News & Media
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.
Founded in 1941 and located in Washington D.C., the American Humanist Association (AHA) advocates progressive values and equality for humanists, atheists, freethinkers, and the non-religious. Humanism is a nontheistic worldview with ethical values informed by scientific knowledge and driven by a desire to meet the needs of people in the here and now. At the foundation of those values is an affirmation of the dignity of every human being.
When discussing inclusive experiences online, the Recite Me team is often asked about on-page translation and screen reader (text-to-speech) features. One of the most popular questions is "How accurate is the translation?". The simple answer is that it depends on how well-written your website is to begin with. But admittedly, that reply may raise more questions than it does answers! Here’s everything you need to know. Providing on-page translation and text-to-speech functionality is a great way to make your website more accessible because: Only around 1 in every four internet users speaks and reads in English (26%). In a choice between similar products, 75% of consumers will select options where information is available in their language. 56% of online shoppers say having information in their language is more important than price. If your website is written in English and you’re relying on machine translation to satisfy various linguistic needs, you need to be up-to-date with best practices and do more to actively improve the accuracy of your translated web content. Being fluent in English and French, this is something our senior sales executive, Bernie Petegou, has been asked about multiple times. “It's probably an obvious thing to say that the quality of the translation depends on the quality of the source text, but many people just don’t know how to write better translatable or 'machine-friendly' content.” Bernie Petegou, Senior Sales Executive at Recite Me Let’s start from the beginning… What is Machine Translation? Simply put, machine translation is a process of using computer software to translate text from one language to another without the need for human involvement. Machine translation software typically utilises one of three translation methods: Rules-based translation – Using dictionaries and language and grammar rules developed by linguistic experts, rule-based translation can be customised to fit specific niches or industries. Statistical translation – Rather than relying on words and grammar rules, statistical translation converts based on machine exposure to a large cache of pre-existing human translations. Neural translation – This increasingly popular method is used by industry giants like Google, Microsoft, and Amazon. Powerful artificial intelligence (AI) models essentially teach themselves to translate by using an extensive neural network. Pros and Cons of Machine Translation You may be wondering how machine translation compares to human translation. Here’s a list of pros and cons. Machine Translation Pros Speed - Machine translation can process entire pages and documents in seconds. Functionality – A single tool can handle translation tasks in multiple languages. Scale – There’s little limitation to the number of languages the tool can work with. Low Cost – The limited need for human involvement reduces payroll and employee benefit overheads. Plus, recruitment costs are reduced as there’s no need to vet and hire translators. Automated Input – Machine translation tools can memorise key terms and be programmed to reuse them wherever they might fit. Innovation - Translation technology is constantly evolving and improving. Machine Translation Cons Context – Machines can’t translate context or interpret puns, metaphors, slogans, or understand idiomatic differences as well as a human. Consistency – The consistency of translation can vary across different languages. Accuracy – Machine translation is generally slightly lower than human translation accuracy. Writing Machine-Friendly Content As we highlighted earlier, the better your web copy is to begin with, the less likely it is to confuse machine translation tools. The Translation Centre for the Bodies of the European Union (CDT) has compiled a handy guide about writing for machine translation based on real-life experiences and examples. To guarantee the highest level of accuracy when using our assistive technology to translate your website, we recommend following their list of best practices: Language – Keep it clear, concise, and consistent for the best translation results. Terminology - Be specific in your wording and avoid synonyms that could result in different translations of the same words or phrases in other languages. Pronoun use – Using a noun rather than a pronoun increases clarity, especially if you’re translating into languages like French, Spanish and Italian, where words like ‘it’ can be mistranslated into the wrong gender and cause confusion. Abbreviations and acronyms – Avoid both wherever possible. Either write the name or phrase in full or use the full name or title with the acronym/abbreviation in brackets afterwards. Sentence length – Avoid very short sentences of 5 words or less, very long sentences of 60 words or more, and keep each sentence relevant to one topic or idea. Line breaks – Machine translation tools treat all parts of a title or heading separately, so avoid line breaks that could cause text to be split into two separate titles or headings rather than one. Punctuation – Proper punctuation gives machines clues about meaning, so accuracy and consistency when using hyphens, quotation marks, and bullet points, etc., is paramount. Capital letters – Avoid writing whole words, titles, or sentences in capitals because translation technology is less accurate when processing capital letters. Symbols – While some signs and symbols are universal (like the $ sign), others (like the & sign) are not. If in doubt, always type the word rather than using a symbol. Headers – Use automatic heading styles in MS Word to ensure content will be translated the same way in the table of contents in other languages. Download the complete CDT guide with examples. Recite Me Translation At Recite Me, we have adopted Google Translate as our chosen machine translation software based on several factors: A hybrid model designed for optimum accuracy Web crawl capabilities that focus on precision rather than recall Finely tuned tech that is trained on noisy data and fine-tuned on clean data Back-translation, which is particularly useful for low-resource languages where parallel data is scarce M4 modelling that allows for transfer learning on a massive scale You can read more about the development of machine translation models and the recent advances of Google translate on the Google AI blog. By partnering with Google, the Recite Me assistive toolbar can quickly and easily translate web content into over 100 on-page languages and 35 text-to-speech languages. You can download the complete list here. Our data over the last 12 months shows that: Our text-to-speech screen reader vocalised 35.5 million pieces of content Our on-page translation feature was used to translate nearly 15 million web pages The most popular languages across our translation features were Spanish, Danish, French, Moldavian, Chinese, Polish, Afrikaans, and Italian. Over the last 6 months, we have added Urdu and US Spanish (South American) to our toolbar, and also made improvements to the way the toolbar manages languages like Arabic and Hebrew that are formatted right to left. If needed, our team is able to work with clients using human translation on specific sections or pages. This can be helpful for businesses who operate in niche industries using special or unusual terminology. It can also be advantageous for medical, legal, and financial companies etc., where 100% accuracy is crucial. A range of other language optimisation techniques are also available, and over time, Recite Me has updated hundreds of single words and phrases across all languages to improve pronunciation. The customer feedback from our clients shows the power of offering a tool that includes translation options: “I’m a member of an Eastern European community support group and regularly use the Recite Me toolbar to translate online content. I can access information with various adjustments, including translation in many languages, some of them even in audio versions. I can also change colours, text, and use other on-screen tools. I have had a very good experience working with Beyond Housing since they upgraded their website with new tools as part of their programme, ‘Believing in Accessibility for All’.” Anda, a Beyond Housing customer from Latvia Machine Translation: Key Takeaways Of course, the language trends for individual businesses will differ depending on your industry and where your company is based. The key takeaway is that on-page and text-to-speech translation is a game-changer when it comes to reaching a wider audience – whether at home or overseas. “When your site is available in multiple languages, you attract the attention of an international market. You also become identified as a global brand which elevates your status and improves your reputation. Consumers tend to trust global brands more than ones that are only known locally.” Nick McGuire, E-commerce specialist and blogger Some smaller and more local businesses are quick to dismiss the need for translation features. However, making your products and services available in other languages is a good idea even within the domestic market. For example, did you know that: In the UK, 4.2 million people speak a language other than English at home In the US, 67 million people speak a language other than English at home In Australia, 5.3 million people speak a language other than English at home Finally, assistive technology is a fantastic way to offer translation options while also tapping into additional features that help customers with disabilities. Other features of the Recite Me toolbar support a range of physical, visual, auditory, cognitive, and neurological conditions by offering: Font personalisation for size, typeface, and colour A mask screen tool to help with focus A ruler to make reading easier. A built-in dictionary and thesaurus Audio file content downloads as an alternative to real-time reading Customised and accessible PDF downloads The ability to strip away image carousels and graphics Learn More If you’d like further information about Recite Me translation features (or any other aspect of our assistive technology toolbar), you’re welcome to contact our team anytime for more details, advice, and recommendations for your website. Alternatively, you can book a live demo to see our toolbar in action.
Are you or any of your family, friends, or colleagues affected by autism? UK government statistics suggest that more than 1% of the population is on the autism spectrum, while in America the Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that autism may affect as many as 1 in every 54 people. So at some point in your home life, education, or professional environments, it is highly likely that you will meet members of the autistic community. What is Autism? Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a genetic condition that affects an individual’s development, and can often present challenges when it comes to social interaction, speech, behaviour, and nonverbal communication. Autism is a lifelong condition most commonly detected in childhood and is three to four times more prevalent in boys than girls. Every individual on the autism spectrum is different, and while some autistic people may need very little help, others may need much more. Like any condition under the neurodiversity umbrella, autism is not a marker of decreased intelligence. Many of those diagnosed with autism in early life go on to lead healthy, happy, independent, successful and fulfilling lives. Individuals on the autism spectrum may: Have difficulties communicating and interacting with other people Not understand the feelings and thought processes of others Take longer to assimilate information Become stressed in environments with excess noise or bright colours Demonstrate repetitive behaviour patterns Struggle in unfamiliar situations Become overwhelmed by busy social environments You can read more about dyspraxia on the National Autistic Society website. Autism and Web Accessibility Often, people with autism have heightened sensory awareness. This means they can be easily distracted by images, logos, and graphics on web pages. So processing website content can be difficult. Colour contrasts between text and background can also be distracting for those in the autistic community. Low-contrast neutral colour palettes are often preferred over the standard black text on white background options presented by most websites. Consistency is important to individuals on the autism spectrum, so if web pages are not easy to navigate or have an unpredictable flow, autistic readers are likely to click away. Supporting Autism Online Children and adults with autism face distinct challenges when reading information online. Plus, autism is often listed as a disorder that co-occurs with other neurodiverse conditions such as Dyslexia and Dyspraxia. So it is important that all individual differences and combinations are accounted for. With the Recite Me assistive toolbar, users can make singular or multiple adjustments to account for all individual requirements and adapt the way web content is presented to suit their specific needs. Recite Me assistive toolbar features that support autistic users include: A selection of colour palettes to account for contrast sensitivity between the text and background. The ability to change font type, font size, and font spacing. Text-only mode to strip away distracting graphics. Options to have content read aloud in over 35 different languages. Full control over the speed at which the text is read aloud, and a choice between male and female voices. A screen mask for easier focus. Client Feedback In the last 12 months, Recite Me has witnessed a surge in disability groups signing up for our website assistive technology, and we are proud to be helping more neuroatypical members of our community than ever before. Anna Kennedy Online Anna Kennedy Online provides workshops, training, legal advice and talks across the UK, and partners on annual events like AKO Autism Expo, the Autism Hero Awards, and ‘Autism’s Got Talent’. "Since we have been working with Recite Me and updating our website making it disability friendly, we have received many compliments and thanks from the autism community. Recite Me are always respectful and understand exactly what we are trying to achieve to make the website accessible to all " Anna Kennedy, CEO Autism Plus Autism Plus has been supporting adults and young people with autism, learning disabilities, mental health conditions, and other complex needs since 1986. "As a Disability Confident employer, we want to ensure we are as accessible as possible, not only to the people we support but for our employees and supporters too. Recite Me provides more options on our website and makes the content completely customisable. " Katie Mitchell, Marketing Manager To understand the online challenges and obstacles those with autism face, we sat down with Katie Mitchell, Marketing Manager at Autism Plus to discuss the importance of providing accessibility options online. User Experience From our user data, we can track which of our toolbar features are customised the most by our clients’ website visitors. Our records show that among Autism Plus users, the following features are the most commonly used on their website: Text enlarge Text-only mode Screen mask Magnifying glass This holds true with our knowledge of autistic users, in that they often prefer to focus on a particular area of a webpage. These specific tools help users to stay focused and avoid distraction from images and the other content on the page. It’s incredibly rewarding for the Recite Me team to see data like this, as it shows that our toolbar works effectively and we are succeeding in our goals of making the internet a more accessible and inclusive place for everyone. Find Out More In today’s increasingly digital landscape, it has never been more important that everyone has equal access to information online. For further details on becoming more inclusive by utilising our assistive technology, please feel free to contact our team or book a demonstration of our toolbar.