Wed, 21 Apr 2021

Delivering accessible mapping applications for citizens.

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The Province of Ontario was the first Canadian province to pass a law – the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) – that establishes standards to help people to be more active in their communities. As a result of the AODA, the Province had a legislated commitment to ensure that all existing and new public facing applications met Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 AA criteria by January 1, 2016. Most of the Province’s existing applications were Apache Flex-based, heavily customized, and not accessible at all.  

The Province made the decision to migrate their applications to JavaScript, largely to take advantage of the accessibility tools offered by VertiGIS. They were also looking to move away from heavily customized, one-off applications and leverage as much out-of-the-box functionality as possible.  

Working closely with VertiGIS, the Province started a full-scale migration of their applications in early 2015 and were able to meet the legislated deadline of January 1, 2016.  

Some of the most commonly used WCAG/AODA-compliant applications (available in both official languages) are:  

  • Fish On-line: Allows Ontario residents to search for lakes, review fish stocking activities, learn about applicable regulations, and get directions to fishing license issuers.  
  • Make a Topographic Map: Provides general search and mapping capabilities suitable for creating topographic maps.  
  • Agriculture Information Atlas: Built for Ontario farmers, the Agriculture Information Atlas allows end-users to upload location data and generate a variety of required agriculture maps.  

These applications employ functionality such as keyboard navigation, screen readers, and high-contrast visualization to ensure comprehensive support for users of all abilities.  

Rather than building accessibility-compliant mapping applications from scratch, the Province has been able to take advantage of out-of-the-box functionality to meet legislated requirements while also achieving substantial cost savings.   

“We’ve appreciated the support from VertiGIS as a partner throughout this major transition for the LRC,” explains Chris Eckstein, Manager of the GIS Centre of Excellence. “The tight integration with Esri’s ArcGIS platform, and the powerful out-of-the-box tools offered with VertiGIS, have made our application development much faster, and the applications are significantly easier to maintain over time.”  

The Province’s mapping applications are receiving well over one million visitors each year, and that number is continually growing. The new approach has not only made application development more efficient; it is proving to deliver higher quality and more useful applications to the residents of Ontario.  

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