Accessibility and Inclusion: Content with clear purpose

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 focus on how your content can benefit from a focus on its clear purpose.

Acknowledgement: An excerpt from “A Web for Everyone” by Sarah Horton and Whitney Quesenbery (2013) chapter 3 is paraphrased below.

“It’s a happy moment, happening upon a product that has a clear purpose.
These products are recognizable by their straightforward effectiveness,
dedication to users’ goals, a direct path to the task at hand,
and freedom from confusing clutter or extraneous elements.”
(A Web for Everyone, page 37)

Start with purpose and goals

Why do you have a website on In the early days of the Internet, many websites were created simply out of excitement about the new technology of the web, and delivering value to visitors was secondary. If you find yourself bogged down with content decisions around video, social media, and menu labels, take a step back and focus on your audience’s goals. Your website is not a goal in itself— consider what needs it will meet. Understanding the clear purpose for your website will help you identify what those needs are.

Clarity and simplicity

Even if your program, department or college is a complex topic, you should look for ways to make it appear simple up front. Once you can explain your topic clearly, it is easier to identify extraneous content that does not fit well for a first-time visitor to your site.

Accessibility first

The best time to consider accessibility is at the start, before you have built out the content for a page. When accessibility is purpose-built into the content from the beginning, it works better for everyone (and avoids time-consuming edits later). Creating accessible content first avoids the need for a second accessible version of content that can fall out of sync and become inaccurate. This “accessibility first” strategy is considered the best, as it gives everyone the same means of use, and the same experience.

  • Equivalent use: There will be some content that simply cannot be the same experience for everyone, in these cases an “equivalent use” alternative should be provided that allows your content to meet your goals, perhaps in a different way. For example, a video embedded on your website that has audio cannot be used by the hearing impaired in exactly the same way. A transcript of the video will give those visitors the same information. Though their experience will be different, it is equivalent.
  • Separate, accessible version: It is increasingly considered unacceptable to provide a separate “accessible” version of content— for example a “text only” version of your website— as that is a separate and degraded experience for people with disabilities.

Consider multiple devices

Our campus WordPress environment provides a website design that works with a diversity of devices, from the traditional desktop computer, to tablets and smartphones. Always look at your content using different devices— it is likely that those who rely on accessible content delivery are encountering your website on a mobile device, so creating your content for those screens will aid you in reaching the widest possible audience effectively.

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