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2021: The Year of Accessibility, A Mini Guide

18 Jan 2021 | news

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: web accessibility is a basic human right, and we believe that everyone should have the opportunity to use the internet in the way that it is intended. When Recite Me was founded in 2010 and we first began our journey, web accessibility was very much a low key factor. In recent years, however, thinking across all industry sectors is catching up, which is a fantastic development. We’re still some way off achieving our goal of accessibility and inclusion for all. However, we’re proud to say that we are already making a positive difference, and particularly with the additional complications of COVID-19 pushing more consumers online this year, accessibility factors in 2021 look to be at the forefront of business development more than ever before. Inaccessible Websites Inaccessible websites and apps essentially create barriers to users. No matter what sector of business your organisation sits in, this is simply not good for business: E-commerce companies are missing out on a cumulative global spend of £2.25 trillion annually. Employers are neglecting the prospects of potential staff purely on the basis of access needs. Financial institutions and utility companies are denying services and information to consumers who need them. Charities and not-for-profit organisations are failing to communicate with subscribers and recipients, and missing out on opportunities to attract and retain more supporters, ambassadors, and benefactors. Public sector and community organisations are not keeping all of their constituents updated with relevant information and news. These statements can be easily backed up by the results of the latest Click Away Pound Survey, which discovered that: 71% of users leave a site that they find hard to use. For 81% of users, ease of use is more important than price. In fact, 86% of consumers with accessibility issues said they would spend more if there were fewer barriers In the UK last year, £17.1 billion was spent by consumers on sites that were easier to use (up from £11.75 billion in the 2016 survey). Despite these staggering statistics, over 98% of website homepages still fail to comply with the World Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). “Website accessibility and usability has been a major issue for many disabled people with access needs for many years and little progress was being made despite the law, guidance, and publicity.” Rick Williams, Click-Away Pound Survey Who needs support In short, way more people than you’d think. The internet can be an incredibly intimidating place for those with disabilities - and it’s important here to note that disabilities come in a range of forms. We tend to think of ‘the disabled’ as those with physical or emotional deficits, but not all disabilities are visible. In the online world, anyone lacking the tools they need to adequately understand or communicate are at a significant disadvantage, and some people are unable to access the information they need at all. This includes all those who: Have decreased vision - it is estimated that at least 2.2 billion people globally have a vision impairment. Struggle with literacy – around 1% of the population in developed nations like the UK and USA have issues with basic reading and writing. This figure is significantly higher in less developed nations. Are autistic – around one in every hundred people is on the autistic spectrum. Speak and/or read English as a second language – up to 1 in every 5 households speaks a language other than English at home. Suffer from attention disorders – it is estimated that around 5% of the population suffers from attention disorders like ADHD. Have a learning difficulty - dyslexia alone affects upwards of 15% of the population. Are affected by physical disabilities – millions of individuals have physical disabilities that make the use of standard keyboards and on-screen navigation difficult. Best Practices for Web Design Making a website accessible starts at the very beginning with web design. As web accessibility moves further and further to the forefront (quite rightly so!) businesses invariably want websites that are ready assembled from the off to check all the right boxes for accessibility principles. Most good web designers can coach businesses on the best practices for a build that will increase traffic and conversions through making content more accessible. There are many factors to consider, including: Using a content management system that supports accessibility Using headings correctly to structure the content Including alt text for all images Giving descriptive names to all links Being mindful of colour use and colour contrasts Ensuring forms are designed for accessibility Being keyboard friendly Doing all of this will make website content easier to read, focus on, and understand. Plus it naturally accommodates for vision problems, physical disabilities, and cognitive impairments. The Need for Assistive Technology The main takeaway here is that accessibility + usability = inclusion. Even by applying the best web design practices, a website isn’t necessarily inclusive just because it’s accessible. That’s where assistive technology comes in. Software like the Recite Me toolbar bridges the gap between accessibility and usability and promotes inclusivity by allowing those with sight loss, cognitive impairments, learning difficulties, physical disabilities, and varying linguistic needs to access websites in the 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 Text-to-speech functions in 35 languages Having text read aloud at varying speeds A real-time translation feature catering to over 100 languages A built-in dictionary and thesaurus A “text-only” mode that strips away graphics and other page clutter These functions account for singular adjustments and also more complex scenarios where users may require multiple adjustments for ease of use. By facilitating this, the Recite Me toolbar is able to remove barriers and allow for equal access, thus creating equal opportunities in the online world. “Being able to make your website welcoming and easy to use for all customers is key to creating the perfect online experience.” Ross Linnett, CEO & Founder of Recite Me 2020 Data Trends Last week, we took an in-depth look at accessibility data trends in 2020. We found that across the board, the demand for accessible and inclusive websites has grown exponentially in 2020: Throughout the year, we’ve taken on over 250 new clients across a range of sectors. We’ve provided free pledge pages for over 140 clients, supporting over 55,000 individual users to access COVID-19 information. Across a whole range of sectors including employment, education, public sector, retail, sport, leisure, travel, utility services, charities, and not-for-profit organisations, our end of year stats show that: We’ve supported over 1.8 million users Over 8.5 million pages have been accessed barrier-free Over 40 million accessible options have been used to create an unique user experience “The Recite Me assistive toolbar provides a great technology-based solution for us. Not only can our site be translated into hundreds of different languages, but we are also able to offer a screen reader function and a range of other accessibility tools that help make it easier for all of our passengers to access the information they need to enjoy the best journey possible through Gatwick." Mandie Armstrong, Digital Communications Manager, Gatwick Airport Web Accessibility Laws & Guidelines The final deadline for public sector compliance with the World Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) for accessibility level AA was 23 September 2020. However, even if your company is not within the public sector, we recommend getting ahead of the curve and preparing for more guidelines and requirements for accessibility factors in the near future. All businesses should be using the WCAG as a set of core principles and minimum standards to meet the needs of consumers internationally. Plus, there are national and international standards and guidelines that are mandated by law. Examples include: The Equality Act of 2010 (UK) The Americans with Disabilities Act (USA) The European Accessibility Act (EU) Plus, all indicators suggest that more private sector regulations are on the way soon, and that search engines are likely to start applying heavier positive weightings to websites that are accessible. The COVID-19 Impact Many companies have struggled in 2020. Most organisations have had to quickly adapt and transition to push more and more of their business functions online, while at the same time continuing to support the needs of their customers. With many people confined to their homes, it has never been more important that websites take into account all users, including those with disabilities and accessibility barriers. Essentially, this has changed the priority of accessibility to be something that has to be done, rather than something that should be done What has become clear, is that the pandemic simply acted as a catalyst for the already prevalent shift towards web accessibility and inclusion. Businesses and organisations that have already embraced these changes have learned that being inclusive can have a significant (and in some cases a much needed) positive effect on brand reputation, increase diversity in the workplace, reduce staff turnover, and lead to improved business efficiency all round. But besides anything else, being inclusive is the right thing to do. “The one argument for accessibility that doesn’t get made nearly often enough is how extraordinarily better it makes some people’s lives. How many opportunities do we have to dramatically improve people’s lives just by doing our job a little better?” Steve Krug, a prominent website user experience expert How to Embrace Accessibility and Inclusion in 2021 As the new year approaches, there is no better time to make a resolution to embrace online accessibility and inclusion in 2021. The digital requirements of the world show no signs of slowing anytime soon, so goal-setting for inclusion should definitely be a priority for your business in the coming months. Those who adapt earlier are much more likely to reap the benefits of increased profits, a happier and healthier workforce, and reduced legal risks. And, of course, there’s the feel-good factor too! Steps to follow for an inclusive 2021: Take some time to reflect on the difference being inclusive will mean for your target market. Perhaps you haven't been thinking of accessibility as a priority up until now. But by making your products, services, and information accessible to at least an extra 15-20% of the population, you stand to increase traffic flow and revenue considerably by being inclusive. Check that your web design conforms to best practices and principles for accessibility. Familiarise yourself with the World Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), and make sure your website meets the national and international legal requirements for your region. Look into assistive technology software to add further layers of usability to your website to make it truly inclusive. Recite Me is simple to implement and in many cases can be installed on your website in under an hour by adding a small amount of JavaScript to each of your webpages. Join the hundreds of companies who have already installed our inclusive software by contacting our team for more information, or book a toolbar demonstration.

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Recite Me Continues to Host Free Inclusive Landing Pages During COVID-19

13 Jan 2021 | news

“When information is vital, it is vital that information is accessible and inclusive for all.” Did you know that Recite Me is still offering to host a free accessible and inclusive landing page so companies can share their COVID-19 messages with all of their staff and customers? With the recent regression back into lockdown, we wanted to update you on our accessibility pledge, and remind you that we are still here to support businesses and help organisations and consumers alike to access important information online, barrier-free. We launched our pledge back in March of 2020 in a bid to ensure that all online information related to COVID-19 is accessible and inclusive for everyone. We believe passionately in barrier-free access and support for all, and especially now that life in the real world is more restrictive again, it has never been more important that everyone has equal access to information online. Back in the beginning, we could never have imagined that these uncertain times would still be haunting us into 2021. But until the vaccines have been rolled out and normality is restored, we are committed to playing our part in helping people. “The Recite Me pledge provides the opportunity for everyone to share freely in our online world. There is no cost or agenda, just accessibility for all.” Ross Linnett, Founder and CEO What is the Recite Me Accessibility Pledge? Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic so far and for the foreseeable future, we are offering to host a free accessible and inclusive landing page for any business where important COVID-19 messages and updates can be accessed. Uncertain times make for uncertain minds, and naturally, many people are worried. This is totally understandable, so it’s paramount that people are kept up to date with the latest pandemic information and how it will impact them and the services they use. When the landing page is reached, the Recite Me accessibility and language support toolbar automatically launches. The toolbar includes fully customisable styling features, reading aids, and translation tools. Information is available in over 100 languages, including 35 text-to-speech voices. Who Benefits? The honest answer to this is everyone. Studies show that around 20% of the population is living with some kind of disability, long-term health condition, or situational impairment that makes accessing online information challenging. The Recite Me assistive toolbar removes online barriers, enabling people with different abilities, visual impairments, cognitive or neurological disorders, learning difficulties, and those who speak English as a second language to thoroughly understand the message being conveyed. Our toolbar also makes information easier to consume and use for users outside of that 20% too, as being able to customise a webpage and take in the information in a way that is personalised to your preferences is a benefit for everyone. “For people without disabilities, technology makes things easier. For people with disabilities, technology makes things possible.” IBM Training Manual The Story So Far Since we first launched, our accessibility pledge has helped more than 130 businesses across a range of sectors to share COVID-19 related information and updates. Examples include Virgin Money, Network Rail, Volkswagen, RSPCA, Public Health Wales, and London Luton Airport. Our pledge data trends show that: We’ve supported over 60,000 unique users Our free inclusive landing pages have been viewed over 82,000 times The average time spent on COVID-19 landing pages is 2 minutes. “Joining the Recite Me pledge has enabled us to communicate our COVID19 message to the widest possible audience. Visitors can customise their viewing experience through a screen reader, styling options, reading aids, and a translation function. This online support allows London Luton Airport’s key messages to be accessed and understood by all, particularly during these difficult and unsettling times.” Clare Armstrong, Head of Passenger Services at London Luton Airport Of course, having just one webpage accessible to everyone is not a long term solution, but it’s a good start. The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown online accessibility into the spotlight, and we’ve noticed a considerable increase in the demand for inclusive websites throughout 2020. With over 2,500 websites now using Recite Me inclusive technology, we’ve supported over 2million people on barrier-free online journeys. You can read more about accessibility trends in 2020 and projections for 2021 on our free downloadable report. If you think your business needs help to make your online COVID-19 related information accessible and inclusive to all your staff and customers, please contact us now, or visit the Recite Me website to find out more about how our free accessible and inclusive landing pages work and how to create your own.

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2020 Accessibility Trends

11 Jan 2021 | news

It will come as no surprise that internet use rocketed throughout 2020. In the first quarter of the year, broadband use increased by 47%, and online transactions increased by 26.7% between January and October. In line with the drastic shift towards online living, we noticed a significant increase in the demand for inclusive websites. Recite Me has brought together data from throughout the year to analyse the impact COVID-19 has had on people using assistive technology to support their online journey. To download this report please click the button below...

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Promo Direct

11 Dec 2020 | case-study

Promo Direct was founded in 1991 by Dave Sarro with the main goal of assisting organizations with boosting sales and improving brand visibility through promotional products and apparel. The company has always strived to provide a premium shopping experience, accompanied by smart marketing solutions. Promo Direct has won numerous national awards and is a leader within the promotional products industry.

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Promo Direct Provides an Inclusive Experience for All

11 Dec 2020 | news

To ensure digital inclusion and to improve user experience, Promo Direct has installed web Accessibility and language support tools across their website. One of the USA’s leading promotional product companies, Promo Direct, is offering a practical approach to addressing access barriers to their website by installing a state-of-the-art web accessibility tool. This inclusive solution provides 61 million adults in the United States living with a disability complete control to customize their online experience. Dave Sarro, CEO of Promo Direct, commented, “We believe that the internet should be available and accessible to everyone. We at Promo Direct are committed to delivering a website that is accessible to a wide range of audiences, regardless of their ability and circumstance.” People with disabilities, learning difficulties, visual impairments or people who speak English as a second language will be able to use a wide range of features to support their visit, including, text to speech reader, fully customizable styling tools, reading support features and a translation function with over 100 languages, including 37 text to speech voices. Mr Sarro, added, “Our website makes use of cutting-edge technologies that will make it accessible to anyone at any given time. People can conveniently access the Promo Direct website to gain smart marketing insights, discover awesome promo products, access the latest publications, and read business-related news. With our efforts, we hope to build a future where nobody is left behind.”

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Web Accessibility is a Basic Human Right

09 Dec 2020 | news

As Greek philosopher Heraclitus once famously stated, “the only constant is change”. For most of us, this has never been more apparent than in 2020, which has proved to be a year of monumental change. We’ve witnessed changes in the way we work, changes in the way we socialise, changes in our ability to travel, and changes in how we communicate. Essentially, there has been some element of change in almost every aspect of our previously normal lives and routines. Some of the biggest and most impactful changes of 2020 involve the internet, as so many of our daily tasks and activities have been pushed from the real world into the digital realm. For some of us this has been a learning curve, and at times frustrating. But for many in our society, it has proved impossible. We tend to think of the world wide web as a place where everyone has instant access to information at all times, but that’s simply not the case. So as International Human Rights Day approaches on December 10th, we’d like to take the opportunity to look at the inequalities that exist online, and why, especially in turbulent times such as these, web accessibility should be considered a basic human right. Inequality Online When Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the world wide web, he envisioned it helping to empower society by making information accessible to everyone, everywhere. “The power of the Web is in its universality… It is fundamentally designed to work for all people, whatever their hardware, software, language, location, or ability. When the Web meets this goal, it is accessible to people with a diverse range of hearing, movement, sight, and cognitive ability. Thus the impact of disability is radically changed because the Web removes barriers to communication and interaction that many people face in the physical world.” Sir Tim Berners-Lee We’ve discussed at length in previous articles the varied groups who face barriers online. In short, whether due to a temporary, lifelong, or age-induced disability, those with learning difficulties, vision deficits, language issues, and cognitive or neurological disorders do not have the tools they need to consume information online as others do. Reasons include: Not being able to read the text due to font, text size, or text spacing. Not being able to read the text due to poor colour contrasts between background and foreground. Not being able to use a mouse or mousepad. Not being able to focus on the relevant section of text. Being distracted by graphics and image carousels. When you stop to consider these factors, it becomes very apparent that the online world is in fact not as universal as it could be, and that when badly designed, websites and applications create barriers that prevent a significant number of people from using them. The Real Life Impacts of Inaccessible Websites While the number of examples is almost infinite, you can begin to gain an appreciation of how vulnerable and excluded people can become, especially during lockdowns, by examining just a few key areas of everyday life. Inaccessible websites and apps make it either difficult or impossible for users with access needs to: Manage finances – If information on online banking websites and applications is not accessible users cannot transfer funds, trade stocks and shares, manage savings and pension plans, or renew expiring credit and debit cards. To add insult to injury, they may not even be able to find details on a local branch for face-to-face assistance. Shop – Whether it’s doing the weekly grocery shopping, renewing household goods, or buying clothes, toiletries, and other everyday items, inclusive websites are essential to facilitate purchases. Plus, with Christmas just around the corner, inaccessible websites exclude users with access needs from buying gifts for their friends and family. Pay bills – Imagine the stress of not being able to pay your bills online and becoming fearful of having your heating, water, electric, or phone services cut off, simply because you were unable to use the providers’ websites. Work – 2020 has seen a significant shift to remote working. Many users struggle here, as the tools and support they need to access company systems remotely are often ill-considered. Even without touching on accessibility factors specifically, 38% of remote employees in 2020 said that the technology they are provided with didn’t operate correctly in a remote setting. Apply for jobs – Simple processes like registering with a recruitment agency can feel like an insurmountable challenge when websites are not accessible, and the task of completing online applications forms is made almost impossible. Even using job boards or business sites like LinkedIn and Upwork is so much more time consuming for those with access needs. Learn – During lockdown thousands of students migrated to online learning. But not everyone learns in the same way and it is almost impossible for any stand-alone online learning portal to accommodate for every type of access need. So those facing online barriers risked falling behind in their studies more than others. Access general information – More than ever before, the internet remains an essential source of information where people can research and compare options, keep updated on global developments, look for local services, and stay in the loop with community issues. All of this is only possible when the relevant websites are accessible, however. Keep in touch with friends and family – With human contact reduced during COVIS-19, not having access to inclusive websites and apps for communication with loved ones only further marginalises those with disabilities. Even when social gatherings are allowed, this invariably requires booking in advance which involves the use of online forms or using contactless apps that are not feasible to use on inaccessible sites. This is just a short list of some of the most important variables that govern our lives, and how those with disabilities and varying access needs are at a disadvantage. Between them, these factors determine our capacity to earn an income and keep ourselves fed, housed, warm, and in touch with one another. If that doesn’t constitute a set of basic human rights, we don’t know what does, so it’s incredibly important that more is done to provide all members of society with equal access. The Recite Me Pledge Recite Me believes passionately in barrier-free online support for all. So during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been offering to host a free accessible and inclusive landing page for any business, allowing organisations to share COVID-19 related messages and information with staff and customers. Since we initiated our pledge we have: Provided pledge pages for over 140 organisations Supported over 55,000 individual users to access information Of course, having just one webpage accessible to everyone is not a long term solution, but it’s a good start. More Change, Please! While it’s encouraging to see more and more businesses switch on to the concept of inclusion there is still a long way to go, as currently, over 98% of website homepages fail to comply with World Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). What’s needed is a shift in thinking. To achieve inclusion, we must change the way we think about the vulnerable and those with disabilities. Just as the United Nations ‘Build Back Better’ strategy seeks to create equal opportunities for all in the physical world by protecting people of vulnerable nations and communities against future disasters and shocks, we must strive to do the same in the online world by making it accessible to all. More than ever, the internet needs to be a place of equal opportunities, and unhindered access should be a right: Ecommerce companies must increase the value they place on those with access needs. After all, the disability market is worth billions of pounds nationally, and trillions globally. Service providers should ensure that billing details and customer support options are available to every single subscriber. Public sector bodies must act to ensure their websites and apps comply with the relevant local and national requirements and laws. Employers should consider adjustments and additional tools to ensure digital diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Education organisations must ensure their distance learning and online teaching programs are inclusive of all individual access needs. In a nutshell, we must all change the way we think about disability, accessibility, and inclusion. “Accessibility is a fundamental human right. Our intention is to make products that change people's lives. That make them simpler and easier and better. Not just for some people but for everyone. When you start with that, accessibility just naturally flows into everything you do." Sarah Herrlinger, Director of Global Accessibility Policy & Initiatives at Apple If you’d like more information on how your organization can make a positive change towards inclusion by utilising assistive technology, please contact our team or book a real-time demonstration of our toolbar. Together, we can make a difference and provide everyone with equal opportunities online.

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Breaking Down Online Barriers for People with Access Needs

02 Dec 2020 | news

On December 3rd we will be celebrating International Day of People with Disabilities (IDPD) 2020. The disability market is considered to be the largest minority group in the world, as current data suggests that at least 15% of the world population are living with some sort of disability. This accounts for over a billion people in total! Our goal on IDPD is to spread awareness of the need for better support online for people with disabilities. Providing equal access opportunities for all is particularly important this year, as the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the population online more than ever before. Most of us will have struggled with the realities of COVID-19 in one way or another, but for those who face accessibility barriers online it has been a particularly challenging time, and the lives and mental well-being of those with disabilities have been disproportionately affected. Not All Disabilities Are Visible The theme for IDPD 2020 is ‘Not all Disabilities are Visible’, and this is something that we are incredibly aware of here at Recite Me. All too often, the word ‘disabled’ is used solely to describe physical and mobility issues, whereas, in reality, the term covers so much more than that. Particularly when discussing online access, disabilities can also include: Visual impairments - It is estimated that at least 2.2 billion people worldwide have a vision impairment. Learning difficulties - Dyslexia alone affects at least 15% of the population, and a further 5% suffer from attention disorders like ADHD. Literacy and language barriers - Around 1% of the population in developed nations have issues with basic reading and writing, and up to 1 in every 5 households speaks a language other than English at home. Neurological disorders – Approximately 450 million people are living with a mental or neurological condition. Examples include epilepsy, dementia, and Parkinson’s disease. Developmental disorders – Around one in every hundred people are on the autism spectrum. Temporary disabilities – Millions of new cases of chronic pain, fatigue, and brain injuries occur each year as a result of accidental injury. Individuals with one or more of these issues often struggle to access information on websites, as they may not be able to use a mouse, read the text properly, focus on the information they need, or find their way around a busy screen. International guidelines do exist to reduce these barriers, but unfortunately, accessibility principles are often overlooked. Web Accessibility for Disabled Users in 2020 Each year, a comprehensive analysis of the top 1 million home pages is completed by WebAIM, a nonprofit web accessibility organisation based at Utah State University in America. The program also studies hundreds of thousands of interior website pages to identify trends and areas for improvement. Sadly, the state of the internet from a disabled users’ perspective still leaves much to be desired, as 2020 WebAIM statistics show that: 98.1% of home pages have World Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) compliance failures. This figure is up from 97.8% in the 2019 study. The number of web accessibility errors overall increased by 2.1% between 2019 and 2020. Home page complexity has increased significantly, meaning users with disabilities can expect to encounter accessibility errors on 1 in every 14 home page elements. It’s not all bad news though, as data does show small improvements in some areas. However, there are still far too many companies out there making web accessibility much harder than it needs to be. Often, significant improvements can be made by making simple adjustments such as: Formatting pages properly using descending H tags Ensuring alternative text is present on all images Adjusting colour contrasts Making sure there are no empty links or buttons According to WebAIM, addressing these concepts alone would significantly improve accessibility across the world wide web. Besides, not only are these good principles for best practice in general, they also impact SEO results in a positive way. So there is no incentive for companies not to make their websites more accessible. In fact, improving web accessibility by removing barriers should only strengthen the brand value, not to mention make the business more profitable. Did You Know…? The spending power of the disabled market is over £2.25 trillion annually! How is Recite Me Making a Difference? At Recite Me, we believe in accessibility for all and an inclusive online world. This starts by creating awareness on an individual and organisational level by helping others to understand the opportunities presented by inclusion. By guiding our clients through the same process, we hope we can all make a positive difference together. Essential Services This year we have found ourselves building and developing more and more relationships in the charity and public service sectors. This is important to us, as making sure information and services are available to everyone during the global pandemic is of utmost importance. "We help people in financial need, so accessibility is essential. The Trust is delighted that with the support of Recite Me, we now provide barrier-free access to our online application forms. Enabling people with a range of accessibility issues, including visual impairments, dyslexia, colour blindness and other forms of neurodiversity, as well as those who need to use alternative languages to apply " Jessica Taplin, CEO of British Gas Energy Trust We now support over 100 charitable organisations, local councils, utility providers, and transport companies. In the last 12 months, we have helped over 1.5 million people to read and understand content online. Our assistive toolbar is installed on well over 2000 websites worldwide, allowing site visitors to strip away barriers and create a 100% customisable experience. Our accessibility and language support options include text to speech functionality in 35 languages, on-page translation in 100 languages, fully adjustable styling features, reading aids, and the ability to change the look and layout of the page to suit individual preferences. Covid-19 Information During these uncertain times, Recite Me is on hand to support businesses and help ensure that all online information related to COVID-19 is accessible and inclusive for everyone. To that end, we are offering to host a free accessible and inclusive landing page for organisations to share their Coronavirus messages with all of their staff and customers. “When information is vital, it is vital that information is accessible and inclusive for all.” Ross Linnett, Recite Me CEO and Founder Is Your Business Striving for Digital Inclusion? There is no better time than on International Day of People with Disabilities for companies and brands around the globe to make positive changes and ensure their website and web content is fully accessible to everyone. We recommend all organisations take the following steps: Make sure the build of your website is up to date in terms of best practices for accessibility. Develop a thorough understanding of the WCAG and ensure any required updates are completed for compliance. Look into assistive technology solutions like the Recite Me toolbar to bridge the gap between accessibility and usability, creating an inclusive online experience for all users. If you’d like to join the thousands of businesses who have already integrated our accessibility software onto their sites and are seeing the benefits, please contact our team or book a demo.

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A Roundtable Discussion on Diversity and Inclusion

01 Dec 2020 | news

International Day of People with Disabilities was an opportunity for Recite Me CEO Ross Linnett to take stock and think back on the crazy year we have been through and reflect with close business partners on how this has affected people with disabilities and neurodiverse conditions. This round table discussion brought together Prof Amanda Kirby, CEO of DO IT Solutions, Caroline Turner, CEO of Creased Puddle and Susan Sanford, CEO of Sue Sanford Specialist Coach. This open discussion goes in-depth about if there has been a shift in the understanding of neurodiverse conditions throughout the pandemic? Have individuals and companies been able to adapt psychically and mentally to understand that the world we live in is different and everyone will work in different ways? The team shares some great advice on how people can work from home effectively by trying a number of useful tips. They also share real-life feedback and how businesses can change their outlook to help staff. In concluding the conversation the question is asked of the team if businesses can learn from the pandemic and put diversity and inclusion at the forefront of their strategic plans for 2021? A big thank you to Amanda Kirby, Caroline Turner and Susan Sanford for joining Ross Linnett for International day of people with disabilities.

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Ross Linnett on Goal Setting for Online Inclusion

30 Nov 2020 | news

This year we’ve noticed a sharp increase in the demand for inclusive websites, as the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed individuals and businesses online more and more for everyday tasks and communication. As I’ve been saying for a while now, when information is vital, it’s vital that information is accessible to all. That’s why we made a pledge to support businesses with a free inclusive landing page to keep their staff and customers up to date with accessible messages and updates about COVID-19. Our team spends a lot of time explaining accessibility principles to existing clients and prospective buyers. This normally includes discussing best practices, accessibility and inclusion goals, and how the Recite Me assistive toolbar can help to achieve them. The Business Benefits of Setting Inclusion Goals Hopefully, you already want to make your web content available to as many people as possible just because it’s the right thing to do. But if you still need convincing, there are a number of direct benefits to your business: At $3.02 trillion annually, the spending power of the disabled market is hard to ignore. Some accessibility features already form part of search engine algorithms, and indicators suggest that accessibility will become an even more significant part of SEO calculations in the near future. Being inclusive boosts your brand value, as some customers simply will not buy from companies who are seen to exclude minority groups. Reduced risk and fewer chances of facing financial penalties, either in the form of fines for non-compliance or individual court cases based on accessibility discrimination. Who Needs Web Accessibility Adjustments? No two people’s needs are the same, so I find it always helps to go back to basics and get a firm understanding of who needs help and why before we get into the complexities of best practices, standards, and the role of assistive technology. In short, lots of people require accessibility adjustments. Whether it’s a temporary need because of an accident or injury, a long-term requirement due to a lifelong condition, or simply a byproduct of the natural ageing process, many people struggle to access information on the internet in the same way the rest of us do. There are four main categories of barrier that affect web accessibility, and invariably all of those include ‘hidden disabilities’ that are often not considered when looking at website design, layout, and compliance with best practices for inclusion: Physical problems – examples include motor disabilities, repetitive stress injuries, and epilepsy. Visual impairments - such as partial blindness, colour blindness, and deafblindness. Cognitive, learning, and neurological issues - like dyslexia, dyspraxia, hyperlexia, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Language issues - this includes poor literacy in general as well as those who do not read English as a first language. Individual Benefits of Digital Inclusion The sky is the limit here. Most of us take it for granted that we have instant access to information and services online, and these days we use the internet for almost everything. From job searches, banking, and paying bills to shopping, booking holidays, and staying in touch with friends and family, we rely on the internet to keep us connected. Inclusive websites remove barriers so those with disabilities, learning disorders and language barriers can enjoy the same level of access and benefit from the same opportunities as everyone else. Web Design: Accessibility Versus Inclusion We’ve noticed that there are still some sizeable gaps in understanding over what it means to have an accessible website, whether that’s the same thing as being inclusive. As we’ve discussed in previous articles, your website isn’t necessarily inclusive just because you’ve made it accessible. You can tick all of the right boxes for a more accessible website build, but what makes a website truly inclusive is personal ease of use. Every internet user is unique. We’re all individuals with our own needs and preferences, and it’s virtually impossible to account for the full array of diverse needs without additional technology. Working Example: Take an internet user who is dyslexic, and has specific preferences for a particular font, its colour, size, and the contrast ratio between the text and background. But they are also predisposed to epilepsy and have a sensitivity to light and movement, meaning they also need to strip away image carousels or graphics from a webpage before they can read it comfortably. Even by applying the best web design practices and being in compliance with the relevant laws and guidelines, all of these needs are impossible to accommodate simultaneously without additional software. That’s where Recite Me comes in. Our technology and supporting services bridge the gap between accessibility and usability. We create more inclusive online experiences by giving people as many choices as possible in how they view and consume the information on a webpage. Put simply, accessibility + usability = inclusion. Web Accessibility Guidelines & Statutes The World Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) provide minimum standards that all businesses should adhere to. WCAG guidelines define how content should be made more accessible to those with disabilities, and at Recite Me, we stand by the 4 main cornerstone principles by making online content: Perceivable – Accommodating for various sensory differences. For example, our toolbar provides text-to-speech in 35 languages and also offers the option to convert website text or documents like PDFs into audio files. Operable – User interface and navigation components on a website must be usable by all. Recite Me assistive technology provides users with a screen reader for easier navigation. The screen reader also supports content reading time as users can control text-to-speech reading speeds. Understandable – Both website information and operation of the user interface itself must be consistent and understandable. Recite Me styling features allow people to change the way the content is displayed by customising the website's colour scheme as well as font style, size, colour and spacing. Robust – Websites must be standards compliant and able to function using all applicable technologies, including assistive software. Our assistive toolbar is delivered as SaaS (Software as a Service). Once installed onto your website, you will receive regular updates and always have the latest version. Bear in mind that while the WCAG covers what you should do to make your website build accessible, every region has rules in place listing what must be done to meet minimum legal web accessibility requirements. What type of organisation you are part of will also be an important factor as the rules vary depending on whether you are a private company, a not-for-profit organization, a public sector body, or a government department, etc. The most important thing to bear in mind, however, is that legal compliance shouldn’t simply be about covering your bases. The whole reason these laws exist is to make information clearer and easier to read for those with varied accessibility needs. So you should always keep that insight as the end goal. “Accessibility isn’t a checklist, and standards aren’t a target. I’ve worked with some clients that were more interested in compliance with standards than with making their site accessible. It was as if, for them, accessibility was just a somewhat interesting by-product of their work on complying with accessibility guidelines and standards.” Nicola Steenhout, a prominent speaker and consultant on inclusion, accessibility, and disability. Using Assistive Technology to Achieve Inclusion To go beyond accessibility and be inclusive, you need to support everyone who needs to make adaptions, and that’s where assistive technology really makes the difference. As I hinted earlier, we like to think of the Recite Me toolbar is the bridge between accessibility and inclusion. By making your website more usable on a case by case basis, no matter what adjustments are required, we provide the ultimate ease of access to as many site visitors as possible and create more inclusive online experiences. “The single most important thing to understand is that people use websites in very different ways. This doesn’t just mean disabled people using special equipment, but everyone – regardless of whether you might think of them as having a special need.” Mel Pedley, Black Widow Web Design Not sure whether your website is accessible, inclusive or compliant? Our team is on hand to guide you, so feel free to contact us for a no-obligation chat or a demonstration of our toolbar.

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Orlando International Airport provides accessibility support to 29million passengers

26 Nov 2020 | news

To provide accessible information online to over 29million passengers every year, Orlando International Airport now provides an inclusive experience on the MCO website. Passengers with disabilities spend over 17.3 billion dollars a year on travel and 34 percent say they would travel more if impediments were eliminated. The importance of online accessibility is greater than ever. Effective online communication is critical and being able to provide personalized assistance online gives everyone the ability to research and book travel arrangements in a way that works for them. Orlando International Airport has rolled out Recite Me accessibility and language support across its website to enable everyone to gather this vital information barrier-free. Supporting travelers with a wide range of disabilities and impairments, from dyslexia to sight loss and color blindness, to easily access their content. “Orlando International Airport (MCO) has a long history of innovative solutions to spearhead its focus on customer service and added one more in early 2020 by adding the Recite Me accessibility toolbar to its web site. Recite Me was not only a more cost-effective solution for delivering web content in foreign languages but also added so many more accessibility tools to improve the user experience for visitors to our site.” Jerry Harris, Assistant Director of Marketing & Air Service Development The Recite Me assistive toolbar is accessed by the “Accessibility” button at the top of the Orlando International Airport website providing a unique range of tools including, text to speech functionality, fully customizable styling features, reading aids and a translation tool with over 100 languages, including 35 text to speech voices and many other features. Recite Me works across all mobile and desktop devices to enable support through a traveler’s full journey.

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Orlando International Airport

26 Nov 2020 | case-study

Orlando International Airport (MCO) is managed by the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority and opened its doors in 1971. MCO is the busiest airport in the state and the tenth busiest airport in the United States. Annual they help over 29,000,000 passengers to travel around the world.

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Best in class web accessibility: a journey of discovery

23 Nov 2020 | news

One of the key attributes of Recite Me is our close working relationship with all clients. Understanding their need then educating and guiding them correctly to understand the online world of accessibility and inclusion. On our journey, we crossed paths with Barbara Grehs, a Senior Digital Professional who was also on her own mission to provide the best possible online experience. After implementing Recite Me across two platforms we sat down with Barbara to rewind back to the start of her journey to find out more about her passion and where her mission started for wanting to provide an inclusive online experience for everyone. Beginnings My awareness of web accessibility began when I joined a housing association in 2014 that was using a cloud-based accessibility toolbar. As someone who thrives on user experience (UX), I instantly “got” the contribution this type of functionality made to providing an inclusive experience for all visitors. From that moment on, I made it my goal to find out as much as possible about web accessibility. What does “great” look like? As I explored the subject in more detail, I came to realise that accessibility isn’t simply about providing an accessibility toolbar: truly accessible websites have a combination of the following key characteristics: Adherence to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) standards Responsiveness (work well across all devices) Accessible design (colour schemes, fonts, and tagging of images and PDFs) Clear menu structure (easily understood by users) Easy to find information (ideally no more than three clicks from the homepage) Plain English standards set at a level that matches the users’ needs Clear and engaging content Inbuilt accessibility tools as a minimum, but preferably (in my view) cloud-based from a specialist third party provider Carrying the prestigious Internet Crystal Mark for web accessibility Window of opportunity In 2015, the housing association put out a call to staff to apply as candidates for a new Inclusive Ambassador initiative. Keen to make a positive contribution from a digital perspective by championing best in class web accessibility for customers, I applied and was accepted. Around the same time, our budget to build a new corporate website from scratch due to an ageing content management system (CMS) was approved. It was the moment I had been waiting for: I instantly made web accessibility one of the KPIs in the scoping of the new build. Foundations and launch We founded the new website build on two core principles: user focus and collaboration. Working intensively with internal stakeholders, I mapped out a user-focused menu structure and user-led content. Our in-house creative team had superb knowledge of accessible design principles and guided the web agency through the design phase. The web agency’s team were experts in responsive builds and really came into their own with this chance to create a new website. The housing association was also a member of Plain English Campaign, whose expertise and advice I sought on many elements of plain English. Coincidentally, around that time the housing association was also at a regulatory point of needing to issue an invitation to tender for its cloud-based web accessibility. The tender was won by Recite Me, a new supplier for the housing association, and we were able to synchronise the introduction of the product alongside the build process. It was a dream of mine to win Plain English Campaign’s prestigious Internet Crystal Mark for the new website. I submitted the application shortly after launch and, much to my delight, we were awarded the mark. Our internal communications programme along the way had created lots of interest in the new website, and colleagues were particularly enthusiastic when we announced the news about the mark. Onwards and upwards After moving on from the housing association in 2019, I began a 12-month maternity cover contract at a London university. Although there had been a refresh of the corporate website earlier that year, there were no in-built or third-party accessibility tools. Having had such a positive experience with Recite Me, I immediately set about championing its introduction at the university via a process of internal stakeholder engagement. We launched the product a couple of months before the end of my contract. Many colleagues were particularly interested in the potential for Recite Me to be used on additional platforms owned by the university, such as the intranet and portals. My thoughts on Recite Me Having honed my expertise in web accessibility over the past six years, I can honestly and objectively say that I have never seen a product of the scope, quality and reliability of Recite Me. It has become my “go-to” web accessibility product for one key reason: wherever an organisation might be in its journey to providing great web accessibility, Recite Me is a route to quickly improving the user experience for those with a disability and/or neurodiversity requirement. The functionality includes read aloud of text, interactive dictionary, translation tool with over 100 languages, colour schemes (with personal preference setting), font style (including Open Dyslexic font), screen ruler, screen mask, clutter-free view, and magnifying glass. The subscription represents excellent value for money, often amounting to fractions of a penny per user per year. It can be extended to work on additional domains owned by an organisation (intranets, portals, microsites). Detailed monthly reporting provides numbers of users, feature usage, mobile/desktop and browser information, and can be linked to Google Analytics. In addition to all of this, the Recite Me team really excel at customer service: they are collaborative, supportive and really listen to their clients. Today, despite a corporate focus on inclusivity, I still see many websites that could benefit from improvements to their accessibility. Less than 50 websites in the UK carry the Internet Crystal Mark. I believe that all organisations need champions to advocate best in class web accessibility, so that every single visitor can enjoy an inclusive user experience. In my view, the Internet Crystal Mark sets the standard for this, and I hope to see more and more organisations make this an integral part of their website KPIs the future. Links WCAG https://www.w3.org/WAI/standards-guidelines/wcag/ Plain English Campaign http://www.plainenglish.co.uk/ Internet Crystal Mark http://www.plainenglish.co.uk/services/internet-crystal-mark.html Barbara Grehs, Senior Digital Professional LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/barbaragrehs/

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4 Key Reasons to Support Online Shoppers This Holiday Season

23 Nov 2020 | news

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday fast approaching, retailers are hoping for a big surge in online sales, as current lockdown measures mean in-person shopping is unlikely. Trends from this weekend will undoubtedly set a precedent for Christmas shopping habits next month. There has already been a significant shift to online shopping in recent years. Last year on Black Friday, 142.2 million people in the US shopped online, compared to only 124 million people who chose to shop in-store. Meanwhile, in the UK, online shoppers spent well over £1.5 billion on Black Friday. In fact, the number of online shoppers on Black Friday surpassed those of Cyber Monday, which is typically when shoppers flock to the internet in droves to pick up the best digital deals. Online Shopping Trends in 2020 The tendency to buy online has only been amplified in 2020, due to the social distancing measures imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Industry research suggests that: Online holiday spends in 2020 is expected to surpass $189billion in the US and £84.5 billion in the UK, an increase of nearly 33% on 2019 figures. 66% of shoppers will increase their online spend this year 65% of shoppers will buy online to avoid crowds This is good news for online retailers, and many businesses are looking forward to a period of increased profitability at the end of what has been a difficult year. Typically, even small businesses receive revenue boosts of over 100% during the holiday season, and data shows that around 38% of consumers this year will make a deliberate effort to shop local and support smaller businesses. Financial Gain: the result of being inclusive It is incredibly important that companies take steps to support disabled customers online, as we already know from sources like the Click Away Pound Survey, that: 71% of web users simply leave a site that they find hard to use. 83% of people with access needs limit their shopping to sites that they know are accessible. 86% of users with access needs would spend more if there were fewer barriers. The annual online spending power of people with access needs is now £24.8 billion in the UK and $490 billion in the USA. From these statistics, it should be fairly obvious that the business case for making websites more inclusive is a no-brainer. Providing the right experience for people’s buying habits It’s also worth thinking a little more in-depth about your target demographic. Millennials were the biggest spenders on Black Friday in 2019 with an outlay of hundreds of pounds/dollars per person and a 25% increase in year-on-year spending from 2018. Millennial and Gen Z generations are incredibly socially conscious in their purchasing habits, so if your company isn’t viewed as being inclusive, some of this group simply won’t spend on your site. FACT: Less than 10% of businesses have a plan in place to target the disability market Consumers Need Accessible Websites A word of warning to retailers – just because the potential market is there does not guarantee you a share of the spend. What many online store owners forget is that a significant percentage of their potential customer base includes buyers who face barriers when accessing websites. Those with learning difficulties, visual impairments, physical disabilities, and varied linguistic needs find e-commerce sites incredibly difficult to navigate and use for a multitude of reasons. This makes online shopping an almost impossible task, and these users will need additional support to be able to use your website at all, let alone make purchases on it. So the key to gaining more traffic and sales is to make your website accessible to everyone. Last month (October 2020) over 162,000 people used Recite Me assistive technology to aid their online journey, and all over the world companies are using assistive technology to enable website visitors to better read and understand their content. “Being able to make your website welcoming and easy to use for all customers is key to creating the perfect online experience. Ross Linnett, CEO & Founder of Recite Me Case Study: Awin Awin is a global affiliate marketing network that partnered with over 15,000 advertisers and more than 211,000 publishers in 2019, generating over 150million sales in total. Responsible for connecting businesses and customers around the world in sectors ranging from finance and telecommunications to retail and travel, equal access to all website visitors has been an important consideration for the Awin team. Awin recently launched a Recite Me toolbar on their American and Canadian websites so that site visitors can access information and services barrier-free. "At Awin, diversity and inclusion is not an initiative but core to who we are as a company and how we run our business operations. Recite Me allows us to ensure an inclusive online environment and positive user experience for all of our partners and employees. We couldn’t be more thrilled to provide this tool for their website usage. " Alexandra Forsch, President of Awin US How to create an Inclusive Online Shopping Experiences While many businesses invest heavily in enhancing branding and the general user experience (UX) to maximise their online stores and sales, not enough seem to have considered accessibility and inclusion factors. Assistive technology is one of the easiest and lowest-cost solutions to provide equal access to all consumers. For example, the Recite Me toolbar removes barriers for all users by: Accounting for differences in vision - users can adjust the font size, font type, and use a screen reader for better focus and ease of reading. Removing barriers for people with learning difficulties - toolbar functions include options for changing colours and colour contrasts between background and foreground, the spacing between words, and stripping out distracting graphics. Providing information in clear language - we provide text to speech in 35 languages, on-screen translation in 100 languages, and inbuilt spell check and thesaurus functions. Making your website easier to navigate - keyboard accessibility allows users can navigate to interactive elements, which in turn, can also be used with keyboard functions. Providing accessible publications - our DocReader means PDF documents on your webpage are also accessible. Hundreds of organizations already use Recite Me to make their websites more accessible for people with disabilities and are seeing great results. “The Recite Me accessibility and language support toolbar enables all website visitors to browse and purchase hassle-free. People who face online challenges because they either have a disability, learning difficulty, visual impairment or speak English as a second language, can now use a wide range of support functions to aid their shopping.” Mat Robinson, Hornets Retail Store, Watford FC To learn more, please contact our team, or book a demonstration. Installation typically takes less than an hour, so if you act now, you will be ready for a successful Christmas shopping season!

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Curve Theatre

16 Nov 2020 | case-study

Curve is a spectacular state-of-the-art theatre based in the heart of Leicester’s vibrant Cultural Quarter. Opened in 2008 by Her Majesty The Queen, our award-winning building, designed by acclaimed architect Rafael Viñoly, offers a completely unique visitor experience. Over 750,000 people annually engage with Curve through performances and projects in Leicester, across the UK, and internationally.

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Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner

16 Nov 2020 | case-study

The Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner is Kathryn Holloway. The police and crime commissioner is an elected official tasked with setting out the way crime is tackled by Bedfordshire Police in the English County of Bedfordshire.

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