As Covid-19 continues to dominate our daily lives, there is increasing concern surrounding UK citizens who are classified as vulnerable – and the growing number who are becoming vulnerable – in their own homes. With internet usage skyrocketing across the country, additional value is being placed on the importance of having the necessary information and communication services available online so that everyone can address their basic human needs for gas, water, and electricity. With limited opportunities to leave the house, and most brick and mortar customer service outlets remaining closed, this can be a challenge for the more vulnerable in our society. When discussing the vulnerable, we typically think of the elderly, the infirm, and those living below the poverty line. However, the term also takes account of those without the ability to adequately understand or communicate, and those who do not have access to information that they need. In this case specifically, the information they need to keep them safe and warm during the Covid-19 lockdown. In relation to online accessibility, this includes those who are unable to read in English and those who suffer from visual impairments. The same principle is true of those with disabilities. We tend to think of ‘the disabled’ as those who are physically incapacitated. However, many types of mental disability also fall into this category. This includes those who suffer from conditions such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, and hyperlexia. The 2010 Equality Act identified all of these conditions as a disability because those suffering from them are unable to fulfill their potential. Online Accessibility Issues for the Vulnerable 10 % of UK citizens suffer from dyslexia. That’s 1 in every 10 of us that struggles with reading, writing, and spelling. In the online world, unless a website is equipped with accessibility software, this means encountering difficulties with readable fonts, colour contrast, and layout on any given webpage. 10% of the UK population speaks English as a second language. The majority of these can speak English too, but reading and writing in English are much more difficult than having a spoken conversion. This is mainly due to the many complex grammatical rules, but can also be exacerbated by additional factors such as differing phonetic systems between English and the native languages. So reading and communication online can be problematic. NHS statistics suggest that around 2 million residents in the UK are living with sight loss. Around 360,000 of these are registered blind, which leaves over 1.6 million partially sighted citizens that struggle to read web pages and use online chat functions. The Impacts for Utility Providers Over the last couple of decades, the UK has moved away from a nationalised gas and electricity system to a privatised system, and there are now more than 60 individual suppliers. This amount of choice can feel somewhat overwhelming, and the internet remains an essential source for information where people can research and compare their options. So it is not just the utility providers themselves that need to be considering consumer accessibility needs, but also the many comparison sites that help people make the best financial decisions. “The technology of consumer engagement is changing and moving online more and more. As a result, vulnerable customers need to be supported online. Recite Me is now calling on all UK energy comparison websites and energy suppliers to ensure their websites are accessible for people with disabilities. We look forward to seeing more UK energy comparison websites and energy suppliers using web accessibility software such as Recite Me to ensure they are fully supporting customers in vulnerable circumstances.” Recite Me Founder and CEO Ross Linnett The Covid-19 Catalyst Lockdown has made things more difficult for everyone. Communication is harder, human contact is reduced, and many people have withdrawn from society altogether. This has had a significant effect on individual psychology and stress levels, with studies and surveys already showing increases in cases of depression. All of us have struggled with the realities of Covid-19 in some way or another, so it is difficult to imagine how scared and frustrated some of our more vulnerable citizens are feeling at the moment. Imagine dealing with all of the regular day-to-day stress of living throughout the pandemic, plus having to deal with accessibility issues to the essential information and services you need to keep you housed, fed, and warm. It is under these circumstances that vulnerability levels increase, as any inequality in access to information (and by default services) can have significant financial impacts on the individuals concerned. This is especially true of those whose job or job security has been threatened by the coronavirus outbreak. The Solution Given the lack of physical contact and a reduced sense of community, it is clear that more needs to be done to develop stronger online communities. This means making information accessible to all, and especially information regarding basic needs like energy and heating. This is where products like Recite Me come in. The assistive toolbar allows those with sight loss or cognitive impairments like learning difficulties and dyslexia to access any website in a way best suited to their individual needs. It also incorporates different linguistic needs. Specific examples include: Text-to-speech functions. The ability to fully customise the look of a website for personal ease of use. A screen mask to provide colour tinting and block visual clutter. Additional reading aids such as an on-screen ruler and text-only mode. A real-time translation feature catering to over 100 languages, including 35 text-to-speech voices. The Recite Me accessibility toolbar is particularly useful during Covid-19 because it allows users to navigate and understand their online accounts without needing the additional support of live chat functions, or having to spend lengthy waiting times in telephone queues to speak with customer service representatives. Recite Me is proud to be working alongside many of the country’s leading utility organisations already, including Northern Powergrid, Cadent Gas Limited, Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water, and over 20 others. We invite all energy suppliers and utility comparison websites to follow their lead, and make their websites more inclusive by utilising assistive technology.
During these uncertain times, it is vital that vital information is accessible to all. London Luton Airport (LLA) has teamed up with accessibility software company Recite Me in creating a fully accessible COVID-19 information page to support all travellers around the world. At the start of the Coronavirus outbreak in the UK Recite Me Founder and CEO Ross Linnett, pledged that the company would support any business in making their online coronavirus information accessible and inclusive, at no cost. In three weeks, London Luton Airport has supported over 700 people to read and understand important travel information through being able to customise their experience online. Clare Armstrong, Head of Passenger Services at LLA said, “London Luton Airport believes that everybody should have an equal opportunity to fly and use our services. It is therefore vitally important for us to make our website easy to use for as many people as possible. “Joining the Recite Me pledge has enabled us to communicate our COVID19 message to the widest possible audience. Visitors can customise their viewing experience through a screen reader, styling options, reading aids and a translation function. This online support allows London Luton Airport’s key messages to be accessed and understood by all, particularly during these difficult and unsettling times. “ The Recite Me accessibility and language support toolbar will provide visitors to the London Luton Airport COVID-19 information page a wide range of features that include text to speech functionality, fully customisable styling features, reading aids and a translation tool with over 100 languages, including 35 text to speech voices. Ross Linnett, Recite Me CEO and Founder said: “During these uncertain times Recite Me is here to support businesses across the world to create online information related to Coronavirus that is accessible and inclusive for everyone for free.” Any business can visit the Recite Me website now to find out how the free accessible and inclusive landing page works and how to create their own landing page.
Today Thursday, May 21, 2020, marks the ninth Global Accessibility Awareness Day and together we all want businesses to think about digital inclusion for over 1 billion people worldwide who have disabilities. Let’s start off by discussing Web Accessibility. This is the term used to describe websites, tools, and technologies that are designed and developed so that people with disabilities can access your website easily. Web accessibility also benefits people without disabilities, for example, people with “temporary disabilities” such as lost glasses or for people who would prefer to listen to a large section of text instead of reading. WebAIM’s recent web accessibility testing of the home pages of one million websites found that 85.3% (852,868) of websites studied didn’t meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1) AA Level because of low contrast text. Causes of Most Common Accessibility Failures Low Contrast Text 86.3% Missing Image Alt Text 66% Empty Links 59.9% Missing Form Input Labels 53.8% Empty Buttons 28.7% Missing Document Language 28% Overall, the study shows that many of the roughly 13 million people in the UK who have a disability won’t be able to easily access the websites analysed, if at all. These are alarming statistics to think that so many people in 2020 are unable to access the internet barrier-free to complete everyday tasks. Every user deserves a first-rate digital experience on the web. Understanding Accessibility standards Web Accessibility standards have been created by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) for everyone to follow. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 define how to make web content more accessible to people with disabilities. The 13 guidelines and success criteria are organised around four principles, which set the foundation for anyone to access and use web content. They are perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. You can find out about these in more detail here Understand WCAG guidelines. Creating a digital platform with these principles in mind is a great starting point but what about usability and inclusion? We are all different and these guidelines are not enough to support everyone online. Common disabilities and impairments that need support online are, visual, hearing, motor, and cognitive. People need to be able customise their experience to read and understand online content easily. “Our biggest lesson, however, was learning that simply complying to technical standards is not the same thing as true inclusion. We can’t just check the box of compliance and think that the work is done. It is quite possible to make a website that technically passes all the accessibility tests but that still is terribly difficult for a person to use.” Vijay Mathew, Cultural Strategist & Co-Founder HowlRound Theatre Commons Creating a customized experience A proven way of supporting people online with disabilities, learning difficulties, visual impairments, and people who speak English as a second language, is assistive technology. Through the COVID-19 pandemic Recite Me has been spreading the importance of digital inclusion and supporting businesses for free with our assistive technology to provide accessibility support to staff and website visitors who need it the most. The overwhelming response towards our accessibility pledge so far resonates with why Global Accessibility Awareness Day is so important. Over 100 organsations from the UK and USA including, Public Health Wales, LNER, Virgin Money, Network Rail, Volkswagen, Atkins Global, and the RSPCA, have come together to support over 15,000 people online to read and understand vital COVID-19 information. If this is not enough evidence to show the importance of accessibility, I don’t know what is. So, it’s crucial that all websites and digital platforms are now accessible and inclusive, in order to make a fairer society, with equal opportunities for people with disabilities. Support Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) and share the need for digital inclusion to remove barriers from inaccessible websites that prevent people from taking an active part in life. 1000’s of organisations already use Recite Me to help make their websites accessible for people who have disabilities – To find out more contact the team or book your free demo.
Scottish Learning Disability Week 2020 runs from Monday 18th to Sunday 24th May. This year, to comply with Scottish Government guidelines regarding the current Covid-19 outbreak, all of the week’s events and activities will be held online. This makes it a perfect project for the team at Recite Me to get involved with, and we are excited about helping Scottish Learning Disability Week with accessibility support through the Scottish Commission for Learning Disability (SCLD) website. About Scottish Learning Disability Week The theme of this year’s Scottish Learning Disability Week is ‘My Environment – My Place, My Planet’. The underlying premise is that everyone should be encouraged to think about their local environment and community, and the steps that can be taken to help all who live there thrive and prosper. From an accessibility standpoint, this means raising general awareness about learning disabilities and the need for equality when it comes to having access to online information. It also includes creating opportunities for those with learning disabilities to be able to contribute to discussions, policies, and debates on a larger scale, not just in their own local environment. In a nutshell, the Scottish Commission for People with a Learning Disability (SCLD), who are facilitating the week, is keen to create opportunities for people to come together in their personal environments, while also demonstrating that those with learning disabilities can - and should - be involved on both local and national platforms when it comes to more global topics too. Fun Fact The mascot for Scottish Learning Disability Week is Uno the Unicorn. Did you know that the unicorn is the official national animal of Scotland? Did you know…? ● Approximately one in every hundred people worldwide had a learning disability that can make accessing information online difficult. ● There are over 23,500 adults with learning disabilities known to local authorities in Scotland. ● There are over 13,500 children and young people with learning disabilities known to schools in Scotland ● These statistics only include people with learning disabilities known to authorities, and it is estimated that the total number of people who have a learning disability in Scotland is likely closer to 120,000. How Can Recite Me Help? Recite Me was founded on the core belief that no individual should ever be defined by their disability or miss out on online content because of it. We want the online world to be an equal playing field, where those with learning disabilities are respected and included by everyone. As such, Recite Me’s unique assistive toolbar is designed to allow users to customise website copy in whichever way works best for them, regardless of their specific accessibility needs. When equipped with Recite Me software, websites become instantly accessible, readable, and much easier to understand. From text-to-speech functions, customisable styling features, reading support aids, and a translation tool with over 100 languages, we provide all of the online accessibility support that readers need. What This Means for Other Businesses Once the scale of what is possible by lifting the barriers to online access becomes clear, making a website accessible to all becomes a no-brainer. Not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s the smart thing to do. Based on any given interpretation of the statistics on Scotland alone, there could be up to 120,000 people in just one small country, who are disadvantaged by not being able to read and understand online content. Regardless of which sector or industry you are part of, that’s an awful lot of people to marginalise - especially when the software needed to include them already exists. That’s up to 120,000 potential customers that businesses are missing out on. Up to 120,000 potential students without the opportunity to learn and study. Up to 120,000 people who can’t access the valuable information they need to help them with health and financial planning. A talent pool of up to 120,000 hardworking employees lacking the ability to tap into their dream job application. And this is just in Scotland alone, so when you take a moment to reflect on what the implications are on a continental or global level, the stakes are raised even further. Progress So Far… SCLD first began to use Recite Me back in 2018 and found that it made a significant difference amongst web users with a learning disability. Recite Me was implemented onto two relevant websites: SCLD’s main website, and ‘The Keys to life’, a website that provides information on the Scottish Government’s learning disability strategy, The Keys to life. Early results show a significant percentage of users interacting with our accessibility toolbar and using all three of the main features – the screen reader, translation, and styling. Some statistics so far: ● Over 1,425 individual toolbar feature clicks. ● The top screen reader languages were English, followed by Portuguese, Dutch, and Flemish. ● Top styling changes included o altering link colours to red o increasing font size to 110% o changing the background colour to yellow While still early days in terms of statistics, these results show that we are very much achieving our goals of supporting a full range of differing abilities online. This includes catering to varying language preferences, those who suffer from visual impairments or colour blindness, and those with learning difficulties such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, or hyperlexia. There are still barriers to accessing the internet, and therefore online content, for some people with a learning disability. The digital world can be bewildering for many, regardless of whether you have a disability. However, it is hoped that through assistive technology like Recite Me, progress is being made to make the online world a more accessible and inviting place for people with a learning disability. How to Get Involved Join SCLD and the hundreds of other third and public sector organisations, corporate businesses, service providers, and charities that have already made strides towards inclusivity. Start working on making your website accessible to all by utilising assistive technology today. As well as the feel-good factor that comes with it, you’ll be tapping into a whole new network of potential and positive outcomes! Find out more about Scottish Learning Disability Week… Scottish Learning Disability Week is Scotland’s learning disability awareness-raising week, which takes place in May every year. Every year has a different theme that is important to the lives of people with a learning disability. Scottish Learning Disability Week 2020 takes place next week from Monday 18th – Sunday 24th May. You can find out more about how to get involved here. On social media use the hashtag #LDWeekScot2020 and: ● Follow us on Twitter. ● Like our Facebook page. ● Follow us on Instagram. ● Sign up to our eFocus mailing list.
During these uncertain times, it is vital that vital information is accessible to all. Mk Dons has created a fully accessible COVID-19 support hub through the support of the Recite Me accessibility pledge. Recite Me Founder and CEO Ross Linnett pledged that the company would support any business in making their online coronavirus information more inclusive, at no cost. Fans of all ages and regardless of their differing abilities or if they speak English as a second language need to be able to access important information online regarding their football club and the COVID-19 pandemic. Antoni Fruncillo, Media Manager at MK Dons commented, “At MK Dons we believe very strongly that football is for everyone and therefore, we are delighted to have been able to link up with Recite Me and ensure that important information from the Football Club can be accessed and understood by all, particularly during this difficult and unsettling time.” Evidence shows that at least one in five people have some kind of disability, long-term health condition, or impairment, which means they often have online access issues. This makes it essential to consider each individual's needs and ensure websites and other digital platforms are accessible to them. The Recite Me accessibility and language support toolbar will provide visitors to the MK Dons COVID-19 information page a wide range of features that include text to speech functionality, fully customisable styling features, reading aids, and a translation tool with over 100 languages, including 35 text to speech voices. Ross Linnett, Recite Me CEO and Founder said: “During these uncertain times Recite Me is here to support businesses across the world to create online information related to Coronavirus that is accessible and inclusive for everyone. “So, this is our pledge to help everyone in a time of need by helping any business make key information online, free of charge. “If you think your sporting organisation needs help to make your Coronavirus related online information accessible and inclusive to all your staff and customers, please contact us now.”
Millions of people across the world are working from home at the moment because of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. This working from home trend has seen a rapid surge in internet usage, which has roughly doubled during the day in the UK, according to internet service provider Virgin Media. Most employers have created working at-home practices and solutions that allow staff to access their internal systems being used remotely, but people are still getting used to the new ‘normal’ working arrangements. Making sure that websites, intranets, and other digital platforms are accessible must be at the heart of new working from home arrangements. Evidence shows that at least one in five people in the UK have some kind of disability, long-term health condition, or impairment, which means they often have access issues. This makes it essential to consider the access needs of these users and ensure websites and other digital platforms are accessible for them, whether they are working at home or anywhere else. Supporting NHS staff Even before the outbreak of COVID-19 Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust was already using web accessibility software Recite Me on its internal StaffNet intranet and website. Having Recite Me’s assistive toolbar on the Trust’s internal StaffNet intranet means that staff can use Recite Me whilst working from home to help them easily access StaffNet. Recite Me’s assistive toolbar can be used for styling changes like changing the font size and font type, zooming in, changing the text and background colour contrast, or users can use it to opt to have the text read aloud. Recite Me can also translate content from English into over 100 different languages, which makes it a perfect working from home tool for people who speak English as a second language. For example, Donato Cacciacarro, a Domestic Supervisor at Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “Recite Me is really good. I can translate text just by highlighting it or, if I don’t understand something in English, I can use the dictionary button“ The numbers don’t lie Recent data on how Recite Me is used by visitors to the Trust’s StaffNet intranet over the last five months show just how popular Recite Me is. The most popular accessibility and language features of the Recite Me toolbar being used are: Screen Reader 54.3% (2,453 pieces on content read aloud) Styling 21.27% (979 styling changed from 742 toolbar launches) Translation 19.73% (908 pieces of content translated. The Top 4 languages being, Afrikanns, Russian, French, and Welsh) These figures show how often Recite Me is used and how much it helps the Trust’s staff and its service users. Nikki Kriel, Organisational Development Manager for Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “As an inclusive employer, Recite Me has been extremely popular in a number of ways offering users the opportunity to enlarge, translate or read aloud the Trust’s website.” Jennie Shore, HR Director for Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, added: “Recite Me is an extremely useful tool which helps us to be a more inclusive organisation.” We are now offering to host a free accessible and inclusive landing page for any business to share your COVID-19 related messages to all staff and customers. You can visit the dedicated COVID-19 support page on our website now to find out how the free accessible and inclusive landing page works and how to contact us to create a landing page for your business.
Do-IT Solutions is a ‘tech for good’ company providing online and face- to face training and web-based tools to support neurodiverse people to optimise skills and to ultimately gain and sustain employment. We work in a number of sectors including education, employment and the justice sector nationally and internationally. The team has the expertise, knowledge and experience not only to deliver the processes and training but also the IT expertise to build accessible tools. We help employers attract, retain and harness neurodiverse talent and help those in education and the justice sector to seek out their strengths and minimise the challenges in their day to day lives. Do-IT takes a person-centered approach, supporting each individual in the context of their lives. I am Amanda Kirby, a medical doctor, CEO of Do-IT, and Professor in Developmental Disorders. I have more than 25 years’ experience, working clinically, in research and practically e in relation to neurodiversity. I have trained more than 100,000 people, written 8 books and published more than 100 research papers. I am also a parent and grandparent of a very neurodiverse family with amazing musicians, scientists, mathematicians and doctors alongside other wonderful people in our family with learning disabilities and smiles to make the world light up! Our team has internationally recognised experience of developing robust tools and training, including the co-founder Dr Ian Smythe as an internationally recognised dyslexia expert. He has been working in the field of accessibility also for more than 20 years. What is your D&I mission for 2020 and beyond? Do-IT is passionate about championing the talents of people who are neurodivergent and believe in sharing information about neurodiversity to others in order to influence and encourage positive change. Our mission for 2020 and beyond is to ensure that education and employment places are neuro-inclusive so that talents can be harnessed and maintained. We recognise a complementary neurodiverse world offers new solutions when we work together. In addition, we want to help to provide the means of raising awareness of specific challenges sometimes relating to neurodiversity and provide practical tools and training so that we help reduce social inequity and provide everyone an equal opportunity to showcase their talents. Ensuring systems are accessible is essential to allow the doors to be open equally for all. Can you share some D&I best practice examples? We are passionate about inclusion and were the first Disability Confident Leader in Wales. We also led on the content for the www.neurodiversityemployment.org.uk website and used Recite Me to ensure that it was accessible for all, as we do for all our sites. We have recently launched an e-learning course for HR, Diversity and Inclusion leaders that is accessible and easy to use with bite-size videos that can be watched at home or on the move. It provides step by step guidance to ensure best practice at all stages from recruitment to retaining talent. We are launching an ‘Embracing Neurodiversity kitemark’ in collaboration with the ADHD Foundation that will allow organisations to show others they are inclusive and have undertaken awareness training. During this terrible time with COVID-19 we have been delivering free webinars to more than 2500 people in the UK including a series for DWP and the Ability Network. What are you doing across your digital landscape to be inclusive? Our e-learning materials are accessible in design and delivery. We are busy training others on how to deliver accessible content including considering readability of information, the design and the manner in which it is delivered. We have launched our accessible e-learning modules which include practical guidance on being a neuro-inclusive employer. Our Neurodiversity Workplace Profiler is as web- based profiling tool which is BDA Assured and captures relevant background information regarding an individual’sjob, provides an understanding of what intervention has worked successfully, and what further support the person may require. It contains an initial Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, ADHD,ASD screeners relating to Neurodiversity strengths and challenges, wellbeing tools and resources and assistive technology guidance We offer the Neurodiversity Aware® Award which is a training and accreditation programme leading to an Open College Network (OCN) Level 4 qualification for those who want to gain a greater understanding of neurodiverse related conditions and want to have confidence supporting people in their workplaces. Can you share an example of D&I success at your organisation? We are leading the way in establishing an accessible means of raising awareness, by providing innovative tools and training to reach employers of all sizes and their staff. We constantly review and consider how we can be more inclusive in all that we do, including communication mapping with our team to ensure we understand the different ways we best communicate. Concluding company message Do-IT Solutions is a tech- for- good company that values collaboration and shared working and is passionate about making a difference and helping others to be the best they can. We see maximising neurodiverse talents is essential for the survival of humanity. We like to develop lasting relationships that allow for sustainable change. This results in inclusion never being a ‘tick box’ exercise but business as usual so that we all benefit.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic means that life is pretty strange for most of us right now. A simple task like popping out to pay utility bills, buy groceries or visit a chemist is either not an option, or it requires us to engage with organisations in different ways than before. In many cases the solution is the same – do it online instead. But whilst using the internet to do a range of relatively simple tasks is common for many of us, it’s worth considering people who can’t get access the digital online world due to accessibility issues. Digital exclusion caused by inaccessible websites Businesses and public sector organisations aren’t fully serving the public by leaving some people behind – particularly the 20% of the UK population who are disabled and often face barriers that stop them accessing websites. But there is a straight-forward solution to help keep essential services accessible online for everyone. Recite Me’s accessibility and language toolbar is already being used by thousands or organisations across the world to make their websites accessible and inclusive. For example, over fifteen UK public transport providers including Arriva UK Bus and Great Western Railway (GWR) have the Recite Me accessibility and language toolbar on their websites and see an average of 1300 unique people per month using it. This means that if you have a disability and you still need to travel on public transport right now (e.g. to go to work), you can use these websites to do tasks like, check timetables and book your tickets in advance. No hassle or fuss, regardless of your access needs. Kevin Jones, Digital Product Manager at GWR commented, "As a company, GWR understands how important access and inclusion is for all of our customers. And while it’s crucial to consider physical accessibility for our customers, it’s also essential to consider digital accessibility. "Adding Recite Me means our website is now more accessible for the one in five people in the UK (13 million) who have a disability. It also means people who don’t speak English as their first language can now translate all the content into over 100 languages at the click of a button. Thanks to Recite Me, GWR is now confident that we are providing digital access and inclusion to all of our customers. " Providing vital information to customers online for free We are now offering to host a free accessible and inclusive landing page for any business to share your COVID-19 related messages to all staff and customers, to help you support your vulnerable customers online. Recite Me CEO & founder Ross Linnett said: “Each bespoke landing page will automatically launch the Recite Me assistive toolbar. “Recite Me has a range of features that include text to speech functionality, fully customisable styling features, reading aids and a translation tool with over 100 languages, including 35 text to speech voices. “This will help people with disabilities, visual impairments, learning difficulties and people who speak English as a second language to stay well-informed about your key information. “You can visit the dedicated COVID-19 support page on our website now to find out how the free accessible and inclusive landing page works and how to contact us to create a landing page for your business.”
The grant-giving charitable Trust, British Gas Energy Trust has launched its new inclusive website, with the support of their new grant management service provider, Auriga Services Ltd, a Recite Me, partner. Recite Me Founder and CEO Ross Linnett said: “Vulnerable customers need to be supported online. Partnering up with British Gas Energy Trust is another amazing step forward to providing accessibility and language support to people who need it the most.” The new trust website www.britishgasenergytrust.org.uk provides support information, online application forms and signposting to third party services. In order to help better support people in vulnerable circumstances and people who may have disabilities, learning difficulties, visual impairments or people who speak English as a second language, the British Gas Energy Trust website now provides full accessibility and language support utilising Recite Me. Jessica Taplin, CEO of British Gas Energy Trust said “British Gas Energy Trust helps people in financial need, and accessibility is essential – especially for those who don’t speak English as their first language. The Trust is delighted that with the support of Recite Me, the British Gas Energy Trust now provides barrier-free access to our online application forms. "Enabling people with a range of accessibility issues, including visual impairments, dyslexia, colour blindness and other forms of neurodiversity, as well as those who need to use alternative languages to apply.” Mark Abrams, Chief Executive at Auriga Services Ltd said, “We make sure the services we deliver for clients are as inclusive as possible so that no users are excluded. This is where Recite Me has become so valuable. “ Auriga Services Ltd was appointed British Gas Energy Trusts new Grants Management Service Provider in April 2020 after a robust and competitive tender process.
WSOC-TV is the No. 1 local news station in Charlotte, North Carolina. After hearing the incredible work the Recite Me team is doing to support businesses around the world, they wanted to spread some feel-good news. Recite Me CEO & Founder, Ross Linnett, caught up with WSOC-TV news reporter, Mark Taylor, to discuss the importance of being accessible online during these uncertain and scary times. Watch the full interview here….
Introduce yourself and your company My name is Mark Abrams and I’ve been the Chief Executive at Auriga Services for five years. Auriga Services is a national provider of advice, assistance, and specialist services to address in the main, financial hardship. We combine our passion for inclusive support and our business professionalism to make a difference to households in vulnerable circumstances. We help over 1,000 people every day by resolving their financial worries. We manage the Trust Funds of some of Britain’s biggest utility companies, including Severn Trent, Thames Water, United Utilities and British Gas. We also deliver income maximisation services on behalf of the NHS and local authorities and make crisis payments for organisations. Since being in post I have focused on cultural and management change to enable the business to reach increasing numbers of people in hardship, and increase the impact we're having. We are a public benefit entity, owned by a charity and managed by a team of professionals - with over 20 years of experience in delivering intelligent customer hardship support solutions. What I tend to highlight is the difference we make to people, not Auriga as an organisation. Every member of staff plays a vital role in extending our reach, the quality of customer service and the positive impact on households. The assistance we deliver as a company has a profound impact on increasing inclusivity. What is your D&I mission for 2020? At the heart of Auriga is valuing difference. We create a positive environment in which everyone can influence, share knowledge and have their perspectives valued - and our staff demonstrates a serious commitment to providing services that are fair and accessible to all. Ultimately our mission is to ‘change lives every day’ – and our vision is to ‘support 3 million healthy homes by 2030’. Through having employment policies that suit a variety of workstyles, we can recruit and retain people from broader range within our society. From a business perspective that means more talent, and therefore higher quality, leading to better business. We are a culture-driven business; the company values and culture are well defined. We have a company ‘Culture Club’ that studies how we express our values and directs our leadership team – to ensure we best exemplify these values to others. Can you share some D&I best practice examples? Our commitment to diversity is embedded at every level of Auriga. We are constantly tapping into our employees' knowledge and perspectives! Recently one of our administrators Ifrah, was helping a Somali customer fill out a form for assistance. We recognised that her language skills, communication and ability to reach out to the Somali community, was an opportunity to increase accessibility to assistance in other areas and for other clients. We now build the needs of vulnerable Arabic customers in designing customer journeys and our channel strategy. Also, on behalf of our clients, we are broadening the scope and engagement of services to Somali communities. What are you doing across your digital landscape to be inclusive? We make sure our assistance and advice services are as inclusive as possible so that no users are excluded. This is where Recite Me has become so valuable. It took me less than 30 minutes of a demonstration to realise that Recite Me was a simple, elegant and high-value product. As a small company, we implemented the solution in hours. Before I knew about Recite Me, I thought it would take us months. In line with our commitment to lead on inclusion and inspire industry-wide change we now provide barrier-free access to our online application forms so people can with a range of accessibility issues, including visual impairments, dyslexia, colour blindness and other forms of neurodiversity, as well as those who need other languages. Recite Me even reads the website content out load in a huge range of languages. Can you share an example of D&I success at Auriga Services? One of the greatest benefits of our diverse and inclusive workforce is we capable of positively engaging with a wide customer base. A good example of this is our work on emergency fuel payments to help customers in very vulnerable situations. Keeping the power going to a household in crisis is a big responsibility, requiring professionalism, a quick response and high levels of customer service when issues arise. On December 24th 2019 one of our front-line staff stayed on the phone until 11.30pm to help a customer with suffering with a mental health condition receive an emergency fuel payment. She listened empathetically without making judgements and concentrated on the customer needs in the moment - ensuring this customer had a warm home for Christmas. Concluding company message For over 22 years we have held our focus on hardship and stayed true to our strong social purpose whilst offering an outstanding level of dedication, integrity and genuine care for customers. Auriga We aim to provide an exemplary and inclusive customer service that inspires change across the advice and charity sector and within the utilities and health industries. Every day we work to promote diversity and inclusion with an enormous range of community groups and in different outreach facilities.
The reality of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in the UK and countries around the world means that universities, colleges, and many schools are physically closed for the foreseeable future. But education never stops, so students and pupils around the world are now using the internet to learn online (broadband bandwidth permitting!). That said, the level of provision for online learning can range from using high-quality existing e-learning portals, which many universities have, through to very limited digital infrastructure. But the question is, is any of this accessible to all? Accessibility support is badly needed because evidence shows that many young people with disabilities and learning conditions struggle to get the support they need during their education. Some universities and colleges provide assistive technology across their online portals and websites to support students with remote learning, but a high percentage do not. In the 2017/2018 academic year, 94,000 students with disabilities entered UK universities which were up by more than 6,000 from the previous year and by 26,000 from 2013/14. This year on year increase proves that there is a growing case and need for educational organisations to be more accessible and inclusive online. As simple as providing accessibility and language support tools can greatly improve the digital learning experience of a student. The University of London uses Recite Me assistive technology on its website to support students with disabilities, visual impairments or people who speak English as a second language. Within six months of easily integrating the software across all digital platforms, The University of London had supported over 16,400 unique people to read and understand their content online barrier-free. As mentioned accessible online learning support for young children in schools is limited compared to universities. Nine out of ten young people with dyslexia will leave school without being diagnosed. This means they receive no essential specialist support while learning or support for exams. With everyone now learning from home online, it is vital that students with hidden disabilities are able to access the support they need in a way that works for them to understand and engage with tasks. When you consider that over 80,000 of the young people who sat their GCSEs last year have dyslexia, it reveals a situation that needs remedying quickly. Ultimately, it’s just as important to ensure that young people can access digital learning materials by using accessibility and language tools like Recite Me, as it is to make sure they are still learning.
CEO Ross Linnett announces that Recite Me will support all businesses for free to provide accessible Coronavirus information to their staff and customers. As Coronavirus continues to spread and has a detrimental impact on businesses Recite Me wants to reach out and support as many people as possible. The uncertainly around the recent Coronavirus pandemic has many of us worried. This is totally understandable. People want to be kept up to date with the latest information and how it will impact them and the services they use. To inform as many people as possible it is vital that this Coronavirus information is accessible. Recite Me CEO, Ross Linnett commented, “Recite Me was a dream to drive change, to be inclusive and to enable everyone to explore and share our online world freely. During these uncertain times Recite Me is here to support businesses across the world to create an accessible message to everyone surrounding Coronavirus. No cost, no agenda, just accessibility for all.” To ensure that vitally important information can be understood by everyone, Recite Me will host an accessible and inclusive landing page for businesses to share their Coronavirus message to all staff and customers. This will enable people with differing abilities, visual impairments, learning difficulties and people who speak English as a second language to understand their message. This landing page will automatically launch the Recite Me accessibility & language support toolbar, which includes text to speech functionality, fully customisable styling features, reading aids and a translation tool with over 100 languages, including 35 text to speech voices and many other features. “So, this is our pledge to help everyone in a time of need by helping any business make key information relating to Coronavirus accessible online, free of charge. “If you think your business needs help to make your Coronavirus related online information accessible and inclusive to all your staff and customers, please contact us now.”
We recently spoke to Dave Messenger, Supporter Liaison & Disability Access Officer at Watford Football Club to find out what they are doing to be a totally inclusive football club. Please tell us a little about yourself and Watford FC Dave Messenger, I’m the Supporter Liaison & Disability Access Officer for Watford FC. We’re a professional football club based in South West Hertfordshire, currently playing in the Premier League. I started working for the club as an SLO, having supported them since childhood, on promotion to the Premier League in the summer of 2015. The disability access part of my role was added in September 2015. What is your D&I mission for 2020 and beyond? Having been part of the Premier League’s commitment to accessibility in 2015, the club has spent a few years meeting the minimum guidelines for our facilities as set out in the Accessible Stadia Guide. We met these requirements during the 2018/19 season and with the structural work done, our focus since the start of the 2019/20 season has been bringing service related improvements to both home and visiting disabled supporters, especially those with hidden disabilities. Can you share some best practice examples? We have a dedicated section on our club’s website, which contains our Access Statement. This is also available in a “text-only” format. There is also an on-line tour of our accessible provision across the stadium and we have recently implemented a Hidden Disability Card Scheme, aimed at providing supporters with confidence that our stadium staff will be able to assist with any requirements on a matchday. Comments regarding being accessible across your online landscape? It’s hugely important for our website, and the information included, to be as accessible as possible. Part of the commitment to accessibility Premier League clubs made related to our web offering. Football stadia can be daunting for supporters with disabilities, so making our information as user-friendly as possible helps us ensure all visitors to Vicarage Road can make decisions and plans before they come to a match. We’re delighted to launch the Recite Me toolbar as part of our recent website update. Giving our supporters control of how the website looks will enable all supporters to easily access the information they want and need. Share an example of D&I success The club has been at the forefront of the drive to improve stadium facilities for children with autism and our Sensory Room, opened in late 2016, has now seen over 100 families attend a match at Vicarage Road. Of those families, 15 have transitioned to using general access areas of the stadium having broken down the barriers to their attendance using the Room. Concluding company message We’re proud of our long-held reputation for being a family football club and our on-going commitment to accessibility remains central to our work, as we continue to identify and make improvements to our provision for all disabled visitors to our club. Guest Blog with Dave Messenger, Supporter Liaison & Disability Access Officer, Watford Football Club
Watford Football Club today launch its all-new club website with the integration of Recite Me assistive technology to support fans with disabilities, visual impairments or people who speak English as a second language. At this time, it is crucial to be accessible online to support 20% of the population with disabilities, as we all stay at home. This innovative accessibility software will help bring supporters closer to the club by allowing fans to read and engage with the latest Watford FC content barrier-free. As part of Watford FC’s 2020 focus on supporting people with hidden disabilities, they have enhanced their digital landscape by making sure it is accessible and inclusive for everyone. The Recite Me accessibility and language toolbar provides a number of features to give a visitor full control over the customisation of the website to suit their needs. These features include screen reader, styling options, reading support and a translation tool with over 100 languages, including 35 text to speech voices. Dave Messenger, Supporter Liaison & Disability Access Officer, Watford Football Club commented, “We’re delighted to launch the Recite Me toolbar as part of the new-look website. We’ve focussed on improving our provision for supporters with hidden disabilities across this season and giving our supporters control of how the website looks will enable all supporters to easily access the information they want.”