News & Media
Introduce yourself and your company Hi, I’m Kathryn and I own Cura Financial Services. We offer support to people that are having difficulty getting insurance policies like life insurance, critical illness cover and income protection. A lot of the people that we speak to have health conditions and have found getting insurance tricky, or impossible. I struggled to get insurance myself due to my health and we’ve made it our mission to help as many people like me as possible. What is your D&I mission for this year and beyond? Since 2012 we have been fighting for fairer access to insurance for people with health conditions, hazardous jobs, high-risk travel and sports. For the last couple of years we have been thinking about the very initial stage of insurance. We have a lot of experience helping people to get insurance, but we started to wonder, is insurance easily accessible for people that are deaf, blind or have conditions like dyslexia. We started doing some research and realised that there are a lot of barriers. Insurance documentation is full of jargon, it’s not often in a format that works with screen readers, not many companies are able to offer sign language specialists. Our aim is to build a kind of best practice guide for organisations within the insurance industry, to take steps to make their services more accessible. Can you share some D&I best practice examples? A big thing for me is to not make assumptions, I’m a big believer that no two people are the same. Just because you have supported someone that is deaf and they liked to chat by email, that doesn’t mean that every one that is deaf will. Others may want to use a sign language interpreter as that is their native language. We have people that need us to communicate specifically by email due to hearing conditions, that need to speak on the phone as auditory information suits them best and others that like to video call. There is always room to learn and it’s incredibly important to be reactive to everyone’s individual needs. What are you doing across your digital landscape to be inclusive? Part of our work has been the integration of Recite Me onto our website and promoting it’s benefits to our peers. The document reading, customisation and language translation are really impressive. I write a lot of content on our website and do videos and podcasts too. Our videos all have subtitles and both the videos and podcasts are transcribed to improve accessibility. I write pages for individual health conditions so that people can access specific information and case studies relevant to their situation. It makes the information relatable and doesn’t bombard people with unnecessary information. Can you share an example of D&I success at your organisation? Our success comes from years of building knowledge on how insurance works, why insurers make certain decisions and which insurers are going to be right for a person’s individual circumstances. We regularly help people that have been told that they are uninsurable to get insurance. This doesn’t mean silly pricing, or dodgy wording! It’s just being able to understand medical conditions and how the insurance industry works. We have over 150 individual health conditions pages on our website and the list keeps growing. We regularly help people that have had cancer, heart attacks, strokes or are living with HIV, multiple sclerosis to get insurance. I specialise in helping people with mental health conditions to get insurance, providing an empathetic and non-judgemental journey for them. Concluding message you would like people to take away I would like people to take away from this, that improving accessibility to your organisation, shouldn’t be a side project or something that you’ll eventually get around to. It is simply the right thing to do. Someone said to me recently “It’s not what people do that you remember, it’s how they have made you feel”. For people that are still on the fence, there is a business argument for this too. It’s estimated that roughly 1 in 5 people have a disability and inaccessible websites are missing out on £11.75 billion in the UK. There’s a huge amount of money to be made from being more accessible, so you can increase your turnover and also be doing the right thing!
Over the past 12 months Recite Me has made over 350,000 charity and not-for-profit organizations website pages accessible, and on average we’ve supported over 8,500 people every month in accessing barrier-free charity information through our web accessibility technology. And we’re just getting started… The charity and not for profit sector is well known for supporting some of the most vulnerable members of our society. So it makes sense that many organizations are taking the lead in tackling web accessibility in 2020 as a way of championing as many beneficiaries as they can. This year, in particular, has seen many vulnerable individuals become isolated due to lock down and shielding measures imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, so it is vital that digital inclusion factors are considered by as many organizations as possible to ensure that online information is not just available, but accessible to all. In recent months as the effects of COVID-19 restrictions continue to linger, we’ve noticed a trend in the growing number of charity and not for profit organizations that are signing up to use Recite Me assistive technology, and we now support over 50 different charitable organizations including: Amnesty International National Alliance on Mental Illness The Prince’s Trust Meningitis Now American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Just 4 Children Several NHS Trusts Disability Rights groups across America Web Accessibility & Charity Values Many readers will naturally assume that a significant percentage of organizations in the not for profit sector is supporting disabled users who face web accessibility barriers and that this is the sole reason behind the upturn of sign-ups in 2020. However, this is not the case, as while many charities do embrace assistive technology to support their beneficiaries, the target audience for charity websites goes way beyond that, and categories within the sector are way more all-encompassing than disability organizations alone. Examples include: Animal welfare charities International NGOs Environmental campaign charities Education charities Arts and culture charities Community development charities Human rights charities The vast majority of charities and not for profits rely on the internet not just to communicate with their subscribers and recipients, but to communicate their values and attract supporters, ambassadors, and benefactors. This is something that becomes increasingly difficult if websites are not accessible. The simple fact is that the more an organization does to provide access to information, the more people it can reach. This year especially, this has become incredibly important in the charity sector, as with so many people struggling financially it is harder than ever to recruit sponsors and donations. By their very nature, charities and not for profits actively work towards equality and inclusion for all. In the modern-day world, and in 2020 in particular, so much of what we do is online that if we don’t take web accessibility seriously then people will be excluded. This, in turn, creates a two-tiered society, something which the charity sector works incredibly hard to avoid. So the shared values between charity goals and the benefits of web accessibility are very clear here. What the Data Says We already know that 71% of web users simply leave a site that they find hard to use, and 83% of people with access needs limit their browsing to sites that they know are accessible. So it’s always rewarding to know that our technology is making a genuine difference to people’s lives. Let’s take a look at some of the statistics from our charity clients so far this year: Toolbar launches – Depending on the size and scope of the charity, numbers vary, but most medium-sized organizations show toolbar launches in the thousands. National charities average at 15,000+ toolbar launches, whereas smaller or regional charities record toolbar launches of 5,000-12,000. Pageviews per visit – On average, Recite Me users view 3.5 pages of an accessible website per visit, which is higher than the average internet journey depth of just 2 pages per visit. Translations – Again, numbers will vary depending on the size and scope of the charity, but some charity websites report as many as 20,000 translations. How Assistive Technology Removes Web Accessibility Barriers Solutions like the Recite Me assistive toolbar provide options to make multiple adjustments on any given web page to make the contents easier to read. Bespoke changes can be made to the text, graphics, and the way the information is consumed (visual or audio), plus on-screen tools make the pages easier to focus on. This makes websites accessible for those who struggle with a range of conditions, including: Visual impairments Deafblindness Colour blindness Dyslexia Hyperlexia Dyspraxia ADHD Speaking English as a second language Epilepsy Mobility and physical impairments Charities and not for profits provide a wide range of services including information, advice, training, education, and digital resources. As such, charity websites are often among some of the most complex for users to access, making web accessibility a top priority. Recite Me is very proud to be leading the way in this sector and helping so many people to access the information they need online. “We believe everyone should be able to access our information and services barrier-free, and Recite simply helps us deliver this in a way that is straight forward for the user and, for a charity that doesn’t receive government funding, in a cost-effective manner. " David Clifford, Digital Marketing Manager at Meningitis Now You can find out more about the charities that use Recite Me software in our sector pages. If you would like to speak to one of the team about booking a demonstration of our assistive toolbar or would like any further information, please contact us and we’ll be happy to assist you.
The life-changing University of Sunderland has 20,000 students based in campuses on the North East coast, in London and Hong Kong and at its global partnerships with learning institutions in 15 countries. They have a long-established commitment to widening participation, world-leading research, public and private sector collaborations and their track record for providing quality student experiences that result in graduates who are the tomorrow-makers of society and the economy.
Everyone has friends, colleagues or family members who have dyslexia. You may not know it, and those who have dyslexia may not even know it themselves. But it’s a condition that impacts at least 10-15% of the population, and many more cases beyond this go undiagnosed. So it’s a simple fact that it affects way more people than you’d think. Dyslexia is a learning difficulty close to our hearts as our founder and CEO, Ross Linnett, is himself dyslexic, and Recite Me was borne out of his passion to make the online world a more accessible place for others like himself. What is Dyslexia? Dyslexia is a learning disorder characterised by problems with reading, writing, and spelling, particularly when it comes to word order and identification. Additional factors that complicate comprehension for dyslexics include font choice, font size, and colour contrasts between written text and the background. Those who suffer from dyslexia may also experience problems with attention span, organization, and timekeeping. What dyslexia is not, is a marker of decreased intelligence. When diagnosed early, children with dyslexia can achieve just as much as any other student. But they will likely need additional tutoring or a tailored education program, as they do not fit into the normal education model of reading and written exams. As awareness of dyslexia increases, schools and colleges are becoming better at identifying signs and symptoms, which in turn means more tools and support for dyslexic students. However, the condition can often go undetected for many years, and in some cases (as with Ross) is not identified until adulthood. This puts dyslexics at a much higher risk of exclusion. A Dyslexics Story As Recite Me’s mission is to make the internet a better place for dyslexics, we asked Ross a few questions so we can share his story with you. The chances are that you or someone you know will share a very similar experience… When you were at school and university, did you ever suspect that your learning style was significantly different from your friends? "Yes. When I was at school I definitely suspected there was something different about the way my brain was working and learning. I was very strong in subjects that didn't have a lot of English, but weak in those that required large amounts of reading or writing. The thing that stood out most was that these weaknesses never really improved no matter how hard I worked on them, whereas with other subjects I got better the more effort I put in. Interestingly, I once said to my English teacher I thought I might be dyslexic, but she dismissed the idea and told me I was being stupid!" What did you struggle with the most in an academic setting? "The thing that I struggled with the most was reading aloud. Basically, I just couldn't do it. I managed to keep my inability/slowness in reading hidden for the most part, but you can't hide when you have to read out loud. I was very confident and happy in school, but the thought of reading in front of the class used to scare the life out of me." What was your feedback from your teachers when you were at school? "Interestingly, the teacher who told me not to be stupid when I said I thought I was dyslexic was very supportive and wanted to help me a lot. She did pass my writing over to a special needs teacher, but she also dismissed that I was dyslexic without even giving me a test. If either of these teachers had been more open-minded, and particularly if the special needs teacher had done a more thorough job, I think my academic experience would have been completely different. However, I do believe that having to work hard and find my own adjustments instead of being given support has provided me with some advantages." When were you diagnosed with dyslexia? "Not until after I had graduated from university. I was giving a presentation and was writing some notes down on paper when a colleague commented that I was displaying all the signs of dyslexia. At this time I was really searching for answers because, in the run-up to exams in the final year of my engineering degree, I had been one of the students that was showing all the others how to answer questions in the mock exams. It was clear I had a lot more knowledge than many of my course mates, yet in a final exam environment I never finished within the allotted time and other students were beating me by up to 20%. A classic sign of dyslexia is taking much longer in exams." How does dyslexia affect your life the most? "The biggest problem areas are still reading and writing. However, within Recite Me, the vast amount of communications I do are internal. Luckily it’s my company, so everybody has the understanding that messages will come through with grammatical errors, and in some cases be hard to understand. It's all about the acceptance of that, rather than me spending two or three times longer trying to make something perfect. The whole mission of our product is to support those who learn and communicate differently, so having a solid internal understanding of how that works in a real-life setting is actually really great for the team. " What changes have you made internally to make the company more Dyslexia aware? "A limited attention span is a common dyslexic trait, so we try to keep meeting lengths down as much as possible - which comes with the added advantage of making our meetings much more efficient and focused. Did you know that Winston Churchill was dyslexic? He would often refuse to have a meeting longer than 20 minutes, and if he can run an entire war operation this way, I'm confident that our business and any other company can also manage!" Dyslexia as a Positive It is common for those who struggle with dyslexia to try and hide it as much as possible, just as Ross did when he was younger. However, being dyslexic is not necessarily a disadvantage as it comes with amplified competence in other areas such as analytical thinking, big-picture thinking, and heightened creativity in general. These are incredibly sought after skills in some of the world’s biggest industries and are particularly useful in areas like IT, analytics, architecture, design, fashion, science, and medicine etc. In fact, some of the world’s most famous innovators have been dyslexic. Prominent examples include Sir Richard Branson, Agatha Christie, and Albert Einstein. In today’s world of constantly evolving technology and fast-paced change, there is more space than ever for those with enhanced problem solving, critical thinking, and leadership skills – all areas in which dyslexics typically excel. However, to provide the best opportunities possible, education institutions and businesses must have a support system in place to allow those who learn and process information differently to succeed. How Technology Can Help Dyslexics can be supported easily through the use of technology like the Recite Me assistive toolbar. Recite Me is perfect for those who have dyslexia as it allows users to: Have text from any website read-aloud to them Download and save any written web content as an MP3 file Choose the exact colour contrast between the text and background Change the font type and size Zoom in on any part of a webpage Use the built-in spell-checker and a fully integrated dictionary and thesaurus It also helps people who suffer from a wide range of other disabilities and impairments such as hyperlexia, ADHD, decreased vision, colourblindness, epilepsy, physical disability, and those who speak English as a second language. Find Out More If you’d like to learn more about supporting your students or workforce with our dyslexia-friendly assistive software, please feel free to contact our team for more information or a book a real-time demonstration of our toolbar. Dyslexia week 2020 is currently underway and runs from the 5th-11th of October. Free dyslexia resource packs for schools, colleges and workplaces are available online via the British Dyslexia Association website.
While the doors of Leicester’s Curve theatre may be closed, the theatre has remained committed to providing a range of accessible features online. To enable everyone to discover shows and digital content, gather vital access information and book tickets, the theatre offers accessibility and language support online. Everyone should have the opportunity to be able to access online content, yet there are over 14 million people across the UK who face barriers when visiting inaccessible websites. The numbers don’t stop there, there are a wide range of reasons why people need online support; • 15% Of UK residents are Neurodiverse • 2 Million of people in the UK have a visual impairment • 15% of the UK population have learning difficulties • 10% of the UK don’t speak English as their first language • 11.8 Million UK residents are aged 65 years and over To create an inclusive digital platform and to break down barriers, Curve provides all website visitors with Recite Me assistive technology. The Recite Me toolbar gives visitors the ability to fully customise the look of the website and ticketing platform for personal ease of use. Comprising of a number of accessibility and language features, the Recite Me toolbar includes text to speech functionality, fully customisable styling options, reading aids and a translation tool with over 100 languages, including 35 text to speech voices and more. Before lockdown, the Recite Me toolbar on Curve’s website supported over 800 people every month with accessibility and language support to discover new performances and book tickets online. Over a 12-month period, this equates to nearly 13,000 toolbar launches, highlighting the importance of creating an inclusive website to support everyone with online access challenges. Curve’s Chief Executive Chris Stafford and Artistic Director Nikolai Foster said: “We believe everyone should be able to access high-quality arts and culture, both on and off Curve’s stages. With the Recite Me toolbar available on our website, the entire online experience is more accessible and personal for every visitor. It’s brilliant to see how many people have already used these features to engage with our theatre online.” Over 750,000 people annually engage with Curve through performances and projects in Leicester, across the UK, and internationally. Under the leadership of Chief Executive Chris Stafford and Artistic Director Nikolai Foster, Curve has developed a reputation for producing, programming and touring a bold and diverse programme of musicals, plays, new work, dance and opera. All of this presented alongside a dynamic mix of community engagement, artist development and learning programmes, which firmly places audiences, artists and communities at the heart of everything the theatre does. In 2019, three Curve originated productions played in London’s West End; On Your Feet! (London Coliseum), Sue Townsend’s The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ - The Musical (The Ambassadors Theatre) and White Christmas (Dominion Theatre).
The University of Sunderland believe that everybody should be treated equally, and opportunities afforded to all. Through hard work, best practicing and technology they continue their mission to support all. We recently spoke to Justine Gillespie the Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Manager at the University of Sunderland to find out what they are doing to create an inclusive University... Please introduce yourself and your organisation My name is Justine Gillespie and I am the Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Manager at the University of Sunderland. I joined the University in 2013 after over 25 years in retail. As an alumni of the University, I feel very proud to be working at the place that was instrumental in steering my career at the outset. I am passionate about its values especially that of inclusion and its focus on widening participation. We have 20,000 students at four campuses across Sunderland, London, and Hong Kong. Our key strengths are sciences, education, advanced manufacturing, software, enterprise and innovation, and creative industries. These strengths are reflected in our internationally excellent research, global partnerships, and knowledge transfer partnerships. We recently opened a new School of Medicine, with the first students starting in September 2019. What is your D&I mission for this year and beyond? Here at the University of Sunderland, we believe that everybody should be treated equally, and opportunities afforded to all. However, we also recognise that treating everyone equally has shortcomings when the playing field is not level. Where possible we take an approach that everyone should be treated according to their needs. Our inclusion strategy focuses on ensuring that everyone at the University, regardless of their background, identity or circumstance, feels valued, accepted and support to succeed. Positive change on inclusion can only come about through concerted, meaningful and intentional action. Can you share some D&I best practice examples? In 2017, the proportion of professorships held by women in UK Universities was declining, despite huge efforts to improve gender equality, and was sitting at 24%. In their report, Advance HE shows that the decline has stopped, but the percentage of female professors still remains at only 25.5%. Since 2013, the University has used gender-balanced panels and Equality Impact Assessments at each stage of the professorial appointments process (designed to ensure that the scheme does not discriminate against any disadvantaged people). Promotions workshops for all potential applicants were also organised, led by a panel of current female professors. As a result, the University can celebrate a different story. In the 2018 Internal Promotions rounds for professors, more than half of applicants and appointments were women. Figures show that 54% of our professors are women, which is more than double the national average and has steadily been growing since 2013. What are you doing across your digital landscape to be inclusive? The University takes the view that inclusion for all is about creating an environment and a culture where staff and students feel valued and included. In today’s work and especially so during this pandemic, everything we do is online. Therefore, it is an important aspect of our inclusion strategy to make our webpages as accessible as possible to everyone. Our digital content team was delighted to collaborate with Recite Me, to provide assistive technology to both prospective and current students. Since its launch in June 2020 the Recite Me accessibility toolbar has been used over 47,500 times. Can you share an example of D&I success at your organisation? During lockdown, we focused on setting up staff networks that were led by the needs of the staff. There was an overwhelming response to the call out for interested staff to set up these networks and within 6 months have set up 8 fully thriving groups who meet virtually every month. The networks are an incredibly powerful way to engage staff in shaping the culture of the University and whilst we are all working remotely these feel more important than ever before. Our networks are: • All Identities Included (LGBTQI+) • Fertility Support • SOLO (Living along or in isolation) • BAME Staff and Allies • CAPS (Parents and Carers) • Enabled (mind and body) Staff and Allies • Menopause Support Concluding message you would like people to take away We are an international and multicultural community, which values and encourages diversity. Inclusion is what is needed to give diversity real impact and drive towards a University where all students are empowered to thrive. Whilst diversity and inclusion often go hand in hand, inclusion is fundamentally about individual experience and allowing everyone to contribute and feel a part of our community and is a value at the heart of the University strategy.
Preston City Council is a district council, working alongside Lancashire County Council as part of a two-tier local government system. They have 48 elected councilors who are responsible for making decisions about the future of Preston and important public services such as planning, housing, leisure and culture, and rubbish and recycling.
To create a fully inclusive online environment Preston City Council now provides Recite Me accessibility software to enable all visitors to access council information barrier-free. 14.1 million people in the UK live with some form of disability and there are 11.8 Million residents aged 65 years and over, all of which can experience challenges online. As a council, it is vital that their content is easily accessible to all, regardless of their needs. To achieve the council's goal of supporting the diverse population of Preston with multimedia communications, over the past 12 months they have provided the Recite Me accessibility software which has enable people with disabilities, learning difficulties, visual impairments, and people who speak English as a second language to experience our website in a way to suit their individual needs. On average every month, they help over 340 unique people with accessibility and language support needs. Over the last year, there has been a total of 4,000 Launches of the toolbar to remove barriers and create a better online experience. When people use Recite Me assistive technology to support their journey, they view on average 5.1 pages, gathering all the information they need. The Recite Me accessibility toolbar provides a unique range features including, text-to-speech functionality, reading aids and styling options, where people can change the colour scheme as well as the texts font style, size, colour, and spacing. For people who speak English as a second language, the toolbar also includes on-demand translation into over 100 languages, including 35 text to speech voices. “We really want to meet the needs of the people who live and work in Preston, and we believe the tools Recite me offer helps us achieve this. Recite Me helps us by making our website and content accessible for all and with Preston such a diverse community it allows the website to be viewed in over 100 languages, making it easier than ever to engage with the Council.” Ian Heslop, Digital and Web Manager, Preston Councils
National Inclusion Week runs from the 28th of September through to the 4th of October in 2020, and is a celebratory week that recognises and promotes inclusion in the workplace. The week is run by Inclusive Employers, the UK's first and leading membership organisation that supports businesses trying to develop more inclusive practices within the workplace. Recite Me are proud to list Inclusive Employers as one of our clients, and National Inclusion Week presents a perfect opportunity to look at digital inclusion from an internal company perspective. The Recite Me assistive toolbar is used by hundreds of companies in both public and private sectors to help customers and subscribers access their products, services, and information. However, many organisations also use Recite Me on internal systems like intranets and learning platforms to ensure company information is also fully accessible and inclusive to their employees. We are a Disability Confident Employer. Are You? Disability Confident schemes exist in many countries including the UK and the USA. The overall aim is to help employers to be more inclusive and explore the benefits of employing disabled people. Although the scheme is voluntary, it is heavily subscribed by progressive and forward-thinking companies, and in the UK alone there are over 18,000 organisations already listed as Disability Confident Employers – Recite Me being one of them, of course. The key for employers is to alter their perceptions and the way they think about disability, and make positive changes to the way they attract, recruit, develop, and retain disabled employees. “Diversity and inclusion is not an initiative but core to who we are as a company and how we run our business operations.” Alexandra Forsch, President of Awin US One of the fundamental challenges companies face when looking at digital inclusion is taking account of the many and varied barriers that employees face online. We tend to think of disabilities purely in terms of mobility and physical restrictions, but in reality, there is a whole range of diverse conditions that can prevent users from gaining equal access to online information. Examples include: Visual impairments Deafblindness Colour blindness Dyslexia Hyperlexia Dyspraxia ADHD Speaking English as a second language Epilepsy The Importance of Being Digitally Inclusive in 2020 This year more than ever before, we have seen a significant shift to remote working due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent studies show that in the coming years, as much as 25-30% of the workforce will be working remotely at least one day per week. This means that businesses need to act quickly to ensure that all of their employees have the tools and support they need to access company systems and contribute to this new way of working. As it stands, the majority of companies are already behind here, as despite a rise to nearly 77% of workers wanting to access business websites, intranets and documents from outside of the office, 38% of employees say that the technology they are provided with doesn’t operate correctly in a remote setting. Supporting Inclusion through Assistive Technology A proven way of supporting people online is by utilising assistive technology. Assistive software allows adaptions to be made to account for several barriers including learning difficulties, visual impairments, disabilities, and varied linguistic needs. Recite Me’s accessibility software supports a diverse range of staff in the workplace by providing a variety of tools that allow users to create a fully customisable experience. Our accessibility features can either 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. If you’d like to know more about how assistive technology can help make your business more inclusive, you can contact our team or request a demonstration. The Benefits of Being Inclusive Many companies shy away from online accessibility and inclusion factors as they perceive them as being complex, expensive, or simply too difficult to work around. Yet the average cost of making an accommodation for a disabled employee is just a few hundred pounds/dollars, and data shows that employees with disabilities take less time off and tend to stay with companies for longer. So in reality, this is nothing more than a common misperception, especially when you consider all of the additional benefits of becoming an inclusive employer: Drawing from the widest pool of talent available Acquiring high-quality staff who are skilled, hardworking and loyal Improved innovation thanks to the wider perspective you gain by having a more diverse team Demonstrating fairness in the workplace Reduced staff turnover rates overall Improved staff morale Showing customers and other businesses that you are committed to equality in the workplace There is also growing evidence that improved inclusion leads to increased revenue and profits. “According to Accenture’s 2018 study, The Disability Inclusion Advantage, companies that embrace best practices for employing and supporting people with disabilities outperform their peers with higher revenue (28%) and profit margin (30%).” John Stern, Accessibility Advocate Each One, Reach One A significant part of the challenge of becoming inclusive is knowing that the tools exist. So now you know about it, why not tell someone else? We encourage you to start a conversation about inclusion this week! The theme for this year’s National Inclusion Week is ‘Each One, Reach One’. The idea is to make an inclusion chain and inspire individuals and businesses alike to play their part in making inclusion an everyday reality. By reaching out on an individual or organisational level, and helping others to understand the opportunities presented by inclusion, we can all make a positive difference.
European Day of Languages takes place annually on the 26th of September. The aim of the day is to encourage language learning across Europe, and to promote awareness about linguistic diversity and the importance of protecting linguistic heritage. This is definitely something that the team at Recite Me can get behind, as the text translation tool and text-to-speak translation function are two of the most frequently used components of our assistive toolbar. Europe is incredibly diverse in many respects. It is a continent steeped in history, with a wide array of cultures and traditions, beautiful countryside and city vistas, varied architectural styles, incredible food, and of course, many languages. With English being the global ‘lingua franca’, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this is the most commonly spoken language in Europe, but that is not the case. Despite having over 400 million native speakers worldwide, only 70 million reside in Europe, which doesn’t even put English in the top 3 most-used languages across the continent: Russian – 120 million native speakers German – 95 million native speakers French – 80 million native speakers English – 70 million native speakers Turkish – 70 million native speakers Italian – 69 million native speakers Spanish – 45 million native speakers Ukrainian – 45 million native speakers Polish – 40 million native speakers Dutch – 22 million native speakers The implication for business here is significant – if your website is only available in English, then you are missing out. Even if your company only operates in the English market, you are still excluding the 10% of the population who speak English as a second language. Accounting for Languages in Business Globally, around 1 in every 4 internet users speaks English as a first language, so it is common practice, particularly for western companies, to publish their website in English first and foremost. However, the case for having your website available in more languages is clear – accessing the other 75% of the market! “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 Many website owners try duplicating their website into multiple languages. But for smaller businesses this can be difficult due to budget restraints as the more languages you add, the more expensive it becomes. Plus, some languages require complicated coding. Take Arabic and Hebrew for example. Not only does the text need to run from right to left, but the whole layout will need to be altered and many graphical elements will need to be repositioned to account for the change. Then comes the problem of which languages to prioritise. Granted, most companies will take time to research and analyse their website traffic data before spending on multilingual sites. However, simply knowing which countries website visitors come from doesn’t necessarily guarantee success. For example, if a website doesn’t receive any visits from Italian internet users, does that mean there is no interest in those particular products or services in Italy? Or simply that there are not enough translations in Italian to attract potential buyers? One of the best ways to avoid all of the question marks and make your website inclusive to as many users as possible is to use assistive technology. Recite Me’s assistive toolbar makes websites inclusive by providing: Text translations in over 100 languages Text-to-speech in 35 languages A built-in dictionary and thesaurus to check definitions The Benefits of Being Linguistically Inclusive There is always a cost-benefit analysis to consider when looking at expanding your online presence, and being inclusive of different linguistic needs does not disappoint when it comes to the list of benefits: Increased revenue – data shows businesses that translate their landing pages and ads can expect to gain up to a 20% increase in conversions. Discover new markets – A translation service on your website can open up your company to new customers from markets you previously could not access - or were not aware you could access. Get more website traffic – The more people you can attract and keep browsing on your website, the better your site will do in search engine rankings. Build trust and strengthen your brand – More visitors to your website means more awareness of your brand in general. But also, customers favour brands that are value-driven, so you can further improve your brand reputation through being inclusive of varying linguistic needs. Statistics & Case Studies Currently, Recite Me software is helping thousands of companies to be more inclusive. In the last 12 months, our toolbar made 21,663,682 translations in total, and the top five languages used were Arabic, English, Spanish, French, and Italian. This is not to say that these languages will always be the most used. That will come down to what industry you are in, and where your company is based. In terms of industry sectors, services that are regularly used by a wide cross-section of the community are some of the most important when it comes to being inclusive. This includes businesses like utility companies and transport providers: Western Power delivers electricity to over 7.9 million customers over a 55,500km² area in the Midlands, the South West, and Wales. In the past 12 months on their website, users have made over 6.5 million translations using the Recite Me. Gatwick airport is the second busiest in the UK, and the 9th busiest in Europe. Over the past 12 months using Recite Me software on their website, users have made nearly 2million translations. South Western Railway operates almost 1,700 train services per day, and is the main provider of rail transport in western Surrey, Hampshire, and Dorset, and also serves London, Berkshire, Wiltshire, Somerset, and Devon. In the past 12 months on their website, users have made nearly 100,000 translations using the Recite Me. The education sector benefits significantly by making accommodations for those who do not speak English as a first language. 2019 statistics show that there are almost half a million international students enrolled on higher education courses in the UK: Merthyr Tydfil College offers over 30 A Levels, a range of vocational courses, and is home to around 4000 students. They have seen half a million translations the past 12 month with the Recite Me software on their website. Ed Place offers home learning solutions from year 1 through to GCSE. Since installing Recite Me software on their website, users have made over 350,000 translations in total across the various Ed Place domains. London University is home to nearly 227,000 students and was one of the first educational institutions to embed the Recite Me toolbar onto their website. In the past 12 months, users have made over 80,000 translations. You don’t need to be a national corporation or large institution to benefit from translation tools, however. Even smaller local and regional businesses are seeing the advantages: Everton FC is a premier league football team whose stadium regularly hosts between 36,000 and 38,000 home fans in the stands on match days. Over the past 12 with Recite Me installed on their website, users have made over 70,000 translations. Situated in the heart of London, the Strand Palace Hotel offers a range of rooms and services for both leisure and corporate guests. In the last year with Recite Me software on their website, users have made nearly 20,000 translations. The Jorvik Viking Centre in York welcomes over 400,000 visitors per year. In the past 12 months and through the pandemic they have seen users translate nearly 6000 pieces of content. Get ‘Down with the Lingo’! While European Day of Languages aims to break down linguistic barriers in a more general and social sense, we hope you are starting to see the benefits of being inclusive of more diverse language needs online. If you need more information, statistics, or would like to see a demonstration of how our assistive toolbar works, please feel free to contact our team. If you would like to get involved in European Day of Languages on the 26th, the European Centre for Modern Languages (ECML) has set up a website with multiple resources including activities, games, fun facts, and self-evaluation tools, available in 37 languages.
Cura specialises in helping people with medical conditions, high-risk occupations, hazardous travel, and sports, to get good value insurance. Since 2012, Cura have been dedicated to helping as many individuals as possible to secure insurance policies. Many have previously been turned away by other brokers as ‘uninsurable’. They pride themselves on finding the right insurance products for clients where others cannot.
Cura, insurance experts enhance their website with Recite Me accessibility software to provide a barrier-free experience to obtain good value protection insurance. Cura specialises in helping people with medical conditions, high-risk occupations, hazardous travel, and sports, to get good value insurance. Cura’s work has seen many people that have been declined insurance elsewhere, to have the vital protection that they and their family need. At the start of this year, Cura began consultations with organisations about how they could develop some best practices for the whole insurance industry to address accessibility barriers. Across the UK over 14 million people have some form for disability who can encounter challenges online. To address this Cura now offer accessibility and language support on their website enable everyone to navigate, perceive and understand the content easily. The Recite Me assistive technology toolbar enables people to customise their online experience to suit their individual needs. The toolbar provides many accessibility and language options including text to speech functionality, fully customisable styling features, reading aids and a translation tool with over 100 languages, including 35 text to speech voices and many other features. Kathryn explains “We believe that this is an essential area of inclusivity that needs to be given clear focus. For us, an easy and essential way for us to improve Cura’s services has been adding Recite Me to our website in June of this year. This language and accessibility bar enables users to have documents read aloud to them, to download text as an MP3 file, change fonts, colours, sizes, to translate into over 100 different language and has a fully integrated dictionary and thesaurus.” Ross Linnett, Founder & CEO of Recite Me commented, “It is great to see Cura paving the way to improving web accessibility within the insurance sector. Being able to support everyone online to read and understand important information is crucial to providing great customer service to people who need it the most.”
The Equality Act as we know it today came into place in 2010, updating a number of anti-discrimination laws relating to race, gender, age, disability, religious belief, and sexual orientation, among other factors. It encompasses information previously found in the Equal Pay Act of 1970 and the Disability Discrimination Act of 1995, and is the go-to piece of legislation that companies need to consider when it comes to making their websites accessible and inclusive. Equality Act of 2010 Since the Equality Act came into effect, website owners have been obliged by law to ensure that their websites are accessible to all users, as it is illegal to treat those with disabilities less favourably. The regulations set out in the Equality Act apply to all service providers. So it is particularly important to public sector organisations like transport providers, local authorities, law enforcement, healthcare providers, emergency services, education institutions, and infrastructure suppliers. However, not being a public sector organisation doesn’t necessarily mean that the rules don’t apply to you. While the precise meaning of some of the terms in the Equality Act can be ambiguous, there is a general consensus that the ‘provision of a service’ applies to commercial web services just as much as it does to conventional public sector services. What Does the Equality Act Mean to You and Your Business? If you in the public sector, then the Public Sector Web Accessibility Deadline is your most pressing concern. Updates to the Equality Act that came into force in 2018 state that all public sector websites need to follow the principles of the World Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) accessibility Level AA by 23 September 2020. Based on our most recent data, only 74% of UK public sector sites currently comply with WCAG 2.1 AA. If you are in the private sector, then the chances are you don’t have a particular deadline on the horizon to work towards. But this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t put the same amount of effort into making your website accessible to as many users as possible. Making your website accessible is the right thing to do, and the benefits include enhanced brand reputation, increased market share and profit, and reduced legal risk. Plus, the principles of the World Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) do still apply to private companies. Understanding Accessibility Needs Having an inaccessible website means that users with varying disabilities are unable to access your information, goods, and services. Not only is this discriminatory, but it is foolish when you consider that at least 1 in 5 people have a long term illness, impairment, or disability – and many more may have temporary disabilities that affect their ability to access your site. Specific barriers that can make your website inaccessible include: Visual impairments Deafblindness Colour blindness Dyslexia Hyperlexia Dyspraxia ADHD Speaking English as a second language Epilepsy Mobility and physical impairments With such a broad spectrum of accessibility barriers, the pitfalls of an inaccessible website are wide-ranging, but the most common problems are with websites that: Are not easy to use on a mobile Cannot be navigated using a keyboard Have inaccessible PDF forms that cannot be read using screen readers Have poor colour contrast that makes the text difficult to read Do not have adequate link descriptions and/or alt text descriptions on images Use images containing text that is unreadable by speech synthesiser software How to Comply with the Equality Act The key for website owners is to adopt a design and layout that is clear enough so that most people can use it, while also supporting those who need to make adaptions. Many people assume this process would be complicated and costly, but that is generally not the case. “Many of the most common accessibility issues making sites difficult or impossible to use in a non-traditional way can be easily fixed.” Sam Stemler, web accessibility author Under the Equality Act, companies are required to make reasonable adjustments to their websites to make them more inclusive. The four cornerstones of the guidelines for compliance help eradicate the errors listed above, by requiring websites to be: Perceivable – Accommodating for various sensory differences in vision, sound, and touch so that users can comprehend and consume the information in a way that is perceivable to them. Operable – User interface and navigation components on a website must be usable by all. Understandable – Both website information and operation of the user interface itself must be consistent and understandable. Robust – The website must be standards compliant and able to function using all applicable technologies, including assistive software. Assistive Technology Solutions Software solutions like the Recite Me assistive toolbar helps websites to be totally inclusive through a suite of customisable accessibility and language options. When equipped with Recite Me accessibility software, websites become instantly accessible, readable, and much easier to understand. The software has been designed with WCAG principles at the core of the product, but our goal is to do much more than simply ‘tick the box’ on compliance for reasonable adjustments. Recite Me is about creating a totally inclusive digital environment, where users can: Personalise font size, type, and colour options to make each web page easier to read. This is beneficial to readers who have dyslexia, dyspraxia, colour blindness, or decreased vision in general. Download content as an audio file, which is great for those with vision problems. Access text to speak functions in 35 different languages, which is beneficial for all site visitors with English literacy issues. The text can be read aloud at different speeds with either a male or female voice, which is great for autistic users too. Utilise the screen mask and ruler, allowing those with ADHD and other attention disorders to focus rather than being distracted by other content on the page. Convert text content into over 100 different on-screen languages, which is ideal for those for whom English is not their first language. Make use of the toolbar’s built-in dictionary and thesaurus to check word definitions. This is particularly important for users with conditions like hyperlexia, who can read words but not necessarily understand their meaning. Switch to “text-only” mode. This feature is favoured by those with conditions like Epilepsy, as they can strip away any media or graphics that may cause a seizure. Want to Know More? If you are still confused by any of the jargon and terms, or unsure whether your website meets the Equality Act criteria for compliance, feel free to contact our team for more advice and information. You can also schedule a demonstration of our toolbar in action if you’d like to get a better idea of how it works, and how it can help you attain a more perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust online offering.
Violence Free Colorado was founded in 1977 and is the statewide domestic violence coalition in Colorado, USA. They work with hundreds of organizations and individuals in local communities across their state to prevent and end relationship violence and support those affected by relationship abuse. They do this by building the capacity of domestic violence and other community-based programs across Colorado, through their statewide advocacy and social change efforts, and by informing the public about domestic violence and survivors’ needs.