Wisconsin working towards accessibility from libraries to legislation


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Driving the news:

In Wisconsin, efforts to make everyday experiences more accessible for people with disabilities are gaining momentum. For the 2023-2024 legislative session, Wisconsin lawmakers introduced twin bills that seek to establish web content accessibility regulations for state government websites in line with guidelines published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). From legislative actions to community-driven projects, we take a look at accessibility in the Badger State.

Statewide efforts and legislative momentum for accessibility:

In the political arena, Wisconsin lawmakers have introduced bills aimed at ensuring state government websites meet the highest standards of web accessibility. Senate Bill 831 and Assembly Bill 904 specifically target web content regulations. If enacted, they would require Wisconsin’s Department of Administration to establish regulations governing websites and web content for state agencies, the Wisconsin legislature, and Wisconsin state courts. The bills would require an array of regulations based on the most recent version of WCAG, 2.2, published in October 2023. 

Other statewide initiatives underscore how Wisconsin is prioritizing accessibility. The Travel Wisconsin website serves as a comprehensive guide for accessible travel experiences, from outdoor activities to cultural sites, ensuring that all visitors can fully enjoy what the state has to offer.

These efforts are complemented by the Wisconsin Elections Commission’s initiatives to ensure accessible voting, highlighting the state’s commitment to upholding the rights of every citizen.

Community and educational initiatives enhance accessibility:

Notably, The ADA Wisconsin Partnership brings together business groups, government agencies, and citizens with disabilities to speed the implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Helping organizations understand their rights and responsibilities, providing technical assistance, and sharing educational resources about the ADA, the site offers dozens of resources. The University of Wisconsin-Madison recently introduced a course titled “Graphic Design for Accessibility.” Inspired by a professor’s journey with visual impairment, the course explores innovative solutions in accessible packaging and user-centered design, preparing the next generation of designers to prioritize accessibility.

Meanwhile, the Milwaukee Public Museum has redefined the museum experience with its “Touching” exhibit. By inviting visitors with visual impairments to engage with artifacts through touch, the museum offers a unique and inclusive way to explore art and history. Similarly, the Milwaukee Talking Book and Braille Library offers talking books and Braille materials at no cost to its patrons. The service is based in the vaunted Milwaukee Public Library’s Central Library, which is responsible for its successful administration.

Technological advancements also play a crucial role in enhancing accessibility. The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee now offers visually impaired students and visitors a new way to navigate campus life, with the Aira app.

Looking forward: 

As Wisconsin continues to build on these initiatives across government, educational institutions, and community organizations illustrates an encouraging degree of partnership to address accessibility.

With the potential enactment of SB 831 and AB 904, along with ongoing community efforts, the future of accessibility in Wisconsin looks promising. As we move forward, the lessons learned and successes achieved in Wisconsin can serve as a blueprint for inclusive practices nationwide.

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