Web Accessibility and Inclusion

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 umaine.edu. The term “accessibility” refers to our efforts to remove barriers that prevent access to websites by people who have a disability. This month, we discuss how web accessibility fits into our broader goals of inclusion at UMaine.

The goals around accessibility and inclusion overlap significantly. While accessibility addresses the need to create an equivalent experience for everyone regardless of their reliance on assistive technology, inclusion focuses on involvement with a diverse audience.

Inclusion for a global audience

Tools like Google Translate offer a good example of this overlap— if an image on your website has text as part of the image, this poses a challenge for accessibility and is not inclusive in design (translation tools cannot “see” the text to translate it for a reader). A better tactic is to provide text outside of an image, as we have discussed in earlier newsletters. The University of Maine has a growing community of international students and faculty, and English may not be their primary language. Ensuring they can easily translate pages when necessary is important.

Inclusion for low-bandwidth users

Maine is a very rural state, and availability of broadband outside of our campus can be limited— even for faculty, staff, and students living in our surrounding communities. Website accessibility guidelines help these users as well. While a full color PDF and a flipbook-style presentation is snazzy to a visitor using broadband, a well-structured page with proper headings helps users with slow connections when images may not quickly load (or load at all). Our January 2019 newsletter discusses accessibility considerations for PDFs, and we always encourage content creators to ask “should I add this as a PDF?” even if attempting to make a PDF that is accessible. Web pages are easier to make accessible, and offer a better experience for low bandwidth users.

Inclusion for mobile device users

Our website has a mobile-friendly responsive design, which is intended to give mobile users a good experience without the need to maintain a separate mobile version of content. When building web pages, it is important to consider how your content displays on a mobile device, especially when creating tables. Our article from the June newsletter details accessibility considerations for tables; following that advice will benefit mobile users as well.

If you have any questions about web accessibility, or want to see us cover an accessibility topic in a future newsletter, please get in touch with us at um.weboffice@maine.edu.