News & Media
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic means that life is pretty strange for most of us right now. A simple task like popping out to pay utility bills, buy groceries or visit a chemist is either not an option, or it requires us to engage with organisations in different ways than before. In many cases the solution is the same – do it online instead. But whilst using the internet to do a range of relatively simple tasks is common for many of us, it’s worth considering people who can’t get access the digital online world due to accessibility issues. Digital exclusion caused by inaccessible websites Businesses and public sector organisations aren’t fully serving the public by leaving some people behind – particularly the 20% of the UK population who are disabled and often face barriers that stop them accessing websites. But there is a straight-forward solution to help keep essential services accessible online for everyone. Recite Me’s accessibility and language toolbar is already being used by thousands or organisations across the world to make their websites accessible and inclusive. For example, over fifteen UK public transport providers including Arriva UK Bus and Great Western Railway (GWR) have the Recite Me accessibility and language toolbar on their websites and see an average of 1300 unique people per month using it. This means that if you have a disability and you still need to travel on public transport right now (e.g. to go to work), you can use these websites to do tasks like, check timetables and book your tickets in advance. No hassle or fuss, regardless of your access needs. Kevin Jones, Digital Product Manager at GWR commented, "As a company, GWR understands how important access and inclusion is for all of our customers. And while it’s crucial to consider physical accessibility for our customers, it’s also essential to consider digital accessibility. "Adding Recite Me means our website is now more accessible for the one in five people in the UK (13 million) who have a disability. It also means people who don’t speak English as their first language can now translate all the content into over 100 languages at the click of a button. Thanks to Recite Me, GWR is now confident that we are providing digital access and inclusion to all of our customers. " Providing vital information to customers online for free We are now offering to host a free accessible and inclusive landing page for any business to share your COVID-19 related messages to all staff and customers, to help you support your vulnerable customers online. Recite Me CEO & founder Ross Linnett said: “Each bespoke landing page will automatically launch the Recite Me assistive toolbar. “Recite Me has a range of features that include text to speech functionality, fully customisable styling features, reading aids and a translation tool with over 100 languages, including 35 text to speech voices. “This will help people with disabilities, visual impairments, learning difficulties and people who speak English as a second language to stay well-informed about your key information. “You can visit the dedicated COVID-19 support page on our website now to find out how the free accessible and inclusive landing page works and how to contact us to create a landing page for your business.”
British Gas Energy Trust was originally established in 2004 as an independent Charitable Trust. In 2019 its assets and liabilities were transferred to a Charitable Incorporated Organisation. The Trust contributes to the relief of poverty in England, Wales and Scotland; with a particular focus on fuel poverty by helping those who are struggling to pay for their consumption of gas and electricity get back on their feet and remain debt free going forward. Since the launch of the Trust in 2004 in excess of £103 million has been spent helping over 157,000 people manage their energy costs.
The grant-giving charitable Trust, British Gas Energy Trust has launched its new inclusive website, with the support of their new grant management service provider, Auriga Services Ltd, a Recite Me, partner. Recite Me Founder and CEO Ross Linnett said: “Vulnerable customers need to be supported online. Partnering up with British Gas Energy Trust is another amazing step forward to providing accessibility and language support to people who need it the most.” The new trust website www.britishgasenergytrust.org.uk provides support information, online application forms and signposting to third party services. In order to help better support people in vulnerable circumstances and people who may have disabilities, learning difficulties, visual impairments or people who speak English as a second language, the British Gas Energy Trust website now provides full accessibility and language support utilising Recite Me. Jessica Taplin, CEO of British Gas Energy Trust said “British Gas Energy Trust helps people in financial need, and accessibility is essential – especially for those who don’t speak English as their first language. The Trust is delighted that with the support of Recite Me, the British Gas Energy Trust now provides barrier-free access to our online application forms. "Enabling people with a range of accessibility issues, including visual impairments, dyslexia, colour blindness and other forms of neurodiversity, as well as those who need to use alternative languages to apply.” Mark Abrams, Chief Executive at Auriga Services Ltd said, “We make sure the services we deliver for clients are as inclusive as possible so that no users are excluded. This is where Recite Me has become so valuable. “ Auriga Services Ltd was appointed British Gas Energy Trusts new Grants Management Service Provider in April 2020 after a robust and competitive tender process.
WSOC-TV is the No. 1 local news station in Charlotte, North Carolina. After hearing the incredible work the Recite Me team is doing to support businesses around the world, they wanted to spread some feel-good news. Recite Me CEO & Founder, Ross Linnett, caught up with WSOC-TV news reporter, Mark Taylor, to discuss the importance of being accessible online during these uncertain and scary times. Watch the full interview here….
Introduce yourself and your company My name is Mark Abrams and I’ve been the Chief Executive at Auriga Services for five years. Auriga Services is a national provider of advice, assistance, and specialist services to address in the main, financial hardship. We combine our passion for inclusive support and our business professionalism to make a difference to households in vulnerable circumstances. We help over 1,000 people every day by resolving their financial worries. We manage the Trust Funds of some of Britain’s biggest utility companies, including Severn Trent, Thames Water, United Utilities and British Gas. We also deliver income maximisation services on behalf of the NHS and local authorities and make crisis payments for organisations. Since being in post I have focused on cultural and management change to enable the business to reach increasing numbers of people in hardship, and increase the impact we're having. We are a public benefit entity, owned by a charity and managed by a team of professionals - with over 20 years of experience in delivering intelligent customer hardship support solutions. What I tend to highlight is the difference we make to people, not Auriga as an organisation. Every member of staff plays a vital role in extending our reach, the quality of customer service and the positive impact on households. The assistance we deliver as a company has a profound impact on increasing inclusivity. What is your D&I mission for 2020? At the heart of Auriga is valuing difference. We create a positive environment in which everyone can influence, share knowledge and have their perspectives valued - and our staff demonstrates a serious commitment to providing services that are fair and accessible to all. Ultimately our mission is to ‘change lives every day’ – and our vision is to ‘support 3 million healthy homes by 2030’. Through having employment policies that suit a variety of workstyles, we can recruit and retain people from broader range within our society. From a business perspective that means more talent, and therefore higher quality, leading to better business. We are a culture-driven business; the company values and culture are well defined. We have a company ‘Culture Club’ that studies how we express our values and directs our leadership team – to ensure we best exemplify these values to others. Can you share some D&I best practice examples? Our commitment to diversity is embedded at every level of Auriga. We are constantly tapping into our employees' knowledge and perspectives! Recently one of our administrators Ifrah, was helping a Somali customer fill out a form for assistance. We recognised that her language skills, communication and ability to reach out to the Somali community, was an opportunity to increase accessibility to assistance in other areas and for other clients. We now build the needs of vulnerable Arabic customers in designing customer journeys and our channel strategy. Also, on behalf of our clients, we are broadening the scope and engagement of services to Somali communities. What are you doing across your digital landscape to be inclusive? We make sure our assistance and advice services are as inclusive as possible so that no users are excluded. This is where Recite Me has become so valuable. It took me less than 30 minutes of a demonstration to realise that Recite Me was a simple, elegant and high-value product. As a small company, we implemented the solution in hours. Before I knew about Recite Me, I thought it would take us months. In line with our commitment to lead on inclusion and inspire industry-wide change we now provide barrier-free access to our online application forms so people can with a range of accessibility issues, including visual impairments, dyslexia, colour blindness and other forms of neurodiversity, as well as those who need other languages. Recite Me even reads the website content out load in a huge range of languages. Can you share an example of D&I success at Auriga Services? One of the greatest benefits of our diverse and inclusive workforce is we capable of positively engaging with a wide customer base. A good example of this is our work on emergency fuel payments to help customers in very vulnerable situations. Keeping the power going to a household in crisis is a big responsibility, requiring professionalism, a quick response and high levels of customer service when issues arise. On December 24th 2019 one of our front-line staff stayed on the phone until 11.30pm to help a customer with suffering with a mental health condition receive an emergency fuel payment. She listened empathetically without making judgements and concentrated on the customer needs in the moment - ensuring this customer had a warm home for Christmas. Concluding company message For over 22 years we have held our focus on hardship and stayed true to our strong social purpose whilst offering an outstanding level of dedication, integrity and genuine care for customers. Auriga We aim to provide an exemplary and inclusive customer service that inspires change across the advice and charity sector and within the utilities and health industries. Every day we work to promote diversity and inclusion with an enormous range of community groups and in different outreach facilities.
The reality of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in the UK and countries around the world means that universities, colleges, and many schools are physically closed for the foreseeable future. But education never stops, so students and pupils around the world are now using the internet to learn online (broadband bandwidth permitting!). That said, the level of provision for online learning can range from using high-quality existing e-learning portals, which many universities have, through to very limited digital infrastructure. But the question is, is any of this accessible to all? Accessibility support is badly needed because evidence shows that many young people with disabilities and learning conditions struggle to get the support they need during their education. Some universities and colleges provide assistive technology across their online portals and websites to support students with remote learning, but a high percentage do not. In the 2017/2018 academic year, 94,000 students with disabilities entered UK universities which were up by more than 6,000 from the previous year and by 26,000 from 2013/14. This year on year increase proves that there is a growing case and need for educational organisations to be more accessible and inclusive online. As simple as providing accessibility and language support tools can greatly improve the digital learning experience of a student. The University of London uses Recite Me assistive technology on its website to support students with disabilities, visual impairments or people who speak English as a second language. Within six months of easily integrating the software across all digital platforms, The University of London had supported over 16,400 unique people to read and understand their content online barrier-free. As mentioned accessible online learning support for young children in schools is limited compared to universities. Nine out of ten young people with dyslexia will leave school without being diagnosed. This means they receive no essential specialist support while learning or support for exams. With everyone now learning from home online, it is vital that students with hidden disabilities are able to access the support they need in a way that works for them to understand and engage with tasks. When you consider that over 80,000 of the young people who sat their GCSEs last year have dyslexia, it reveals a situation that needs remedying quickly. Ultimately, it’s just as important to ensure that young people can access digital learning materials by using accessibility and language tools like Recite Me, as it is to make sure they are still learning.
CEO Ross Linnett announces that Recite Me will support all businesses for free to provide accessible Coronavirus information to their staff and customers. As Coronavirus continues to spread and has a detrimental impact on businesses Recite Me wants to reach out and support as many people as possible. The uncertainly around the recent Coronavirus pandemic has many of us worried. This is totally understandable. People want to be kept up to date with the latest information and how it will impact them and the services they use. To inform as many people as possible it is vital that this Coronavirus information is accessible. Recite Me CEO, Ross Linnett commented, “Recite Me was a dream to drive change, to be inclusive and to enable everyone to explore and share our online world freely. During these uncertain times Recite Me is here to support businesses across the world to create an accessible message to everyone surrounding Coronavirus. No cost, no agenda, just accessibility for all.” To ensure that vitally important information can be understood by everyone, Recite Me will host an accessible and inclusive landing page for businesses to share their Coronavirus message to all staff and customers. This will enable people with differing abilities, visual impairments, learning difficulties and people who speak English as a second language to understand their message. This landing page will automatically launch the Recite Me accessibility & language support toolbar, which includes text to speech functionality, fully customisable styling features, reading aids and a translation tool with over 100 languages, including 35 text to speech voices and many other features. “So, this is our pledge to help everyone in a time of need by helping any business make key information relating to Coronavirus accessible online, free of charge. “If you think your business needs help to make your Coronavirus related online information accessible and inclusive to all your staff and customers, please contact us now.”
We recently spoke to Dave Messenger, Supporter Liaison & Disability Access Officer at Watford Football Club to find out what they are doing to be a totally inclusive football club. Please tell us a little about yourself and Watford FC Dave Messenger, I’m the Supporter Liaison & Disability Access Officer for Watford FC. We’re a professional football club based in South West Hertfordshire, currently playing in the Premier League. I started working for the club as an SLO, having supported them since childhood, on promotion to the Premier League in the summer of 2015. The disability access part of my role was added in September 2015. What is your D&I mission for 2020 and beyond? Having been part of the Premier League’s commitment to accessibility in 2015, the club has spent a few years meeting the minimum guidelines for our facilities as set out in the Accessible Stadia Guide. We met these requirements during the 2018/19 season and with the structural work done, our focus since the start of the 2019/20 season has been bringing service related improvements to both home and visiting disabled supporters, especially those with hidden disabilities. Can you share some best practice examples? We have a dedicated section on our club’s website, which contains our Access Statement. This is also available in a “text-only” format. There is also an on-line tour of our accessible provision across the stadium and we have recently implemented a Hidden Disability Card Scheme, aimed at providing supporters with confidence that our stadium staff will be able to assist with any requirements on a matchday. Comments regarding being accessible across your online landscape? It’s hugely important for our website, and the information included, to be as accessible as possible. Part of the commitment to accessibility Premier League clubs made related to our web offering. Football stadia can be daunting for supporters with disabilities, so making our information as user-friendly as possible helps us ensure all visitors to Vicarage Road can make decisions and plans before they come to a match. We’re delighted to launch the Recite Me toolbar as part of our recent website update. Giving our supporters control of how the website looks will enable all supporters to easily access the information they want and need. Share an example of D&I success The club has been at the forefront of the drive to improve stadium facilities for children with autism and our Sensory Room, opened in late 2016, has now seen over 100 families attend a match at Vicarage Road. Of those families, 15 have transitioned to using general access areas of the stadium having broken down the barriers to their attendance using the Room. Concluding company message We’re proud of our long-held reputation for being a family football club and our on-going commitment to accessibility remains central to our work, as we continue to identify and make improvements to our provision for all disabled visitors to our club. Guest Blog with Dave Messenger, Supporter Liaison & Disability Access Officer, Watford Football Club
Watford Football Club today launch its all-new club website with the integration of Recite Me assistive technology to support fans with disabilities, visual impairments or people who speak English as a second language. At this time, it is crucial to be accessible online to support 20% of the population with disabilities, as we all stay at home. This innovative accessibility software will help bring supporters closer to the club by allowing fans to read and engage with the latest Watford FC content barrier-free. As part of Watford FC’s 2020 focus on supporting people with hidden disabilities, they have enhanced their digital landscape by making sure it is accessible and inclusive for everyone. The Recite Me accessibility and language toolbar provides a number of features to give a visitor full control over the customisation of the website to suit their needs. These features include screen reader, styling options, reading support and a translation tool with over 100 languages, including 35 text to speech voices. Dave Messenger, Supporter Liaison & Disability Access Officer, Watford Football Club commented, “We’re delighted to launch the Recite Me toolbar as part of the new-look website. We’ve focussed on improving our provision for supporters with hidden disabilities across this season and giving our supporters control of how the website looks will enable all supporters to easily access the information they want.”
Watford Football Club also proudly known as The Hornets has existed since the early days of organised football in England. Its beginnings have been traced back to 1881, when a group of teenagers staged kickabouts in Cassiobury Park. Today Watford FC has international exposure from being in the highest-profile league in the world, The Premier League.
The Coronavirus (aka COVID-19) pandemic has seen us all have to face up to the reality of unprecedented changes to our daily lives. The uncertainty around the pandemic means we are all very worried and scared, and we need to be kept up to date with the latest information and how it will impact our lives, jobs and the services we use. Now that the majority of us are working from home or looking after family at home, it means that the internet has taken an even more important place in our daily lives. The internet just took centre stage Quite simply, we must now go online more than ever before in order to conduct our daily business. So much so that internet service providers like BT's Openreach has reported a 20% surge in internet use recently. This could be to access information about income protection and benefits on the HMRC website, to check out the new opening times of a local pharmacy, to order groceries online for the first time, or to read the NHS’ COVID-19 related information online. This is why it’s crucial to ensure that all websites and their content are accessible and inclusive for everyone, including people with disabilities (approximately 20% of people in the UK) and those who speak English as their second language. Yet evidence like the Click-Away Pound 2019 survey shows that even before the COVID-19 pandemic, many UK consumer websites aren’t accessible for people with disabilities. For example, the 2019 survey results show that nearly three-quarters of online consumers who are disabled (69%) will click away from websites that they find difficult to use due to the effect of their disability. So if people are being told they now have no choice but to go online to access information, services, and goods, what happens if a website is inaccessible for them? It doesn’t bear thinking about given some of the reported waiting times people are spending to get through to organisation’s like HMRC (around 10 hours!) on the telephone. Make your website accessible for free That’s why here at Recite Me we are offering to host a free accessible and inclusive landing page for any business to share your COVID-19 related messages to all staff and customers so that vital information can be understood by everyone. Each bespoke landing page will automatically launch the Recite Me accessibility and language assistive toolbar, helping people with disabilities, visual impairments, learning difficulties and people who speak English as a second language to stay well-informed. Recite Me has a range of features that include text to speech functionality, fully customisable styling features, reading aids and a translation tool with over 100 languages, including 35 text to speech voices. You can visit the dedicated COVID-19 support page on our website now to find out how the free accessible and inclusive landing page works and how to contact us to create a landing page for your business. Ross Linnett, Recite Me CEO and Founder said: “When information is vital, it is vital that information is accessible and inclusive for all. “If you think your business needs help to make your COVID-19 related online information accessible and inclusive to all your staff and customers, please contact us now.”
The Disability Employment Gap is the difference in employment rates between people with disabilities and the rest of the working-age population. Some people may not understand that such a gap exists, but it represents a significant difference in the rates of employment of people with disabilities and those without them. Recent data from the ONS shows that in 2019 roughly half of the people with disabilities were in employment (53.2%), compared with just over four out of five non-disabled people (81.8%). Whilst this figure has reduced from 2013 to 2019 the fact that nearly 30% less of people with disabilities are in work, compared to those without disabilities, shows there is still a huge pool of hidden talent for recruiters to tap into. That’s why it is so important that recruiters make the application process accessible and inclusive for everyone. If people with disabilities can’t access your website or your online jobs portal to find job adverts, read job descriptions and apply for jobs, how can they apply and express their hidden talents? Accessible and inclusive recruitment Recruiters like Morson Group understand this and they are going the extra mile to ensure their recruitment process is accessible and inclusive for everyone. Rebekah Lee, Head of Marketing at Morson Group commented, "As a recruitment agency, Morson are gatekeepers who can open the doors to the world of work for people with disabilities. Therefore, we have a responsibility to our candidate community to reduce the barriers in place that may hold people back from applying for roles.” To make their online recruitment process totally inclusive, they have added the Recite Me’s assistive toolbar to their website. Recite Me offers a suite of accessibility tools, including solutions for visitors who may be neurodivergent, visually impaired or have learning difficulties. Since Morson Group added Recite Me to its website in March 2019 it has been used by over 7000 people to help them research and apply for a job barrier-free. Rebekah added, “Recite Me technology ensures every part of our recruitment process is accessible to everyone, from browsing to making an application. By employing Recite Me, we can ensure that every candidate gets an equal chance at developing their career by being able to access the same opportunities to gain and maintain employment.” In total, nearly 38,000 accessibility features have been used to support an individual’s customise experience (styling, reading and translation), including over 25,000 pieces of content read aloud. Recite Me also supports people who don’t speak English as their first language, and it has been used on the Morson Group website to translate almost 9000 pieces of content into over 100 languages. Providing assistive technology creates a level playing field to enable everyone the opportunity to discover and apply for their dream job barrier-free. 1000’s of organisations already use Recite Me to make their websites more accessible for people with disabilities. To find out more or to book a demo please contact the team now.
The results of the recently released Click-Away Pound 2019 survey show that nearly three-quarters of disabled online consumers (69%) will click away from websites that they find difficult to use due to the effect of their disability. This represents 4.9 million online shoppers with a collective purchasing power of £17.1 billion, which is around 10% of the total UK online spend. To reiterate, this means UK retailers lose out on £17 billion every year by failing to meet the online needs of shoppers with disabilities. We recently caught up with Rick Williams, Click-Away Pound survey co-author and Freeney Williams co-founder, to ask him what has changed since 2016, now here’s our take away of six key points from the report. The online spending power of people with access needs in the UK is now £24.8 billion. The number of people with disabilities online with access needs has risen from 6.10 million in 2016 to 7.15 million in 2019. As these numbers have grown so has the combined spending power, to just under £25 billion. The size of this market underlines just how big the potential opportunities are for businesses to meet these access needs online. The click-away pound in the UK in 2019 now stands at £17.1 billion Whilst the total online spending power above has increased to nearly £25 billion, 70% of people with access needs will click away from an inaccessible website. This means that UK businesses are missing out on over £17 billion per year, up more than £5 billion from £11.75 billion in 2016. The fact that this figure is increasing and not decreasing shows that on the whole, UK businesses haven’t done what’s required to make their websites accessible since 2016. 86% of users with access needs would spend more if there were fewer barriers This figure has increased since the 2016 report, when 82% of users with access needs said they would spend more if there were fewer barriers. This increase shows that more than ever people with disabilities will buy more from businesses that offer them a better and more accessible service online. 8% of users with access needs contacted the site owner about barriers they experience This represents a small increase of 1% since 2016, but the rise shows that more people with disabilities are prepared to challenge businesses to make their websites accessible. But, as this number is so low, most businesses aren’t aware of how inaccessible their websites are. 83% of participants with access needs limit their shopping to sites that they know are accessible Whilst this is 2% less than in 2016, it still shows that people with disabilities are much more likely to keep using a business’ website if it works well for them. Furthermore, 86% of respondents have chosen to pay more for a product from an accessible website rather than buy the same product for less from a website that was harder to use. Whilst 75% of users with access needs feel accessibility is more important than the price. This shows that people with disabilities will pay a small premium for better and more accessible service online. 35% of users with access needs use a smartphone as preferred device for online shopping This has risen sharply from 9%, in line with the proliferation of mobile devices across the UK as a whole. At the same time, amongst users with access needs, the desktop computer as the preferred device has fallen from 38% to 24%, and the laptop from 38% to 29%. And amongst UK screenreader users, smartphone preference has risen from 11% to 41%. This shows how important it is for businesses to ensure their websites are accessible via mobile devices, not just desktop PCs. 1000’s of organisations already use Recite Me to make their websites more accessible for people with disabilities. To find out more or to book a demo please contact the team now.
It’s good to talk, as Bob Hoskins famously said in the TV advert. And this week (16 – 22 March 2020) National Conversation Week wants us all to talk about the ‘M’ word – money. Worryingly a survey of 1000 people in the UK commissioned by National Conversation Week found that almost 40% of people say that finance worries them more than anything else in their lives. But, only half of the same people said they would seek professional financial advice. That’s why the aim of National Conversation Week is to get us all talking more about our finances and improving our financial knowledge. Here’s some information about how you can get involved in National Conversation Week. Financial inclusion matters too National Conversation Week is also a great time to talk about financial inclusion and what that means. Financial inclusion essentially means making sure banking and financial websites, apps, products, services and information about money is accessible to everyone. Around one in five people in the UK have a disability and ensuring they can access financial products, services and information both physically and digitally is critical. Not only is it a legal requirement of The Equality Act 2010, evidence shows that getting it wrong costs businesses of all kinds in the UK over £17 billion per year in lost sales. Credit where it’s due, UK high-street banking giants like Barclays, HSBC, and Lloyds have done great work to ensure their digital products, services and information are accessible to all customers. But there is still much more work to be done in the wider banking and financial sectors in the UK to ensure all digital products and services are accessible for people with disabilities. Auriga Services changing lives Auriga Services is an organisation that understands how important it is to make financial services accessible to everyone. Auriga Services supports people to come out of debt and rebuild their lives by managing the charitable trust funds for Severn Trent Water, United Utilities, Thames Water and others including British Gas. Auriga has helped 1.9 million people to reduce their financial hardship by working closely with their clients to meet the main objective of ‘Changing Lives Every Day’. Many of Auriga Services’ customers may be overwhelmed with their financial situation and they need to be able to access the financial support that is available to them. Supporting customers with digital access needs In order to make the Auriga Services website accessible for people with access needs, they installed the Recite Me’s assistive toolbar, to enable all visitors to customise it in a way that works for them. This can be changing the page style to customize the colour and size of text, links and backgrounds, or using the reading aids to speak aloud content and mask distractions on the screen. People who speak English as a second language benefit from the real-time translation feature, which can translate content into over 100 languages, including 35 text to speech voices. These features allow a large number of customers in vulnerable circumstances to seek the financial support they need easily, without any hassle or stress. So on National Conversation Week please think and talk about digital inclusion as well as financial knowledge, because being able to access money and information online is as important as understanding what to do with it. 1000’s of organisations already use Recite Me to make their websites more accessible for people with disabilities. To find out more or to book a demo please contact the team now.
Disability Rights Arkansas mission is to vigorously advocate for and enforce the legal rights of people with disabilities. They envision an Arkansas where people with disabilities are equal members in their communities and can dictate the course of their own lives through self-determination. DRA treats all people with dignity, respect, and compassion.