Prioritizing Accessibility

Web accessibility has always been a requirement for UMaine websites, and Digital Communications has been increasing efforts to improve the accessibility of web content on The term “accessibility” refers to our efforts to remove barriers that prevent access to websites by people who have a disability. This month, we acknowledge this can be an intimidating topic to address, and provide some guidance on how to prioritize your efforts.

Where to begin?

If you have looked at web accessibility reports for your website (using Monsido or other tools), you may wonder where to start— every page likely has items that should be reviewed, and these tools rarely differentiate between the easy fixes and systemic content issues.

  1. Focus on top traffic pages
    If you have access to your web analytics, single out the top 10 pages of your site by web traffic. If you do not have any idea how much traffic your web pages get, just look at your home page and pages directly linked from your site navigation.
  2. Talk to your contributors/editors
    Make your life easier by getting accessible content for your website when it is created. If you have someone new who is taking photos or providing a news update, make sure they understand that web accessibility is a requirement. The best time to create the “alt text” for a photo on your website is when it is fresh content— it is far easier to remember who is in a picture taken last week than one you stumble upon years later.
  3. Fix your content, not the template
    Software that evaluates your website for accessibility cannot distinguish between the content that you have created and the content that is part of the UMaine website design. Because of this, there are many items an accessibility checker will ask you to review that have already been reviewed by our office. As one example, there are over 100 links contained in the global header and footer of websites, and all of these have appropriately descriptive link text. Accessibility checkers do not know that, and will list these links as potential issues for review.

What to fix first?

When you work to fix a page for accessibility, there are three items you can review that will address the majority of potential problems:

  1. Add alt text to images
    We discussed the importance of “alt text” in our September 2018 newsletter. This is always a good place to start with a web page, and will have real positive impact for anyone who relies on a screen reader to hear your content read aloud.
  2. Review link text for descriptiveness
    If you have links on your website that are simply clickable web addresses (example: these should be updated so the link text is readable and descriptive (example: Inauguration website).
  3. Review links for redundancy
    A screen reader will read links to a user in a list form for their convenience, but that convenience is lost if those links have the same descriptive text. If your link text does not make sense when read aloud by itself, you should add text to that link to better describe it. Examples of problematic link text:

    • click here (better: click here for ___)
    • PDF (better: Annual Report 2018 PDF)
    • Word (better: Annual Report 2018 Word document)
    • website (better: University of Maine website)