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How to follow UW-Madison’s Digital Accessibility Policy

8 minutes to read | Last updated March 7, 2022

UW-Madison approved the new Digital Accessibility Policy in November 2021 to update the Web Accessibility Policy established in 2001. The new policy goes into effect on July 1, 2023. Until the Digital Accessibility Policy goes into effect, continue to follow the Web Accessibility Policy.

To prepare for the new policy, you may want to begin using the resources outlined in this guide. In support of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s mission and Institutional Statement on Diversity, this new policy fosters a culture of full inclusion of people with disabilities by ensuring that the university’s digital resources and information technology, beyond websites, are accessible to all.

Who is responsible for making digital content accessible?

We all are. Accessibility is a shared university responsibility. 

The Digital Accessibility Policy applies to all UW–Madison schools, colleges, divisions, and units.

The owner of a digital resource or technology is responsible for making that content or technology accessible per the standards included in the Digital Accessibility Policy.

Practicing digital accessibility as part of your regular work processes and operational decisions creates a more usable, inclusive digital environment for everyone. 

What do I need to do?

Your responsibilities

With the support of the Center for User Experience, your responsibilities will be to:

  • Incorporate accessibility practices into your everyday business processes and decisions 
  • Assign one or more Digital Accessibility Liaisons within your unit
  • Following the implementation phases, document known accessibility barriers in high-priority resources and technology, have a plan to fix them, and have a plan to provide people with access until the barriers are fixed
  • Update high-priority resources and technology to remove accessibility barriers
  • Ensure that third-party technology meets the policy standards

Develop skills and access resources

Digital accessibility skills and requirements are not typically taught to professionals and most people don’t yet have this skill set.

To support everyone in practicing digital accessibility, the Center for User Experience offers access to a variety of resources and guidance:

Digital Accessibility Liaisons:
Building a network of local point people

To make implementation easier in a large organization, the policy establishes a network of unit-level Digital Accessibility Liaisons.

The Center for User Experience will communicate more about the Digital Accessibility Liaison designation process and activities before July 2022.

What will a Digital Accessibility Liaison (DAL) do?

At a minimum, DALs will:

  • Receive information about digital accessibility, including training
  • Share information broadly with their unit
  • Communicate with the Center for User Experience about digital accessibility barriers within their unit and to access support

Timeline for the Digital Accessibility Liaison Network

July 2022

Begin identifying and designating your unit’s Digital Accessibility Liaison(s)

By July 2023

Share designee’s name and contact information with the Center for User Experience

Procuring accessible third-party technologies

At UW-Madison, we may need to procure a third-party technology. Third-party technologies must also meet the standards of the Digital Accessibility Policy.

The Procure accessible technology guide provides:

  • Request for Proposal (RFP)/Request for Bid (RFB) requirements to help procurement teams identify what accessibility considerations should be included in the procurement process and evaluation
  • Approved language clarifying the vendor’s responsibilities for digital accessibility to add to contracts

When does my digital content need to be accessible?

The implementation plan for this policy is phased to focus on one digital resource category at a time.

With this plan, we can prioritize and make progress as a community towards a more accessible digital campus. 

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2022-2023: Preparation

  • The Center for User Experience will work with university units to establish the Digital Accessibility Liaison (DAL) Network and create resources for the network. Units can begin designating Digital Accessibility Liaisons and sharing that designee’s name and contact information with the Center for User Experience.
  • The Center for User Experience will work with central procurement and unit procurement teams to integrate accessibility requirements and contract language into the purchasing  process.

July 1, 2023: Policy goes into effect

  • The policy,  implementation plan, and standards take effect July 1, 2023
  • Schools, colleges, and divisions share their Digital Accessibility Liaison designee(s) with the Center for User Experience by July 1, 2023.

2023-2024: Digital Documents

  • The Center for User Experience and university stakeholders will focus on documents (e.g.,  Knowledgebase documents, Word documents, PDF documents, and Google Docs)
  • Not all content will need to be accessible immediately; high-priority content per the policy standards is the priority
  • You will have access to targeted training and support on how to create accessible documents and how to fix accessibility barriers
  • The goal: Integrate accessibility practices into our document creation processes, fix existing high-priority content, document accessibility barriers, and have a plan to provide people with access

Get started or learn more about digital document accessibility

 

2024-2025: Learning Management Systems and Learning Technology Integrations

  • The Center for User Experience and university stakeholders will focus on Learning Management Systems (LMS) (Canvas), and Learning Technology Integrations (LTI) (Canvas LTIs used in courses) 
  • Not all content will need to be accessible immediately; high-priority content is the priority. This includes General Education courses per the policy standards.
  • You will have access to targeted training and support on how to create accessible Canvas content and how to procure and work with vendors to fix accessibility barriers in Canvas and Canvas LTIs
  • Note that you should use the UDOIT Accessibility Checker in Canvas when creating or reviewing content
  • The goal: Integrate accessibility practices into our Canvas content creation processes, fix existing high-priority content, document accessibility barriers, and have a plan to provide people with access

Get started or learn more about Learning Management Systems accessibility

2025-2026: Video and Audio Content (Multimedia)

  • The Center for User Experience and university stakeholders will focus on video and audio content
  • Not all content will need to be accessible immediately; high-priority content per the policy standards is the priority
  • You will have access to targeted training and support on how to create and procure accessible video and audio content
  • The university has several negotiated contracts with third-party captioning and transcription vendors available to you
  • The goal: Integrate accessibility practices into our video and audio creation processes, fix existing high-priority content, document accessibility barriers, and have a plan to provide people with access

Get started or learn more video, audio, and multimedia content accessibility

2026-2027: Websites

  • The Center for User Experience and university stakeholders will focus on website accessibility
  • Not all websites will need to be accessible immediately; high-priority websites per the policy standards is the priority
  • You will have access to targeted training and support on how to create and procure accessible websites
  • If you are using the UW WordPress Theme, you will have a head start on accessibility, but you may find that your website has barriers such as missing image alt text, disordered heading structure (h1, h2, h3, etc.), and others to fix
  • The goal: Integrate accessibility practices into our website creation processes, fix existing high-priority content, document accessibility barriers, and have a plan to provide people with access

Get started or learn more about website accessibility

2027-2028: Web apps

  • The Center for User Experience and university stakeholders will focus on web apps
  • Not all web apps will need to be accessible immediately; high-priority apps per the policy standards is the priority
  • You will have access to targeted training and support on how to create and procure accessible web apps
  • The goal: Integrate accessibility practices into our web app creation processes, fix existing high-priority content, document accessibility barriers, and have a plan to provide people with access

Get started or learn more about web app accessibility

2028-2029: Mobile apps

  • The Center for User Experience and university stakeholders will focus on mobile apps
  • Not all mobile apps will need to be accessible immediately; high-priority apps per the policy standards is the priority
  • You will have access to targeted training and support on how to create and procure accessible mobile apps
  • The goal: Integrate accessibility practices into our mobile app creation and procurement processes, fix existing high-priority content, document accessibility barriers, and have a plan to provide people with access

Get started or learn more about mobile app accessibility

2029-2030: Local software

  • The Center for User Experience and university stakeholders will focus on local software
  • Not all local software will need to be accessible immediately; high-priority software per the policy standards is the priority
  • You will have access to targeted training and support on how to create and procure accessible local software
  • The goal: Integrate accessibility practices into our local software creation and procurement processes, fix existing high-priority content, document accessibility barriers, and have a plan to provide people with access

Which digital resources and technologies are priority?

High-priority digital resources and technology are those that are used by a large number of people or are essential to people’s access to work and study.

Removing accessibility barriers in these resources is critical to an inclusive experience and compliance with federal and state laws. 

In each phase of the implementation plan, you should give priority to the the specific events, tools, and content listed in the conformance table in the policy standards.

When is conformance required?

Conformance to the policy is required for digital resources and technology that are:

  • Used as an enterprise or university-wide technology (e.g., Office 365, Course Search and Enroll, ShopUW+)
  • Used at or for university events (in person or virtual) with 20,000 or more attendees
  • A public-facing website
  • Used in undergraduate General Education Requirement courses
  • Procured via Request for Proposal or Request for Bid
  • Used at the following university community events: Convocation, Go Big Read, Diversity Forum, Commencement
  • Reported to have a verified barrier by a user 

When is conformance recommended?

Conformance to the policy is recommended for digital resources and technology that are:

  • Used by 1,000 or more users annually

What does it mean to have accessible digital content?

The Digital Accessibility Policy standards measure digital accessibility by two complementary standards: functional accessibility and technical accessibility.

Functional accessibility

The determining factor of whether a digital resource or information technology is accessible is based on whether an individual with a disability can use it to achieve the same goals or outcomes, as independently (without accommodation or assistance from another individual) and privately as someone without a disability.

Technical accessibility

The Digital Accessibility Policy points to:

Is my digital content or technology accessible?

Evaluating your digital content or technology to identify and document barriers is critical to progressively making it more accessible.

 

Focus on progress, not perfection

No technology is ever “fully accessible.” That’s why it is important to think about accessibility as an ongoing practice.

No two people with the same disability are alike or affected in the exact same way by their disability, thus people using your technology or digital content all have unique variances that determine how usable a piece of technology is for them as an individual.

If someone tells you they are still experiencing a barrier even if your technology meets the standards, you must investigate and fix that barrier and, until fixed, you will need to provide the person a reasonable accommodation.

Following the standards in the Digital Accessibility Policy will ensure that you are making the best effort towards an inclusive and usable experience.

Read the Digital Accessibility Policy Standards

Digital Accessibility evaluation resources

Testing your digital resources is the best way to know how accessible your digital content or product is for people with disabilities. 

Testing manually with assistive technology to evaluate functional accessibility is the most reliable way to make sure your digital resource or technology is accessible.

You can also self-evaluate if your digital resource is accessible initially by using an automated testing tool for a first-glance overview of accessibility barriers that may exist in your content. 

Get help with accessibility

Resources to get assistance with accessibility at UW-Madison.

Get help with accessibility