Archived version: Accessibility, June 2024

People may use accessibility statements as a reference when they have trouble using a website. So this statement tries to explain GC Notify’s known limitations as clearly and transparently as possible.

We’re committed to updating this statement regularly to:

  • Remove resolved issues.
  • Add new issues that arise.
  • Include potential workarounds.

This statement was last updated on May 22, 2024.

GC Notify is maintained by the Government of Canada 

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The Canadian Digital Service (CDS) operates GC Notify. CDS is part of Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC). 

GC Notify is based on open-source code from the United Kingdom’s GOV.UK Notify. CDS modified both code and content for the Canadian context. 

We’re guided by accessibility plans and standards

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As a product of CDS and ESDC, GC Notify must comply with the Treasury Board Standard on Web Accessibility. Under the Accessible Canada Act, ESDC also has a 3-year accessibility plan. The plan shows how ESDC will identify, remove and prevent barriers to accessibility.

This statement reflects the accessibility of our client interface, not messages received by end users

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We design, develop and maintain GC Notify for use by public servants. This statement applies to the GC Notify site. Currently, it does not apply to our API documentation. However we are planning accessibility tests for that documentation in future.

Our tests include screen sizes equivalent to mobile devices. But GC Notify is optimized for desktop usage.

Your email recipients might use additional software and assistive technology to read messages from GC Notify. Their software and technology could impact the accessibility of your messages. For example:

  • In Microsoft Outlook, NonVisual Desktop Access (NVDA) announces extra spaces. 
  • Some technologies do not read text in the correct language.

We’re working to comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)

We aim for accessibility in design and development of both new and existing features. We address accessibility issues on an ongoing basis.

Our tests include:
  • Automated tests via Cypress every three hours on our front-end website and static pages. 
  • Manual tests to catch issues missed by automated tests.
  • Design research to learn how we can make GC Notify easier to use.
  • External audits, most recently by the Ontario College of Art and Design University’s Inclusive Design Research Center.
With assistive technology enabled, GC Notify supports you to: 
  • Change colours, contrast levels and fonts.
  • Zoom in up to 300% without text spilling off the screen.
  • Navigate most of the website with a keyboard.
  • Navigate most of the website with speech recognition software.
  • Listen to most of the website with a screen reader, including the most recent versions of Job Access With Speech (JAWS), NVDA and VoiceOver.

Known issues of GC Notify’s user interface

For security reasons                                                                                                 

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IssueWCAG criteria
We program GC Notify to sign out after 8 hours of inactivity 
You will not receive a warning or instructions on how to extend your session. 
2.0 Level A  2.2.1 Timing Adjustable: We should allow you to complete tasks without a time limit. 

We’re working to address the following issues

Only one way to navigate to different pages
IssueWCAG criteria
To find a different page, the only option is using GC Notify’s headers2.0 Level AA 2.4.5 Multiple ways: We should provide several ways for you to find different pages.
Not enough context in some places
IssueWCAG criteria
Sometimes GC Notify does not give you enough information to prevent errors
GC Notify does not always:
– Show error messages at the top of the page. This means you do not learn of an error until part-way through the page.
– Show a difference between errors and warnings.
– Give enough information to prevent errors.
– Indicate errors using the correct coding language.
2.1 Level A 3.3.1 Error Identification: Text on the screen should show you if there’s an error.
2.1 Level A 3.3.2 Labels or Instructions: These should show you what kind of content you need to input to progress.
2.1 Level AA 3.3.3 Error Suggestion: If you make an error, we should give suggestions to help you correct it.
Compatibility with various assistive technologies, including screen readers
IssueWCAG criteria
Some parts of GC Notify do not distinguish between English and French
– We require bilingual names for services, but do not indicate which part of the name is in which language.
– We use the same url for both English and French “Contact us” pages.
To share the English page, use 
To share the French page use
2.0 Level AA 3.1.2 Language of Parts: We should identify anything in a different language than the rest of the page.
On the Templates page, button names change without warning
Under templates, there are buttons for “Create template”, “Copy template” and “New folder”. If you select a template before selecting a button, the buttons change to “Move” and “Add new folder”.
2.1 Level A 3.2.2 On Input: Assistive technology should inform you if words or context will change when you select an option.
GC Notify uses both buttons and links for the same tasks 
This makes it more difficult to use the site if you need alternatives to reading text. And you may not know what command to give if you navigate by voice.
2.1 Level AA 3.2.4 Consistent Identification: We should always use the same interactive item for a specific kind of task. 
GC Notify does not include all information needed by assistive technology:
– Dictation software might not recognize or respond to file upload buttons.
– If you use a screen reader, GC Notify does not indicate when you’ve selected a file.
– Safari does not clearly communicate pop-up menus.
– Headings in emails from GC Notify start at <h2> instead of <h1>.
2.1 Level A 4.1.2 Name, Role, Value: We should give accurate information about user interface components.
Screen readers only
IssueWCAG criteria
Some information is only communicated visually:
– When checking the number of message failures, you cannot distinguish between email and text messages. 
– When writing a message, GC Notify does not show the relationship between variables and special characters, such as parentheses and underscores.  As a result, it’s difficult for screen readers to use variables in a message.
2.1 Level A 1.3.1 Info and relationships: We should provide visual content in a form you can read using code or other means.
Keyboard navigation
IssueWCAG criteria
Firefox only
When trying to tab through autocomplete inputs, you could get stuck in a continuous loop.
2.1 Level A 2.1.2 No keyboard trap: We should ensure you do not need a mouse to navigate out of locations.
You may not be able to find your location on the page 
It’s difficult to determine where the keyboard is pointing due to low colour contrast between background and focus indicator. 
2.1 Level AA 2.4.7 Focus Visible: We should ensure you’re able to tell where the keyboard is on the page. 

Tell us about accessibility issues in GC Notify

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We want to understand accessibility issues and their impact on you. We resolve issues as soon as we can.

You can ask questions and give feedback in any of the following ways:

You can share accessibility feedback privately

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On the contact form, select the option “Give feedback” or “Other”. GC Notify will navigate to a new screen where you can request a confidential conversation. To learn how we protect your privacy, visit our Privacy Statement

We’re grateful for your insights. We’re working on a process for giving accessibility feedback without identifying yourself.

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