News & Media
Yesterday marked Global Accessibility Awareness Day, an annual occasion to get everyone thinking and learning about digital accessibility, diversity and inclusion. Dyslexia is something close to our hearts here at Recite Me, we see value in sharing experiences to ensure others don’t feel alone. We caught up with Leng Montgomery, a Senior DE&I Consultant at Charlotte Sweeney Associates, to discuss his personal experiences with dyslexia and the importance of providing support. How would you define dyslexia? I define dyslexia as being something I have whereby I can’t always read or write in a clear way. It also means that you can’t always tell what is wrong or incorrect. Having dyslexia doesn’t take away or prevent me from being around words or writing reports etc as I can do that. I also play a lot of Scrabble and Wordle and am good at those as I find it’s a great brain exercise for me to unscramble letters. It’s also helped me work through other feelings too that I am inadequate or stupid. How does dyslexia affect your life (what challenges do you face– work and personal?) It’s played a part in how much information I can sometimes retain if reading it – I sometimes miss very fine details or just can’t always see what is wrong with a piece of writing or find it hard to spot any grammatical errors. My spelling is good for the most part. What support have you or others put in place to help? I always make sure spell check is activated on all emails I have before I can send them out as that’s helped minimize type-o’s and has allowed a final review before something has been sent out. If the email or message is important I usually get a colleague to check it over. If an article is being written then I have a colleague check it over too as I feel peer review is good working practice and is useful to make sure what I have written has made sense. I gave a Tedx Talk in 2018 and adjustments were needed for that – I can’t detail lots of information on a script basis if speaking publicly so I had a well-rehearsed opening statement and closing statement and followed the story flow of what I was discussing. Generally, when I speak I agree on the key points and use that as a flow rather than practicing what I will speak word for word. Why is providing accessibility support important to Charlotte Sweeney Associates? We are all about inclusion and we actively practice what we preach – I report to Charlotte Sweeney directly and she’s been very clear in asking what support I need but doesn’t ever treat Dyslexia as a reason that I couldn’t do something but will always identify ways to be more inclusive in terms of how we work together and how we work with our clients. She also has ensured that I won’t be too overloaded with writing tasks or I have broad deadlines so I can have some reflection time. With others in the team, I am open about having Dyslexia and have always said if something doesn’t make sense or if it’s incorrect to let me know and we’ve all found a great way of working where I never feel shamed and it’s helped me learn more from receiving feedback what would be more concise or better ways to lay something out in less words. Accessibility support is very important as in many cases it’s almost like a well-kept secret – it’s there for the most part but it’s not spoken about widely enough. Fortunately, more workplaces are being more vocal around being inclusive or confident around having conversations around accessibility which promotes inclusion and has really opened my eyes to how many people do require support but it’s important to remember that everyone is different and it’s always good to have a conversation with the individual as taking Dyslexia as an example, what works for me might not work for someone else.
We are delighted to announce a new partnership with Sign Solutions; an award-winning on-demand, interpretation, translation, and training provider for seamless communication between deaf and hearing people. With 11 million people in the UK who are deaf or hard of hearing, we are thrilled to announce this partnership to tackle inequality for those with disabilities, learning difficulties, visual impairments, and those who speak English as a second language. Over the past 20 years, Sign Solutions has been awarded prestigious awards that recognise its service within a broad range of sectors including health, social care, legal, conference, education, and utilities. The perfect match for Recite Me and Sign Solutions - tackling world inequality and we even have some of the same clients! Sophie Kang, Business Development Manager at Sign Solutions commented, “I first became aware of Recite Me through a mutual client of ours and I was intrigued to understand their service. Once I understood their products and company values it became clear that they aligned exactly with that of Sign Solutions. “Sign Solutions' aim is to break down the barriers in communication for Deaf people and combat inequality. It made perfect sense for us to partner as Recite Me shares in our vision of accessibility for all and shares in our mission of creating a more inclusive society for everyone. We offer clients a complete solution to accessibility and want to ensure nobody with a disability faces a barrier in accessing services. We look forward to seeing where our partnership takes us.” Utilita Energy, the UK’s first and only specialist Pay As You Go Smart Energy provider is leading the way to break down barriers and encourage inclusivity. Utilita provides Recite Me assistive technology online and works closely with Sign Solutions to provide British Sign Language Video Interpreters and other types of remote communication support anytime and anywhere via any video platform. Global Accessibility Awareness Day is this Thursday (19/05/22), make sure to check out Recite Me’s webinar that will provide BSL from the great team at Sign Solutions. Sign up here. If you would like more information on how your organisation can provide a diverse and inclusive digital world by utilising accessibility and language tools, contact our team or book a real-time demonstration of the toolbar.
As more small businesses have expanded their online presence in recent years, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has implemented assistive technology to encourage a simple and seamless interaction for users of its site. Making change and influencing policies, FSB offers members a wide range of vital business services including advice, financial expertise, support, and a powerful voice heard in government. One recent example of this is the increase in the Employment Allowance for small employers from £4,000 to £5,000, announced in the Spring Statement, which came about thanks to FSB’s efforts on behalf of its members. To ensure an accessible digital space, FSB has lowered digital barriers for those with disabilities, learning difficulties, visual impairments, and those who speak English as a second language. Dave Eastwood, Marketing and Campaigns Manager at the Federation of Small Businesses, commented: “A visit to your website is often the first interaction a potential customer has with your business. Whether a consumer is in search of your opening hours, product information, or testimonials from happy clients, you want to make the experience simple. “If you’re an ecommerce business reliant on online sales, having an accessible and effective digital shop window is even more important to the success of your business.” The Recite Me accessibility and language tools on FSB’s website includes features such as, screen reading functionality, multiple reading aids, customisable styling options, and an on-demand live translation feature that boasts over 100 languages including 35 text-to-speech and styling options. Approximately 20% of people in the UK sit in the disability market. In the UK alone, the spending power of disabled people and their families is worth a staggering £274 billion and is estimated to be growing by 14% per year, yet less than 10% of organisations have a targeted plan to access the disability market. To support those with access needs online, FSB is raising awareness of the importance of meeting accessibility standards, and the small steps you can take to start your accessibility journey. To explore the customisable toolbar on the FSB website select the pink and white accessibility symbol in the top right hand corner. For more information on how you can provide an inclusive online experience book a demo with a member of our friendly team.
On Thursday 19th of May 2022 it’s Global Accessibility Awareness Day, a day to get everyone thinking, talking and learning about digital inclusion. As this is such an important day in the Recite Me calendar we are spending the entire week shining a spotlight on digital accessibility. Today, we are sharing a Q&A with Alannah who kindly shares with us her personal experience of ADHD. 1. Could you tell me a bit about yourself? My name is Alannah (pronouns: she/her) and I’m a Continuous Improvement Practitioner within OVO’s Operational Excellence department. I was diagnosed with combined-type ADHD last year, which subsequently led me to joining our Neurodiversity Network. 2. What is it like to have ADHD? Previously to my diagnosis, having ADHD often felt like I was constantly playing a video game on the highest difficulty, but I felt pressured to make it look easy and never acknowledge that I was struggling. Nowadays, I still sometimes struggle with aspects of my day-to-day life, but overall it’s much less challenging. Part of what helps me is my medication, which the research shows makes the biggest difference for most people with ADHD. However, I also find systems like Recite Me to be very helpful in making my life that little bit easier. 3. How does ADHD affect your life? In all honesty ADHD has its pros and cons (and everyone with ADHD is different). Under the right conditions, my ADHD is the competitive edge that gives me the enthusiasm and focus to achieve my goals at pace in and outside of work. Conversely, sometimes my ADHD is the invisible boulder that prevents me from remembering the plans I’ve made and distracts me from the things that I should be doing. 4. Why do you think it is important to provide accessibility support online? Accessibility needs to be designed with every aspect of life in mind. Increasingly the majority of our lives are now managed online, so it’s incredibly important that accessibility is inclusively implemented in all online platforms. 5. How does the Recite Me toolbar support you? A lot of platforms are highly saturated with lots of content, which can make it challenging to take in what you’re trying to read. I like to use the Screen Mask function to focus on the specific area of the screen that I’m looking at, and scroll down as-and-when required. 6. Are there times you feel like your online experience could be improved by having access to assistive technology? Definitely, nearly every day I find myself thinking of ways that technology and processes could be improved from a user experience perspective. I typically use subtitles when I’m watching tv shows or movies. Occasionally, someone has mentioned that they find the subtitles a bit distracting, but sometimes they later mention that they’ve come to find subtitles helpful. I think that a good litmus test for assistive technology is that it should be deemed easy to use by the people who need it the most. It’s a great bonus if people who weren’t consciously your intended users find it helpful too.
Why is web accessibility such a big deal? Because over 1 billion people worldwide are unable to make use of the information on your website if you don’t make accessibility adjustments to meet their needs. Yes, you read that number right. And yes, that’s around 20% of the entire global population. Thursday 19th of May marks the 11th anniversary of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, which focuses on getting people to think and learn more about digital access and inclusion, and what it means for their business. Here’s what you need to know… What Does Being Accessible Mean? Over the past few decades, the world has made significant advancements in making the physical world more accessible to people with disabilities. But online accessibility isn’t just about the stereotypical wheelchair-bound disabled user. Websites also need to be accessible to a wide range of hidden disabilities like cognitive and neurological disorders, visual impairments, and language barriers. Being accessible means making reasonable adjustments for the entire range of disabled users so that they can read and use the information on your website. Otherwise, consumers are simply not able to do business with you. Why Isn’t My Website Accessible? Take a moment to think about how much you use the internet. The international average is 145minutes per person per day - just under 2.5 hours. Now imagine not having access to all of those websites and not having the information you need to complete activities like shopping, banking, paying bills, applying for jobs, and finding out information about local services, etc. There are hundreds of specific conditions that create barriers to accessing information online. But broadly speaking, there are four key reasons why users cannot access your website. People Can’t Read It For people with sight loss, colour blindness, and deafblindness, reading web copy can be difficult. The size of the text, the font used, and the colour contrast between text and background are all important factors – especially for users with learning difficulties like dyslexia, dyspraxia, and hyperlexia. People with more severe visual impairments may need to use a screen reader, or even have the content read aloud. People Don’t Understand It All of the copy on your website needs to be clearly written, understandable, and run in a logical order, otherwise people with cognitive and neurological disorders cannot follow the flow of information. You also need to consider the number of website visitors who speak English as a second language and may not be able to comprehend the information without translation assistance. People Can’t Navigate It Whether temporary or permanent, physical disabilities can make accessing websites via a smartphone or tablet extremely difficult, and using equipment like a mouse may be almost impossible. Therefore, it is imperative that your website can be navigated by keyboard-only functions, and that technology like voice readers can be used to allow visitors to search by verbal commands. People Are Scared of It Sounds dramatic, we know. But… what if site visitors have epilepsy or one of several conditions known to cause disorientation and/or confusion? Elements like flashing images, videos, or the overuse of image carousels can be a real danger here. Best case scenario, they become lost and unable to maintain their place on the page, and simply click away. But in the worst case, it could lead to a seizure. So options to change the layout of the page and strip away unwanted graphics for easier and safer reading are required. Best Practices for Website Accessibility The disabled market is the largest minority group in the world, so the benefits of including them should have fairly obvious ties to improved financial success. Essentially, web accessibility is now such an important consideration that you simply cannot afford for your site not to be accessible. Many businesses shy away from making accessibility adjustments as they see them as being too complicated or expensive. But on the contrary, many solutions are simple and easy to execute. Web Design The whole point of having a website is to showcase your products and services to as wide an audience as possible. Follow these steps to make your website easier for everyone to read, focus on, and understand. Use a content management system that supports accessibility. Use headings correctly to structure your content. Give descriptive names to your links. Ensure forms are designed for accessibility. Be mindful of colour use and colour contrasts. Be keyboard-friendly. You can read more about best practices for accessible web design here. Content Errors The most common examples of easy-to-fix accessibility failures include: Low contrast text Missing alt tag text Empty links Missing input labels on forms Empty buttons Missing document language Recent accessibility testing by WebAIM surveyed over 1 million website home pages and found these details were missing way more often than they should be. How to Make Your Website Inclusive One of the quickest, easiest, and most cost-effective ways to make your website inclusive is with assistive technology like the Recite Me toolbar. It’s worth noting that even if your website is accessible, it may not be inclusive. Accessibility compliance alone does not provide users with a fully inclusive experience. True inclusion comes from giving people as many choices as possible so they can customise your site and consume the information in a way that is tailored to their needs. “Accessibility guidelines are there to help us make websites more accessible. But they aren’t the be-all and end-all of accessibility.” Nicola Steenhout, Consultant in Inclusion, Accessibility, and Disability It is in this area of advocating accessibility, but also promoting inclusion at a much higher level, in which Recite Me sits. How Assistive Technology Works When you open a webpage that is equipped with our assistive technology, an accessibility toolbar pops up on the page. This alerts website visitors that additional accessibility options are available and that the site is a safe and welcoming space for them to enter. The Recite Me assistive toolbar promotes inclusivity by allowing those with sight loss, cognitive impairments, learning difficulties, physical disabilities, and varying linguistic needs to access your website in a way that is best suited to them. Functions include: Fully customisable text size, font, and spacing. The ability to change text colour and background colour contrasts. A screen mask to provide colour tinting and block visual clutter. Additional reading aids such as an on-screen ruler and text-only mode. Text-to-speech functions in 35 languages. A real-time translation feature catering to over 100 languages. These functions account for singular adjustments and also more complex scenarios where multiple adjustments are required for ease of use. The software even remembers each user’s preferences, so any page they open is automatically formatted to their preference. By providing an inclusive website journey for those with disabilities, we are improving website experiences for everyone. To find out more you can contact our team or book a free demo, and join the thousands of organisations who already use Recite Me to make the online world a more inclusive place.
This week marks Mental Health Awareness Week, an annual occasion to raise awareness and focus on achieving good mental health. This year, the theme of Mental Health Awareness Week is Loneliness, which has a huge impact on our mental health, particularly since the pandemic. We caught up with Emily Cotter, Marketing, PR and Communications Officer at Leeds Mind to discuss the importance of Mental Health Awareness Week and how you can reach out for support. 1. What does Leeds Mind work to achieve, and what support do you provide? Leeds Mind is a local mental health charity, serving our population in and around Leeds, and more broadly across West Yorkshire. We work towards creating a city where everyone experiencing a mental health difficulty gets the support they need and respect they deserve. We do this through our services, including: counselling, group support, suicide bereavement services, social support, creative arts activities, employment support, and mental health training. 2. Why is Mental Health Awareness Week important? At least 1 in 4 people experience mental health difficulties at some point in their lives. What’s more, 60% of people in Yorkshire and the Humber said their mental health got worse during the lockdowns. This means that after the pandemic, our work is more important than ever. Mental Health Awareness Week is a great opportunity for everyone to focus on mental wellbeing, whether it’s their own, that of their friends and family, or something they want to talk about with colleagues at work. When we all come together to talk about mental health, it lets people who might be struggling know that it’s OK to not be OK. Hopefully, that will start them on the path towards seeking support. 3. This year’s theme on Mental Health Awareness Week is Loneliness, why is this important? This year’s theme of loneliness is particularly poignant as we emerge from two years of widespread social isolation. During the lockdowns, the Mental Health Foundation found that loneliness was almost three times higher than pre-pandemic levels. And some people were more likely to be affected, including people with long-term physical health conditions, those on lower income, and people with pre-existing mental health difficulties. While loneliness itself isn’t a mental health difficulty, we know that it can lead to conditions such as anxiety and depression. It can also have an impact on our physical health. That’s why it’s so important that we help people connect in their local community, to improve mental and physical wellbeing. 4. How would you advise individuals to reach out for support? Seeking help is often the first step towards getting and staying well, but it can be really hard to know where to start. It's common to feel unsure, and to wonder whether you should try to handle things on your own. But it's always ok to ask for help – even if you're not sure you are experiencing a specific mental health difficulty. You can seek support if you’re worrying more than usual, finding it hard to enjoy your life or having thoughts and feelings that are hard to cope with. You can also reach out if you’re just interested in what sort of support is out there. A good place to start is by looking at what services are available for you locally. There is a network of more than 100 local Minds which you can search here: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/local-minds/?msclkid=534dd826cc6711eca38f3ebba6ca7f3b 5. How is Leeds Mind providing a diverse and inclusive experience for all? And Why is it important to Leeds Mind to provide accessibility and language tools online? It’s really important to us to provide an inclusive experience. Mainly, because this is the right thing to do, and in line with our mission of working towards better mental health for everyone. Leeds is a diverse city, and when we say we believe in better mental health for all, we really do mean everyone. So we want to be inclusive from an ethical standpoint and this is also important to our funders. Making our website more accessible is a great way of demonstrating our commitment to inclusion to all our supporters, for whom equality, diversity and inclusion is a key consideration. Recite Me offered us the opportunity to do this within the constraints of our limited resource as a charity. 6. What do you hope for the future of mental health services? We hope that the awareness around mental health that has been accelerated through the pandemic continues to grow. As demand for support rises with more people feeling comfortable to seek support, we also hope that Government focus on this area, along with the funding, keeps pace.
Mental health and physical health are both very important to me. As an athlete, I understand firsthand how physical fitness can have a positive effect on mental wellbeing, and I suppose I've always had a side interest in mental health through increasing and maintaining my own physical health. I’m not too fond of the term mental health in itself though. There’s an assumption that mental health and mental illness is the same thing. But everyone has mental health. It exists all of the time, just in varying states of being – in exactly the same way physical health exists all the time and can go up or down. It’s just that mental health has more of a stigma attached to it, and we only tend to consider it when there is a dip for some reason. That's why it’s so important to maintain our mental health, even when we feel good. What is Mental Health? Mental health includes all aspects of wellbeing, encompassing emotional, psychological, and social factors. It affects how we feel, how we think, and how we act, and has significant impacts on how we handle stress, connect with others, and make decisions. Needless to say, I think this makes ensuring positive mental health a top priority. Lots of things that we can control have an impact on mental health – like our diet, how much sleep we get, our physical fitness, and the other people we interact with. I think there’s been a collective shift towards becoming more aware of mental health issues in the last few years, and slowly people are starting to see mental health in the same way they look at physical health. Personally, I see them as both sides of the same coin. Why is Supporting Mental Health Important in the Workplace? We spend so much of our time at work, so it’s a no-brainer that adopting good practices and supporting mental health within the workplace can have significant impacts on employee well-being. While everyone has their own distinct job role within a business, it’s ultimately the work we do as a team that affects our success. So it’s really important that the team is as strong as possible, and that every team member is supported in every way. It all comes down to treating people as individuals. I like to think that Recite Me is a person-centric organisation where the person comes before the job role. When people feel valued and supported, they naturally perform to the best of their abilities, so the value of being a compassionate organisation works both ways. What Mental Health Support Can Employers Provide? Even though the attitude towards mental health and inclusivity is becoming more accepting, many people still feel the need to hide what they perceive as a weakness or failure, and are therefore reluctant to open up about their mental health at work. This means it’s often difficult to tell when people are struggling, because mental health problems can be more easily hidden than physical ones. To provide a caring environment where staff excel, a “people first” approach is the best way to go. Organisations need to take on more responsibility to be aware on a top-down scale, but also encourage their teams and individual employees to be more aware and genuinely supportive of mental health across the board. Encouraging all-round fitness is another way to boost mental health. Often, people don’t see the interconnectedness of sleep, diet, physical health, and extraneous variables like financial and legal concerns etc. Awareness of this is key so that people can ask for help before it’s too late and they become stressed, depressed, or experience burn-out. Even small things like a few minutes away from their desk can help employees. A while back, we noticed that quite a few of our staff had backaches. So we organised for a yoga teacher to come in every couple of weeks and offer one-on-one stretches and massage. This had a big impact on mental health. But I don’t think it was just the physical relief. Just the flexibility to take a little time out of their working day had a positive effect too. How Does Accessibility Play a Part? I see so many synergies between mental health and accessibility, diversity, and inclusion. First and foremost, it’s just the right thing to do. But accessibility makes a huge difference to mental health in general, as people are normally happier when they feel included. Likewise, when people feel excluded or disenfranchised, they tend to have more negative feelings. Inclusivity is at the core of accessibility. It’s about allowing a person to matter, regardless of any disadvantages or disabilities. Whether an individual is dyslexic, has a visual impairment, or speaks English as a second language, they don’t feel as alienated when society makes adjustments for them. This has a positive effect on the mental health of people who could otherwise have felt excluded because of their disabilities. Again, it goes back to treating people as individuals and not attaching labels to problems. The premise of our accessibility software and the benefits of mental health awareness are the same. It’s about creating a positive attitude towards inclusion, rather than seeing a person’s problems as something that needs to be fixed. As Alan Weiss once famously said, “Ask your customers to be part of the solution, and don’t view them as part of the problem.” Accessibility and Mental Health in the Corporate World It’s great to see that more and more businesses are viewing both accessibility and mental health awareness as a competitive advantage. And there absolutely is a commercial benefit. For example, we have been working closely with Corpwell UK lately. Focusing on corporate wellness, the Corpwell team provides a directory of business support and connects organisations that promote wellbeing and mental health in the workplace with experts and suppliers within their industry. Mark Stevens, founder and CEO at Corpwell UK, suggested that as many as 1 in 3 employees may suffer from mental health issues that affect their work. Equate this to financial terms, and that’s anything up to 45billion GBP that UK businesses lose every year in absenteeism – and that doesn’t even account for the drop in productiveness caused by lack of presenteeism before the sick leave takes place. Adding the Recite Me toolbar to their website is just one of the ways that Corpwell supports its clients and employees. By providing barrier-free access to information, potential negative mental health effects caused by exclusion are avoided. What Should People Do if They’re Struggling with Mental Health? It’s difficult, both because of the stigma attached to mental health and because nobody likes to appear vulnerable. But the key is to reach out. Everybody in the world has needed help at some point in their life, so there is no need to feel bad asking for it. With assistance from friends, colleagues, and family members, it’s easier to be systematic about the origins of an issue, and move positively to eliminate, correct, or reduce the cause. I’m not a psychologist, but I always find concentrating on what is going good in your life always helps. Often when we are in a low mental state we tend to focus on what's wrong, but if we take a little bit of time to just appreciate what is right, it can have a transformative effect. Hopes for the Future of Mental Health Services As a society, it’s to our benefit that everyone achieves good mental health. So I’d like to see schools, businesses, and communities being more consciously aware of mental health issues all year round, not just in Mental Health Awareness Week. That said, having an awareness week does give people the chance to talk about any aspect of mental health that they want to, and that can only be a positive thing. Helping people to stay in a good place is a way better alternative than helping them out of a bad place. So in the future, I hope to see the attitude towards mental health transform into a prevention rather than cure way of thinking. With earlier intervention, we could help people keep their mental state in a positive position, which I believe is a much stronger strategy than waiting until people hit rock bottom and treating the problem with anti-depressant pills etc. I’d also love to see more mental health officer roles within businesses. If we can implement good practices and provide support to our staff before small problems become big ones, the whole organisation will be happier and healthier.
NorthLink Ferries are leading the way to a more inclusive transport industry by providing online accessibility tools to enable a smooth travel experience. We caught up with Magnus Dixon, the Marketing Manager at NorthLink Ferries to discuss all things accessibility, and D & I. Magnus told us about the impact of COVID on accessibility within the travel industry and the response from passengers since the implementation of Recite Me on the NorthLink Ferries website. 1. Please tell us a little about yourself and NorthLink Ferries. I'm the Marketing Manager for NorthLink Ferries. We run the ferry service from the Scottish Mainland to the Shetland and Orkney Islands, and these are exciting journeys to the most northerly parts of the UK. Our Pentland Firth sailing, from the northern coast of the UK Mainland to the Orkney Islands, only takes an hour and a half, but it passes the Old Man of Hoy, a spectacular sea stack. Orkney is quite beautiful. It is low and green with farmland, bits of moorland, and big fishing lochs, fringed by beautiful quiet beaches. It is notable for having amazing archaeological sites, including standing stones and a prehistoric village with houses that are 5,000 years old. The NorthLink ferry voyage from Aberdeen is also exciting for passengers. It sails over 200 miles from the Granite City and, on the indirect sailing, stops briefly in Orkney before continuing to Shetland. This is the longest internal ferry route in the UK. The ship departs at teatime, and passengers can book their own cabins, and wake up the next morning in Shetland's capital, Lerwick. The Shetland Islands are a bit wilder than Orkney, and the rugged scenery is breathtaking. Shetland has a unique Viking heritage, lovely beaches, historic sites, Fair Isle knitting, and of course puffins and Shetland Ponies! I grew up in Orkney, and love writing about both the Orkney and Shetland Islands for the NorthLink website. I live 5 minutes from the port of Stromness with my peedie (Orcadian for small) family; my wife Vicky and two teenage children Milly and Robbie. My brother David was born six years before me with cerebral palsy, so I'd like to think I've been aware of accessibility issues from a young age. 2. What is your accessibility mission for this year and beyond? At NorthLink Ferries, we're really proud that our ferries and terminals have been built with accessibility in mind. There is easy access to our buildings, customer lifts, level walkways, lower customer-facing desks, hearing loops, a sign language service, large-print brochures, signage in Braille, and of course Recite Me on our website, and that's before you've even stepped onto the ferries. Onboard we have accessible cabins with wider automatic doors, ceiling hoists, and wet rooms, Changing Places toilets, safety information announced by loudspeaker and in print, helpful colours, signage in Braille, lifts from the car deck to the upper decks, wheelchairs available for use, and staff that are willing to go above and beyond for our passengers. I think my accessibility mission for the future is to find ways to inform people about this, as I hope it will take some of the anxiety out of traveling. We are also looking into better ways to let customers inform our staff about their accessibility needs at the time of booking. This is in place already, but I'm keen to improve it! 3. Why is accessibility important to North Link Ferries and how does Recite Me support this? When you see Orkney and Shetland on the weather map, they look really remote. In truth, Shetland is closer to Bergen in Norway than it is to Edinburgh! However, with NorthLink Ferries, you just have to reach Aberdeen, and within a few hours and for a very low price, you can set foot on these unique Islands. We're keen to let people know how easy it is to reach Shetland and Orkney, and the amazing suite of accessibility tools provided by Recite Me makes using the NorthLink Ferries website much easier to use in order to find out more. We love all the tools that Recite Me has to offer our passengers. 4. Why do you think diversity and inclusion should be important to the travel and transport sector? The world is an amazing place, full of superb people with so many great stories to tell. The NorthLink Ferries logo is that of a Viking, navigating his way through the seas, and reassuring customers that it is safe to travel again. We hope that our passengers will come home with their own Viking sagas of the historic sites they visited and the amazing nature they witnessed in Shetland and Orkney. That's the difference between a beach holiday (though those are nice too) and a voyage with NorthLink Ferries. The weather may be a bit cooler, but I think you'll be talking about the food and drink, the culture, the unique festivals and crafts, the slower pace of life, and the glimpse back in time that you experienced in Orkney and Shetland for a lot longer! Accessibility should not be a barrier to anyone experiencing that. 5. How has COVID accelerated the need for accessibility tools in the travel industry? At NorthLink Ferries, we have found that passengers are keen to take their own cars, and they are more likely to book cabins since 2020. That's one of the nice things about our ferries. There's plenty of space for everyone, and we have bars, restaurants, and a shop onboard our ships, but if you wish, you can easily and safely isolate yourself in one of our cabins. COVID increased interest in holidaying in the UK, and Shetland and Orkney are really unique destinations. Plenty of our passengers return again and again, but we also have new customers who have never ventured so far north before. Recite Me is great as it easily allows customers with accessibility needs to find out the information they might need on our website. At NorthLink Ferries, we recently upgraded our online booking system to make it more user-friendly than ever before. Recite Me assists customers whilst they make web bookings too – we regarded this as very important. For those who would like to talk through their journey, we also have a call centre manned by friendly islanders! We’re aware that COVID has made many people more anxious about venturing out, which is why NorthLink now has the tagline ‘Onward, Voyager to Shetland and Orkney’. My hope is that it will reassure passengers that our islands are safe (and unique) places to visit. 6. Have you received any feedback on the Recite Me toolbar from your website users? We have. I respond to many of the emails sent in by our customers. Amongst these, a few have told us how the screen reader and the text resizing tool have made navigating the NorthLink Ferries website very much easier. I've received a couple of emails from international customers who also appreciated the language tools. We also have a staff member with dyslexia who uses the ruler and screen mask tool regularly. We meet often with Disability Equality Scotland and are part of their internal steering group. They were very impressed with everything Recite Me can do. I still remember how easy it was to set up Recite Me on the NorthLink Ferries website – it took less than 5 minutes – and the breadth of accessibility tools available after that was staggering. I really can’t recommend it enough. Go to the NorthLink Ferries website to find out more and try out the Recite Me accessibility tools in the top right corner.
Join us on the 19th of May at 2:00 pm BST to learn about the importance of digital accessibility. You will hear about our panel's experiences and why online accessibility is important to them.
At Recite Me we believe in accessibility for all. We are here to provide information and resources so we can all make a difference in the world of online accessibility.
The easy answer is that web accessibility is now such an important consideration that you simply cannot afford for your website not to be accessible. But, of course, there is more to it than that… We’ve come a long way since the early days when US astronomer Clifford Stoll submitted an article entitled “The Internet? Bah!” into a Newsweek publication, boldly predicting that the internet was no more than a passing fad. Obviously, he couldn’t have been more wrong, and today the internet is an incredibly important tool and a more valuable source of information than ever - and it’s not going anywhere! Just like the internet itself, accessibility is by no means a passing fad. So if you commit to having a website for your business at all, then why not make it fully inclusive and accessible, rather than alienating groups of users and consumers? In an age where the entire world is embracing diversity and fighting for equality, the phrase ‘be kind’ seems to get bounced around on an ever-increasing basis. So we urge you to be kind to your website users and adapt to meet the needs of those who suffer from a range of disabilities including: Visual impairments Deafblindness Colour blindness Dyslexia Hyperlexia Dyspraxia ADHD Speaking English as a second language Epilepsy Mobility and physical impairments Key Reasons to Ensure Your Website Is Accessible 1. Revenue: Making your website accessible to all consumers is the smart thing to do. The business case for accessibility varies based on the type of organisation, but particularly in the case of commercial companies, justification is required before resources can be allocated towards it. At Recite Me, we are confident that the benefits outweigh the effort and costs, and a recent research study of Fortune 100 companies discovered that having a robust online diversion and inclusion policy is a common denominator among high performing businesses. Plus, there is an abundance of information and statistics that rebut the argument that return on investment is too difficult to measure in order to warrant the outlay required: The total disposable income of the US working-age population with disabilities is $490 billion The online spending power of people with access needs in the UK is £24.8 billion. 86% of users with access needs would spend more if there were fewer barriers. 83% of people with access needs limit their shopping to sites that they know are accessible. 71% of users leave a site that they find hard to use. Ultimately, users will click away from inaccessible websites and spend their money elsewhere. So there is a clear case that making a business accessible online as well as in-person should lead to an increase in profits. Despite this, fewer than 10% of businesses have a targeted plan to access the disability market. 2. Improving User Experience: Making your website accessible to all consumers is the right thing to do. It is a commonly agreed principle that everyone should have access to information online. Microsoft’s application guide for developers specifically states that designing inclusive software results in improved usability and customer satisfaction, and this is something that the team at Recite Me can verify from experience. The inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, believes that the internet should empower all members of society by making information accessible to everyone. “The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect…The Web is fundamentally designed to work for all people, whatever their hardware, software, language, location, or ability.” Sir Tim Berners-Lee Inclusivity online becomes increasingly relevant when you consider that: Approximately one in every hundred people worldwide has a learning difficulties that can make accessing information online difficult. At least one billion people worldwide have a recognised disability that can make accessing information online difficult. 20% of the UK population and 25% of the US population live with a disability. One in ten people in the UK doesn’t speak English as their first language. More than one in five people living in America speak a language other than English at home. 3. Compliance & Legalities: Making your website accessible to all consumers is a thing you must do. Nowadays, it is expected by law that businesses and service providers do not treat disabled people less favourably. So in order to avoid lawsuits, companies are required to adhere to national and international standards and guidelines. A few examples are as follows: In the UK - The Equality Act of 2010 states that all UK service providers must consider ‘reasonable adjustments’ for disabled people. In the USA - Web accessibility regulations are covered under various federal laws including The American Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires that companies make accommodations for disabled users with specific regard to web accessibility. In Norway – It is illegal for commercial websites not to provide equal access for people with disabilities, and fines are issued to companies that do not comply. In the European Union – The European Accessibility Act requires that all businesses operating in the e-commerce sector meet minimum accessibility requirements. Worldwide – The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) have been developed to provide a set of core principles and minimum standards to meet the needs of consumers internationally. These guidelines define how content should be made more accessible to those with disabilities, and are the premium standards that should be adopted by organisations globally. Despite the increase in accessibility guidelines and legislation in recent years, companies around the world are still failing to meet minimum requirements: In 2019, an evaluation by WebAIM concluded that 97.8% of homepages failed to comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). 70% of websites in the USA have critical accessibility issues, and web accessibility lawsuits hit a record number in 2019 with 11,053 cases being filed through the federal court. A particularly landmark case was the victory of Guillermo Robles, a blind man who successfully sued Dominos after he was unable to order food on the company’s website. With this in mind, it is essential that all businesses including commercial companies, educational institutions, non-profit organisations, and governmental bodies are aware of the national and international guidelines that apply to them. Particular attention should be given to developing a thorough understanding of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and ensuring compliance. Ready to Embrace Accessibility? You should be! Aside from the financial, ethical, and legal advantages, there’s also a significant feel-good factor associated with inclusivity that boosts morale across an organisation. If you would like to book a demo of the Recite Me assistive toolbar to help you towards your inclusivity goals and optimise your business for success, please feel free to contact our team. Our most recent 12-month stats show that: Over 4 million people used our toolbar Over 23 million web pages were accessed Individual styling features were activated over 5.1 million times Users viewed an average of 5.74 pages per session, compared to the average website journey of just 2.8. Over 40 million pieces of online content were read aloud using our on-screen reader. Over 24 million pieces of online content were translated into another language. Try it for Free! It is vital, especially in the current climate, that information can be understood by everyone, and the demand for accessible and inclusive websites has never been greater. Put simply, service providers and consumers alike must go online more than ever before to conduct their daily business and transactions. Throughout the current pandemic, Recite Me is offering to host a free accessible and inclusive landing page for any business, allowing you to share COVID-19 related messages with your staff and customers.
Loaves & Fishes/Friendship Trays is on a mission to meet the community’s food insecurity needs by providing nutritious groceries and prepared meals to people in need. Guided by the belief that access to nutritious food is a fundamental human right, Loaves & Fishes/Friendship Trays works to improve access to healthy food in a way that ensures kindness, dignity, and hope.
IT & digital recruitment company Peoplebank Australia now provides an accessible recruitment journey with the implementation of Recite Me assistive technology on the Peoplebank website. Promoting diversity is at Peoplebank’s core. With the Recite Me customisable toolbar available to all website users, Peoplebank can generate unique insights and ideas, creating solutions to deliver innovation, improve the business, and delight customers. Founded in 1990 Peoplebank is Asia Pacific’s leading IT & digital recruitment company, specialising in contract and permanent recruitment, working across Australia, Singapore, and Hong Kong. To provide their services to people living with a disability, Peoplebank now has accessibility support on their website. From providing access to those with learning difficulties, visual impairments, cognitive or neurological disorders, to those who speak English as a second language the Peoplebank website now has an accessibility solution. Brent Leahy, Executive General Manager at Peoplebank commented, “The launch of the Recite Me toolbar will provide our candidates and clients with a more inclusive experience. We want to make the Peoplebank website easily accessible to ensure all qualified candidates can take equal opportunity of our jobs advertised.” To diversify talent pools, website users can access a range of features such as screen reading functionality, multiple reading aids, customisable styling options, and an on-demand live translation feature that boasts over 100 languages including 35 text-to-speech and styling options. If you would like more information on how your organisation can provide an inclusive online experience by using assistive technology, contact our team or book a real-time demonstration of our toolbar.
The Very Group, operator of Very.co.uk and Littlewoods.com, provides Recite Me online accessibility and language tools on its careers website to promote an inclusive recruitment process. We caught up with Sean Allen, Head of Talent Acquisition at The Very Group to discuss his journey to his career today and the importance of attracting a diverse talent pool. Could you tell me a bit about your role as Head of Talent Acquisition at Very Group? As Head of Talent Acquisition I’m responsible for implementing and executing our recruitment strategy across the business. Led by our Director of Talent Capabilities, I work closely with the Head of Academies and Head of Talent and Development to ensure we attract, select, develop and retain amazing people here at The Very Group. I’m also responsible for providing the direction, environment and support for the TA team to be able to deliver our business goals. What has been the career journey that has brought you to where you are today? I originally cut my teeth in recruitment starting out agency side leading a contract practice with a focus on IT and Business Change across Yorkshire and the North West. After 3.5 years I decided to take the leap into internal (not as common then as it is now) joining the Yorkshire Building Society, again with a tech lens. I also dabbled in Audit, Credit Risk, Information Security amongst other areas but my main focus was always Tech and Product. After 3.5 years at Yorkshire BS I joined Sky. They'd launched a new tech hub in Leeds, and I was part of a small team helping transition some of their tech teams from Osterley to Leeds. We hired over 500 people across tech in 2 years. Following that project and after a short stint at CallCredit (now TransUnion) I took a dream role at the BBC focussing on their engineering practices in Media City (plus Glasgow and Cardiff) before BJSS took a leap of faith in bringing me in as their TA Manager for Leeds. After nearly 3 years growing the team, practice and incorporating new locations, I had the opportunity to step up once again, this time into a new sector - Retail - at The Very Group. An opportunity I couldn’t turn down after meeting my boss Vicky and the Talent team and seeing the vision the Talent and Development team are undergoing. Central to my personal journey have been some amazing (free) communities where I’ve been able to network with peers and industry leaders to learn from and share knowledge with. Communities such as DBR and RL100. This has enabled me to keep learning and develop my leadership skills to be a supportive and empathetic leader. Why do you think that it is important to encourage a diverse and inclusive recruitment process? For me it starts with inclusion at the heart of the organisation. If you’re not truly inclusive, then there is core work to do before you start to attract talent to the business. It’s about having an environment which takes on feedback and constantly wants to learn to improve. I’ve yet to see one ‘perfect’ recruitment process. What we can all do more of is listen to our candidates, hiring managers and colleagues and implement changes to keep working towards a more inclusive process. If I can make one change that gives someone a fair platform to perform to their best at an interview, then I’m succeeding in my role. I also believe community engagement is also key to DEI. To share knowledge and challenge how we can all learn and improve. How has Recite Me helped you on this journey? It’s enabling candidates access to apply to roles here at The Very Group they may very well have been unable to without this. We’re still on a journey, but Recite Me has helped us with one of those steps - the start of a more inclusive journey to working at The Very Group. Why is it important for the retail industry to drive inclusion? Our workforce must represent our market and customers but it’s important to any industry to drive inclusion. We’re all human and should all be treated equally as such. There is no industry, role or company that is above this. This is a basic human right. It's fundamental before companies place the focus on more diverse teams driving better outcomes and higher profits. What do you hope for the future of the recruitment and retail industry? I hope that recruitment in all industries truly embrace inclusion and diversity in its many forms. I hope that leaders in the recruitment industry continue to challenge the status quo. I hope businesses truly appreciate the value of recruitment and invest in it as much as other business areas.
You’d think that all travel companies would all be accessible these days, right? After all, the Equality Act of 2010 sets clear stipulations requiring companies to make adjustments for disabled users and those with additional access needs. Yet, feedback from the disabled community and accessibility campaigners suggests there are still significant gaps in accessibility provisions, both with public transportation like trains and buses, and at airports and on airplanes. “When stories about disability discrimination come out in the press, people shake their heads at the disgraceful treatment of disabled people. Everyone agrees it’s unacceptable and shouldn’t be happening in twenty-first century Britain. Then. Then…well, nothing really. Nothing much changes. Talks subside until the next dreadful incident, and people with disabilities and others with additional needs struggle to live independently.” Sam Renke, Actress and Disability Campaigner So, perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that many travel websites are not up to speed with accessibility issues either. Why is an Accessible Website Important for Travellers? People go to online travel and transport websites for multiple reasons, including: Researching a trip Comparing prices Assessing facilities at train stations, airports, and bus depots, etc Booking tickets Checking timetables Changing Itineraries Checking in online Everyone should have the same opportunity to decide whether a particular destination or service is right for them. That means having equal access to information and reservation processes. “When I’m trying to book a holiday on a travel site, I quite often feel like I’m going in the wrong direction. Travel sites with poor accessibility have stopped me from making purchases in the past and hampered my experiences. I think businesses are guilty of not considering accessibility from the beginning of the design process and almost trying to incorporate accessibility features as an afterthought – which shouldn’t be the case.” Molly Watt, Usability and Accessibility Consultant Common Accessibility Problems on Travel Websites Lack of information is a barrier in its own right, and for many internet users, travel websites are simply not accessible: Using colour to convey booking availability - a calendar that uses colour alone to convey availability can be inaccessible to people with visual impairments. Missing form labels on booking forms – without labels users who use a screen reader may be uncertain what to input into the field when making a booking or an enquiry. Flashing images - travel websites often have flashing images to promote ‘hot deals’ which can trigger epileptic website visitors. Website only available in English - People who speak English as a second language cannot adequately understand the content. Without a translation option, they will simply leave the page and book with a competitor. Missing ALT text - ALT text is a short-written description of an image and is read aloud to users by screen reader software. If no ALT text is provided a screen reader would only be able to say “image” or perhaps read the file name. Small text on comparison tables and calendars – people with vision impairments cannot read information online when the font size is too small. Who Needs Website Accessibility Assistance? In short, more people than you think! Accounting for at least 15% of the global population, the disabled are the world’s largest minority group. In the UK, it’s estimated that nearly 1 in every 5 people has some sort of disability. So improvements are required as soon as possible to tap into this incredibly lucrative market. In the travel sector, it’s arguable that physical and hidden disabilities are more prevalent than in others a higher percentage of the market is likely to encounter accessibility barriers. For example, there are currently almost 12 million people aged 65 and over in the UK alone, many of whom have disposable income to spend on travel but are more likely to struggle with vision problems and mobility issues. Also, many tourists and travellers do not speak English as a first language. Accessibility Barrier Examples Online access barriers occur when an element of a website’s design or presentation makes it difficult to read or interact with the content. Let’s look at some real-life examples. Ann is partially sighted. She wants to book a train tour around Scotland, but the website she’s looking at does not have appropriately-coded headings, so her screen reader cannot skip to the sections she wants to read. Plus, many images are missing alt tags, so she receives no helpful contextual information from images. Dave has dyslexia. He wants to book flights directly with an airline, but their website is overcrowded with information. The text is too small, the text is not suitably aligned, and the poor colour contrast between text and background makes it impossible for him to read the text or makes sense of the availability calendar. Shonda does not speak or read English as a first language. She’s trying to buy an annual bus pass but is struggling to understand the information. Plus, because the booking form is missing labels, she doesn’t understand where to click to make a reservation. She eventually finds an explainer video on YouTube, but the auto-generated captions are inaccurate and create even more confusion. The Cost of an Inaccessible Travel Website The spending power of those with disabilities is commonly known as the Purple Pound, and financial losses from consumers who click away from your website and shop on more accessible sites is known as the Clickaway Pound. The value of the UK’s ‘click away’ spending on more barrier-free sites is £17.1 billion. 24% of disabled travellers say they have problems with the searching, shopping, or booking processes(Amadeus). 53% of travellers say they needed help with all or part of the travel booking process (Amadeus). 34% of travellers would increase their budget if accessibility barriers were eliminated (World Travel & Tourism Council) 56% of people say having info in their language is more important than price (Interpreters and Translators inc). 85% limit their shopping to websites that they know are accessible (ClickAwayPound). 75% of disabled people and their families have walked away from a business because of poor accessibility or customer service (We Are Purple). Top Tips to Create an Accessible Travel Website When building or redesigning a website, check out the World Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and aim for WCAG AA level. This is the standard of accessibility compliance that is legally required for certain sites, is the level that is typically referred to when discussing ‘making a website accessible’. In addition, your webmaster should follow these steps to make your website easier for everyone to read, focus on, and understand. 1. Use a content management system that supports accessibility. This includes ensuring that layouts, themes, widgets, and plugins are compatible with WCAG standards. Some of the most popular content management options for travel, tour, and activity operators include WordPress, Typo3, Drupal, Magento, and Contao. 2. Think about the layout Group relevant topics under separate and fully descriptive labels. For example, options for train travel, bus travel, flights, and car rental should all be under their own separate tab. You can include drop-down or click-through links to other relevant content by destination, price, etc. 3. Use headings correctly to structure your content. Visitors use headings to quickly scan a page to see if the content is relevant to them. If they are looking for information about a particular route, destination, service, or price point, using headers effectively can increase engagement and bookings. For example, you could use H2 titles on a special offers page to promote ‘round trips for under £100’, ‘round trips for under £200’, ‘round trips for under £500’, etc. 4. Include alt text for all images. Descriptions evoke feelings that have the power to increase sales. So, aside from simply including alt tags, it’s worth putting some effort into the descriptions. For example, possible descriptions for the same picture could include: Family in the sea Family playing in the sea at sunset Parents and children wearing white playing in the sea at sunset See the difference? 5. Be mindful of colour use and colour contrasts. When designing availability calendars and pricing tables, bear in mind that the newest WCAG recommendations require a contrast ratio of 4.5:1 for normal text (14 point) and 3:1 for large text (18 point +). Because red/green colour blindness is the most common, avoiding green on red or red on green is best. If you’re not sure about your colour options, the WebAim Contrast Checker allows you to check any two colours against each other to gauge contrast suitability. 6. Ensure documents are designed for accessibility. Many links to tickets and booking confirmations are programmed to open in a new window and display as a PDF. This is not accessibility friendly to many disabled website visitors using assistive technology like screen readers. Often, that means contacting the company directly to obtain documents in accessible formats. 7. Optimize for navigation Your website should be easy to navigate using a mouse, trackpad, keyboard, and ideally, voice-activated assistive technology. You can learn more about keyboard navigation and recommendations on the W3C website. How Recite Me Can Help A proven way of supporting people online is by utilising assistive technology. Recite Me’s assistive toolbar supports a diverse range of users by providing tools that allow website visitors to create a fully customisable experience. Our accessibility features can be used individually or combined to make multiple adjustments for ultimate ease of use. Users can: Personalise font size, type, and colour options to make each web page easier to read. Utilise the mask screen tool, which isolates parts of the page to help with focus. Use the ruler tool to make reading easier. Download content as an audio file as an alternative to reading. Convert page content into over 100 different on-screen languages. Have the page read aloud in a choice of 35 different languages. Customise PDF documents and have them read aloud or translated. What the Data Says Recite Me software is already installed on over 3500 websites. We are proud to work with numerous organisations in the travel and transport sector already, including Gatwick Airport, London City Airport, and Orlando International Airport. We are delighted that so many companies are committed to providing inclusive online journeys for the public they serve. Our most recent 12-month stats from our travel and transport sector clients show that: Over 2.4 million pages have been viewed using the Recite Me toolbar. On average website visitors who use the Recite Me toolbar on travel and transport viewed 7.12 pages, which is higher than the average internet journey depth of just 2.8 pages per visit. 2.8 million pieces of content were read aloud. 2.8 million pieces of content were translated into different languages. Key Takeaways The travel and transport sector is a lucrative market, and businesses that are not accessible to people with a range of access needs are missing out on up to 20% of the market share. Common accessibility issues are easily fixed by adapting your website to meet our list of best practices. All business websites should aim to comply with WCAG Level AA. Assistive technology can support people with varied access needs by allowing them to make customisations for easy reading and navigation. If you’d like more information on how to optimise your website for inclusion with our cloud-based website accessibility technology, please contact our team or book a real-time demonstration of our toolbar.