Canada - Common Look and Feel Standards for the Internet, Part 2: Standard on the Accessibility, Interoperability and Usability of Web Sites
Canada CLF 2.0 Background
On 1 January 2007, The Treasury Board of Canada's Common Look and Feel (CLF) Standards refresh took effect, marking significant changes to the way in which government web sites must be designed. The CLF 2.0 mandates that all government departments respect clearly defined criteria for accessibility and interoperability of their web sites, holding the department's deputy head accountable for their implementation.
Duties and Accountability
Deputy heads are accountable for the implementation, adherence and continual monitoring of CLF 2.0 requirements.
The CLF 2.0 lists the following 6 Requirements which must be respected when designing government websites:
Requirement 1 - Compliance with W3C Priority 1 and Priority 2 (WCAG 1.0) Checkpoints
Websites must meet or exceed each of the 14 WCAG 1.0 checkpoints, with the exception of WCAG Checkpoint 3.4, which is superseded by Requirement 2 of the CLF 2.0 (explained below).
Requirement 2 - Baseline Technologies
All web sites must be designed with XHTML 1.0 Strict and Cascading Style Sheets 1.0 as their "baseline technologies". This requirement supersedes WCAG 1.0 Requirement 3.4.
Requirement 3 - Accessible alternate format of documents on websites
Departments must make accessible alternative format materials available on their websites.
Providing materials in accessible XHTML is the preferred method and other formats or techniques for making information accessible should be used only as a last resort. The Treasury Board aptly notes, "[h]owever, simply using these languages (XHTML 1.0 Strict & CSS 1.0) for markup or application design does not mean that products will be naturally accessible."
Where information cannot be rendered in an accessible format, it must be immediately preceded by a textual Accessibility Notice (http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/clf2-nsi2/tb-bo/an-aa-eng.asp) outlining the ways in which an accessible alternative can be obtained.
Requirement 4 – Offering Information in Multiple Formats
Information may indeed be presented in multiple formats, such as plain-text and a static image or Flash. However, the first version encountered by a visitor must be the most accessible version. Links to required plug-ins, as well as accessible plug-ins, where they are known to exist, should also be provided.
For example, if a site uses a static image of a line graph to represent inflation over time, an accessible version, such as a text equivalent, must be made available.
Requirement 5 - Contrast
Text and background elements must contrast sufficiently such that the site is visible to someone with colour deficits or to someone viewing the site on a black and white monitor.
Requirement 6 – Assessing Accessibility, Interoperability and Usability
Validation of web pages against the XHTML 1.0 Strict DTD will ensure that the pages are free from syntax errors.
The Treasury Board's CLF 2.0 Compliance Checklist is available here http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/clf2-nsi2/ccl-ldv/ccl-ldv-eng.asp
Monitoring and Assessment
Deputy heads must monitor and assess the implementation of CLF 2.0 requirements using, at a minimum, the following 5 checkpoints:
- Compliance with W3C WCAG 1.0 Priority 1 and 2 guidelines;
- Universal use of XHTML 1.0 Strict and CSS 1.0;
- Where the use of XHTML 1.0 Strict is not possible, ensuring the placement of Accessibility Notices;
- Where multiple formats are offered, ensuring the placement of a text notice containing the file format, size, and required specialized software (where applicable);
- Ensuring sufficient contrast between text and background elements.
Common Look and Feel for the Internet 2.0 Standard is being updated
The CLF 2.0 is being updated to take into account new WCAG standards, to increase flexibility of design, and allow departments more freedom in their use of emerging technologies.