Web design policies on UW campuses (8-22-2003):
Compliance with major standards/guidelines

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: All thirteen UW campuses (Madison, Milwaukee, and comprehensives), plus the UW Extension, have policies in place that call for web accessibility.  At four 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 another four campuses. The policies on 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. UW-Milwaukee's general web policy, which refers neither to Section 508 standards nor to WCAG, urges designers to "avoid design choices that create difficulties for persons with physical disabilities." Two new policies, currently at the draft stage, deserve special mentioning:  (1) At the UW-Eau Claire, an Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility Work Group has drafted a set of documents including policy, standards and implementation plan (Minutes, 23 April, 2003). The group's concern for accessibility  does not seem to be limited to web pages alone but appears to extend to information technology purchased from vendors (Minutes, 6 May, 2003). (2) At the UW-Stevens Point, a new Online Accessibility Policy has been drafted that, in addition to mandating that web pages comply with Section 508 (which simply reiterates the already existing state policy), directs all parties involved in the creation, modification, replacement or procurement of web-based resources (such as library databases and course management software) to strive for compliance with relevant Section 508 standards.  If approved, the UWSP Online Accessibility Task Force will tackle the development of a plan to implement the policy.

Table: Web Accessibility Policies on University of Wisconsin campuses

Table only page (for printing)


Posted/Last Revised

Section 508 WCAG-A* WCAG-AA* WCAG-AAA* Comments
UW-Eau Claire 10/8/2002 recomm. recomm. recomm. recomm. A new policy has been drafted (see text above).
UW Extension 7/28/2003 mandatory recomm. recomm. recomm.  
UW-Green Bay 6/6/2001   mandatory recomm. suggested  
UW-La Crosse July 2003 mandatory recomm.
UW-Madison 5/1/2003 mandatory recomm. recomm. recomm.  
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** 5/10/1999   recomm. recomm. recomm. Current draft of new policy mandating Section 508 compliance.
UW-Stout March 2001   mandatory      
UW-Superior May 2003 mandatory        
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; its scope includes both web pages and web-based resources (such as library databases and course management software).


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Compiled/created by Axel Schmetzke, Library, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
Last updated 11/18/03 .
Comments, corrections, updates, etc. are welcome! aschmetz@uwsp.edu