at the corporate and school level, it’s about all of us.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Content – consider a screen’s real estate; locate more important information on the left and at the top
  • Facilitate scanning – Most viewers (about 75%) first scan text and menus for information (and ignore visuals)
  • Simplify – your content should be simple and concise. You should spend considerable time properly organizing your pages. No webpage should exist more than 3 pages deep
  • Fonts – use standardized/common fonts and stick to a font size of 11-14pt. You should use the same font throughout your pages.
  • Colour – use high contrasting backgrounds with dark text. A black font with a white background is safest and should be used most of the time. Avoid backgrounds that obscure text.
  • Headings – use the CSS styles built into wordpress and use the heading tags to help navigate users
  • Images – do not rely on images to distribute messages. Always give alternative, descriptive text to replace and describe the content or function of all images. Avoid using images as links. Avoid using animated gifs as they often don’t work with screen readers
  • Links – Be as descriptive as possible in describing a link’s content. Do not use phrases such as “click here” or “enter”. Do not use images as links.

Do not use:

  • Frames or use a non-frame alternative
  • Java and Flash
  • Graphics that don’t say anything and distract from your content
  • Graphics that bounce, spin, twist, or move without being vital to, or illustrative of, your content
  • Scrolling text
  • Language that doesn’t engage with your readers


What is AODA and WCAG 2.0?

AODA stands for “Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act” and applies to all organizations in Ontario.

“Web Content Accessibility Guidelines”, WCAG 2.0 covers a wide range of recommendations for making web content more accessible.
It primarily consists of 4 parts:

  1. Perceivable – what you see and hear (alternative text, captions, assistive technology)
  2. Operable – how users navigate and find content
  3. Understandable – text and content and clear, readable and can be understood by all
  4. Robust – maximize compatibility with current and future tools/devices/software
Updated on Wednesday, May 09, 2018.
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