Accessibility and Inclusion: Writing for the Web

Web accessibility has always been a requirement for UMaine websites, and has been a regular feature in our monthly newsletter. For 2020, Digital Communications will be sharing information about both accessibility and inclusion. The term “accessibility” refers to our efforts to remove barriers that prevent access to websites by people who have a disability. Inclusion broadens this concept, to remove barriers and ensure involvement from everyone in our diverse community. This month, we discuss how you can write content that is accessible and inclusive.

Write in plain language

The information you publish should work well for the people who use it, the first time they read or hear it. The Plain Language Action and Information Network is a government website available to help.  This resource has developed templates, checklists, and writing guidelines to help you develop communications in plain language. The definition of “plain” depends on your intended audience; at the same time, audiences have more in common than not when it comes to their need for clear communication. Focus on short, clear sentences. Stick to words the audience knows.

Support your global audience

Writing in plain language supports non-native English readers who may be translating the web page as they read. In many fields, English is the international language— and non-English speakers many times will translate your content mentally as they read. Complicated concepts should be presented in clear language. If your audience is familiar with the jargon of your subject matter, such terms are useful in short, clear sentences.

Write for easy scanning

  • Keywords should go at the beginning of a sentence.
  • When bullet points are used, it is easier to understand a list of items and mentally count how many items/conditions are mentioned.
  • Frequent meaningful headings communicate structure.
  • Breaking content into short, manageable pieces makes the content more approachable.

Put information in the right order (the “if” before the “then”)

Organizing information in a logical order is universally helpful for accessibility, inclusion, and even search optimization. Think about what information a reader needs to know first. Make the topic clear in the first sentence before you dive into details. When listing options, put the condition first and follow that with what happens in that situation.

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