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Deans, Directors, and Chairs Memo on Accessibility

TO: Deans, Directors, and Chairs
FROM: Jessica Norris, Joanna Young
DATE: February 10, 2016
SUBJECT: Web Accessibility Five-Year Plans due on March 31, 2016

What: Digital Accessibility

At Michigan State University we are committed to providing accessible digital experiences for our students, faculty and staff. Digital accessibility is the inclusive practice of removing barriers to technology for those with disabilities and others. This memorandum is intended to update you on progress and ask for continued action and support.

Why: Web Accessibility Policy

MSU’s Web Accessibility Policy applies to all university web pages used to conduct core university business and academic activities as defined in the policy. The policy requires that these pages are accessible according to technical standards set forth at

The laws guiding the university’s policy are Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. These laws require that public universities provide equally effective communication to persons with disabilities, regardless of whether the university communicates through print media, audio media, or digital media such as the Internet. Efforts to make digital content, including web content, accessible are expected as part of this obligation. The current legal landscape, including the numerous legal challenges in just the last few years, underscores the need for action in this area.

Action Needed: Accessibility Next Steps for MSU

1. Ensure Participation

In the last memorandum distributed to Deans, Directors, Chairs and Executive Managers regarding web accessibility, sent on September 8, 2014, the expectations of each college/unit were outlined. These expectations included two steps towards ensuring compliance with the MSU Web Accessibility Policy. These steps were:

  • Appoint someone to act as a Web Accessibility Policy liaison to support your college/unit in policy compliance. The Major Administrative Units that have participated by appointing liaisons are listed online here:
  • Alert faculty and other individuals who conduct courses online and/or publish web pages in your unit that the policy and resources are available on

Please attend to the above action steps if you have not done so already.

2. Five-Year Compliance Plans

Now that the Web Accessibility liaisons are in place, the next step is for each college/unit liaison to complete a “Five-Year Accessibility Compliance Plan.” These five-year plans will chart long-term progress aligning with your college/unit goals and will increase transparency in areas where support and improvement may be needed. We have communicated with the liaisons already regarding this expectation.

  • Your liaison will need to submit a draft of your college/departments Five-Year Accessibility Compliance Plan by March 31, 2016. A partially-filled template is available at along with example plans to provide additional guidance and clarity on what is expected.
  • The colleges/departments that have submitted versions their five-year compliance plans to-date include: College of Arts and Letters, College of Natural Science, College of Education, College of Social Science, Office of the Provost, College of Engineering, Infrastructure Planning and Facilities, Office of the Executive Vice President for Administrative Services, Residential and Hospitality Services, Lyman Briggs College, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, College of Music.
  • If your college/unit needs additional support, email

3. Annual Self-Reviews

Starting in 2017, each college/unit will also need to submit an annual self-review, which will align with the five-year plan. Self-reviews will help document annual progress and measure improvement toward web accessibility compliance.

Five-year plans and annual self-reviews will be reviewed by MSU’s Electronic Information Technology Accessibility Review Committee (ARC), which is made up of members from MSU Information Technology as well as the ADA Coordinator or designee. The committee is advised by the Office of the General Counsel.

Important Updates and Clarifications

  • We are pleased to announce a new executive co-sponsor of this policy initiative. Jessica Norris started December 28 as the University’s new Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Coordinator. She will be responsible for, among other things, the leadership and oversight of university programs and initiatives designed to create and maintain a campus culture free of disability discrimination.
  • For those familiar with Web Accessibility Remediation Forms, or “WARF’s”, they will no longer be used. The five-year compliance plans will replace WARF’s. Please work with your liaison to ensure these plans are completed.

If you have other questions or would like assistance, you can also contact the Digital Experience Team (DigitalX) at

Jessica Norris
Title IX and ADA Coordinator
Office of Institutional Equity
Michigan State University

Joanna C. Young
Vice President and Chief Information Officer
Michigan State University