Web design policies on UW campuses (3-31-2003):
Compliance with major standards/guidelines

latest summaryClick here for the most up-to-date summary (Oct. 22, 2003)

In the early years (1999-2001), the policies, guidelines and standards pertaining to the design of official and instructional web pages varied widely among University of Wisconsin campuses. Since 2002, this is no longer the case. The picture, as it currently reveals itself, is as follows: In addition to the UW Extension, 11 of the 13 UW campuses have a policy in place that calls for web accessibility.  At two institutions, the policy unambiguously mandates compliance with the applicable parts of Section 508; a similarly clear mandate for (level A) compliance with the W3C/WAI's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) has been adopted by three campuses. Five of the remaining campuses either merely recommend compliance with WCAG or Section 508, or use language too vague to constitute a clear-cut requirement. While UW-Milwaukee's general web policy urges designers to "avoid design choices that create difficulties for persons with physical disabilities," it does not endorse either WCAG nor Section 508. This leaves two campuses, the UW-La Crosse and the UW-Superior, without an accessible web policy. At the UW-La Crosse, such policy has been worked on for at least a year, but it appears that the institution has not yet approved the proposed document. At the UW-Superior, the need for an accessible web policy has been acknowledged, but no specific measures in this direction are described on its web site. Finally, some institutions may pursue revisions of their current policies, but the extent to which this is happening is difficult to fathom: Speaking for my own institution, the UW-Stevens Point, a policy is currently being drafted that would not only add mandatory compliance with Section 508 standards to the already existing recommended compliance with WCAG, but that would also put in place practical implementation measures.

Table: Web Accessibility Policies on University of Wisconsin campuses

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Posted/Last Revised

Section 508 WCAG-A* WCAG-AA* WCAG-AAA* Comments
UW-Eau Claire 10/8/2002 recomm. recomm. recomm. recomm. "Committed to universal access."
UW Extension 8/28/2001 mandatory recomm. recomm. recomm.  
UW-Green Bay 6/6/2001   mandatory recomm. suggested  
UW-La Crosse           Accessibility policy is being drafted.
UW-Madison 11/1/2001 mandatory        
UW-Milwaukee 10/3/2001         Mandates accessibility; includes some specific design features.
UW-Oshkosh 5/23/2001   mandatory      
UW-Parkside 2001   mandatory ? mandatory ? mandatory ? Ambiguous language.
UW-Platteville 5/1/2001   recomm. ?
mandatory ?
recomm. ?
mandatory ?
recomm. ?
mandatory ?
Ambiguous language; Use of both "should" and "must".
UW-River Falls n.d., added after April 2001 recomm.       "Should," not "must," language.
UW-Stevens Point** 5/1-/1999   recomm. recomm. recomm. New policy mandating Section 508 compliance is being drafted.
UW-Stout March 2001   mandatory      
UW-Superior***           None found. Need for Web accessibility policy has been acknowledged.
UW-Whitewater n.d.   recomm.     Proposed Plan (10/23/01); if adopted WCAG-A compliance would become mandatory.

Notes and updates:

*WCAG refers to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines issued by the W3C/WAI.

**Stevens Point's new "Online Accessibility Policy" draft also incorporates Section 508 compliance.

***Pending approval by the administration, the Superior campus will soon adopt a comprehensive technology accessibility policy, which includes a Section 508 compliance mandate for web design: See http://www2.uwsuper.edu/infotech/IITS/Policy/technology_accessibility.doc.


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University of Wisconsin System Web Accessibility Policies

Web Page Accessibility on University of Wisconsin Campuses: Spring 2003 Survey Data

Compiled/created by Axel Schmetzke, Library, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
Last updated 10/24/03 .
Comments, corrections, updates, etc. are welcome! aschmetz@uwsp.edu