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Guidelines and Standards

A number of policies, guidelines and standards related to online accessibility are gathered here. 

Stanford Online Accessibility Policy

Stanford's online accessibility policy applies to all Stanford academic and administrative units that create and maintain websites and web‐based applications used in the programs and activities of the University.   Please refer to the policy at:

Stanford Procurement Accessibility Guidelines and Template

Stanford University ("Stanford") is committed to providing accessible websites and web-based applications ("Stanford Websites") to current and prospective students, Stanford faculty and staff, and participants in the University's programs and activities.  These two documents are to assist Stanford purchasers in making preliminary assessments regarding the accessibility of Stanford Websites (as well as other types of Electronic and Information Technology).  Purchasers should consult the our internal procurement accessibility guidelines (docx/pdf).  Vendors seeking to provide such websites or web-based applications to Stanford are to provide written evidence that their product or service conforms to or addresses each of the WCAG 2.0, Level AA criteria.  Vendors may do so by providing a written report or completing the procurement accessibility template (docx/pdf) in which they address each of the criteria.  In addition to this written evidence, vendors may also be required to demonstrate how to use the product with assistive technology, and may be required to undergo third-party accessibility testing.  Vendors are expected to provide contact information to facilitate more detailed inquiries.

Purchasers who are unable to procure an accessible product should plan ahead for an equally effective alternative

Video Captioning Guidelines

Should I caption my video?  Any videos that you include on your Stanford website should be captioned if they support the core communication efforts of your department or program. Common examples include:
  • videos aimed at promoting your program or attracting students, participant and alumni
  • videos that showcase curriculum, research, exhibitions or collections
  • videos that profile students, faculty or researchers in your department
  • videos that provide instructions for how to apply to or register for your programs
  • videos you list as news stories about your department or program
A good rule of thumb is that if you decide to include a video on the main page of your department or program website, this video should be captioned.  See our Captioning tips for information about how to caption your videos.
For content related to services Stanford provides in its role as a place of education to students and prospective students, please work with Office of Accessible Education to determine the appropriate aids and services to ensure effective communication.


The W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) is and has been the lead on emerging internet recommendations and guidelines. The W3C however goes to some length to differentiate itself as not being a standards body but rather one which issues "recommendations". The organization does work closely with organizations such as the ISO, however they do not publish Standards, nor do their recommendations and guidelines read as standards.

In the field of Web accessibility, the W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative has been active since the late 1990's. WAI, in coordination with organizations around the world, pursues accessibility of the Web through five primary areas: technology, guidelines, tools, education and outreach, and research and development. In December of 2008, the WAI issued their second Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (or WCAG 2.0) which provides a detailed suite of documents that cover PrinciplesRequirements & Guidelines and Techniques. In October of 2012, WCAG 2.0 also became ISO/IEC 40500.

Interestingly, with few exceptions, existing legislation, when advocating any web content standards, references this document, or its predecessor WCAG 1.0. While many of the existing checkpoints within the document are subjective in nature and open to individual interpretation, striving for websites that meet at least the AA conformance level has been cited in legislation where measurable results are required.

SOAP's goal for Stanford University is to also meet AA Conformance to WCAG 2.0 - for more details, please contact the University Communications Office.

For more information see:

Section 508

Recognizing the subjective limitations of some of the W3C Guidelines, the US government has written their own Web accessibility requirements. The current version was released a number of years ago, and an update that aligns closely with WCAG 2.0 is anticipated in 2014.

There are also provisions within the Section 508 legislation that essentially ensure that web content funded by or through public tax dollars must meet the same requirements, including all levels of governance from federal to municipal, as well as other institutions funded through public funds.

For more information see:

For guidance on these Standards, we also recommend that the Stanford community consult with the Office of General Counsel.


Last modified: 
July 10, 2017