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Stay up to date with the latest client news, industry updates and events from Recite Me

Disability Rights Florida

25 Jun 2020 | case-study

Disability Rights Florida was founded in 1977 as the state’s designated Protection and Advocacy (P&A) system for individuals with disabilities. Disability Rights Florida advocates, educates, investigates, and litigates to protect and advance the rights, dignity, equal opportunities, self-determination and choices for all people with disabilities.

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Witherslack Group provide parents and carers a fully inclusive website experience

24 Jun 2020 | news

To enable parents, carers, and professionals to access online content without any barriers, Witherslack Group is proud to announce a new accessibility and language feature on its websites. Witherslack Group provides specialist education and care for children and young people with social, emotional and mental health needs, communication difficulties, ADHD and complex learning needs. The Group’s focus on support, care and acceptance allows each young person to develop as an independent individual, equipped with the knowledge, experience and life skills to look to the future with increased confidence and aspiration The Group and school websites have integrated Recite Me, a web accessibility toolbar that allows all visitors to customise the site in a way that works best for them. Greg Deak, Marketing Manager of Witherslack Group commented, “As the leading provider of specialist education and care, we’re continually working to find new ways to enable parents, carers and professionals to access our online content. Our new partnership with Recite Me will provide new accessibility options to enable more people to access our information, advice, and support.” 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 customisable styling tools, reading support features and a translation function with over 100 languages, including 35 text to speech voices Ross Linnett, Recite Me founder and CEO, added, “Witherslack Group go above and beyond to create life-changing experiences and it is great that we have partnered together to provide a fully inclusive website. Through assistive technology, everyone will be able to access information to support children, young people, and their families.”

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Witherslack Group

24 Jun 2020 | case-study

Founded in 1996, Witherslack Group provides specialist education and care to children and young people with social, emotional, and mental health needs, communication difficulties, ADHD, and complex learning needs. The Group’s track record of success and sector-leading Ofsted judgments has been achieved through an ethos of high aspiration, placement stability, unique in-school therapy solutions, and inspiring environments.

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The Searchologist - Katrina Collier

22 Jun 2020 | case-study

The Searchologist was founded by Katrina Collier in 2009, initially to teach HR & recruiters social recruiting but it has evolved to inspire all the people who recruit people to treat people better, through facilitation, speaking and The Robot-Proof Recruiter book. Katrina has successfully worked with leading companies around the world and spoken at major HR & recruitment conferences.

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The importance of accessible documents

22 Jun 2020 | news

When documents are properly designed and written, they are readable for people with disabilities. However, currently, many organisations develop documents with accessibility barriers, rendering a large group unable to properly access information. For public organisations becoming accessible is not a choice, but rather amended in the law (EU Directive: EN 301 549). The directive dictates that they must become accessible by September 23rd, 2020. For private organisations it is a question of whether or not you want to be visible and reachable for everyone or only a limited group of people. A benefit to society Making documents accessible benefits individuals and businesses - but also society as a whole. International web standards, such as the WCAG 2.1 developed by the W3C organisation, specifies the level of compliance required before a document can be considered accessible enough. The legal aspect of accessibility conformance provides a rather convincing stimulus to make sure that documents are compliant according to the WCAG 2.1 guidelines. However, there are far more reasons to comply. It may feel somewhat tedious to recreate the workflow for how your organization creates documents. Especially if you feel like that the only reason for doing it, is a directive forcing you to comply. But there is a very clear rationale and it may make you feel better about complying than following a directive does. And that is the importance of understanding the magnitude of people that you will be including and thereby enabling to access your documents. Why you should become compliant Digital inclusion and web accessibility mean understanding the relationship between the way people function in society and making sure everybody gets the same opportunity to participate. By recognizing the different needs of those who require accessibility tools, you gain a greater understanding of the sheer scope of the affected users and why accessibility is important. A large percentage of the population falls into the group that requires assistive technology, such as screen readers, to use the Internet and/or read documents. Being dependent on a screen reader can make it particularly difficult to carry out ordinary tasks such as checking digital documents or fill in an online contact form. That is why, mandatory, or not, all documents and PDFs should be made web accessible. Furthermore, if you shift your perspective from social value to literal value, consider that if your organization is not properly compliant and accessible, you effectively exclude up to 20% of your target group. This quite literally means that one-fifth of the population (worldwide, that is 1 billion people) can not effectively read your documents. Today the majority of communication has transitioned into a digital format and most organisations do not think about the barriers this entails. It is imperative that accessibility is implemented into everything you do, but especially in outbound communication and documents. Even if it seems like a minor issue to make the fonts slightly larger or the colours more easily distinguishable – these improvements can mean the world to some people because the changes empower them to go about their day without requiring outside assistance. Kim Erbo Christensen Country Manager UK Dania Software E-mail: kec@daniasoftware.com Telephone: +44 203 630 1566

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Sports Return to our Screens, Boosting Mental Health & Peoples Hopes

22 Jun 2020 | news

Recite Me discusses the return of the Premier League, boosting Mental Health, Peoples Hopes, and how to support disabled fans online. Read more.

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Retail Reborn Through the Need to be Accessible

15 Jun 2020 | news

Many UK retail stores reopened on Monday 15th June following the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions. While this is likely to bring a much-needed boost to the UK retail economy, it also provides a unique opportunity to examine how the limitations imposed by global lockdowns have affected the already changing landscape of buyer behavior in the retail sector, how website accessibility can affect consumer spending, and what steps companies should be taking to adjust for this in their strategies to maximise market share and profits. Changing Buyer Behaviors Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, retailers were already seeing a significant shift in spending patterns, with continuous growth in the online shopping market year on year: In 2018, the market penetration rate of digital consumers worldwide was already 47.3%. The sector is growing so rapidly that the global online shopping market size was already predicted to hit 4 trillion in 2020. According to a study by Invesp, the USA and the UK are the countries with the highest average e-commerce revenue per shopper, at $1,804 and $1,629 per person per annum respectively. The British Retail Consortium expects that over half of all UK retail sales will be online within 10 years. The USA is expected to have 300 million online shoppers by 2023. To put that into perspective, that’s 91% of the entire population! The Impacts of Covid-19 The restriction of access to ‘brick and mortar’ retail shops during the Covid-19 pandemic undoubtedly pushed more shoppers online. In response, companies have been trying to adapt to changes and present solutions to support their customers’ needs. What has become clear, however, is that the pandemic simply acted as a catalyst for the already prevalent shift towards shopping online. So retailers that want to hold onto their market share and keep consumers buying need to ensure that their e-commerce sites are optimised for user experience. This means taking account of all users, including those with disabilities and accessibility barriers. While this has always been the case in theory, the significant upturn in online shopping habits and the resulting effect on the bottom line for many retailers has highlighted the need for accessibility for all. Essentially, this has changed the priority of accessibility to be something that has to be done, rather than something that should be done. “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 3 Key Reasons to be Accessible Online Profitability - In 2016, 82% of consumers with accessibility issues said they would spend more if there were fewer barriers. By 2019 this figure had risen to 86%. This may seem like a small percentage, but it equates to billions of pounds nationally, and trillions globally. Even before Covid-19, the Click-Away Pound Survey estimated that UK businesses alone were losing £17 billion per year in revenue due to inaccessible websites. Worldwide, the figure for lost revenue due to accessibility equates to a consumer spending power of £2.25 trillion. This makes the impact on sales, market share, and profit abundantly clear. Optimisation of online sales - In a bid to bolster online operations, retail businesses such as Debenhams, Marks & Spencer, and Arcadia (the owner of Topshop) had already announced plans to close several stores in the year ahead, and as of June, Inditex plans to close between 1,000 and 1,200 Zara stores worldwide. However, to be truly inclusive in the online retail market and optimise the transition from in-store to online sales, brands need to ensure that their websites are accessible to all. Corporate Social Responsibility - Everyone should have the opportunity to access online content and shop for the products they want and need. So put simply, it is the right thing to do to support consumers who are impacted by learning difficulties or are otherwise neurodiverse, visually impaired, speak English as a second language, or are of old age. Plus, the Covid-19 pandemic presents an additional layer to corporate social responsibility considerations. In focusing on online sales and keeping customers away from physical stores, retailers can play their part in reducing possible transmissions and contributing to a potential ‘second wave’ of the virus. Despite these driving factors, studies show that fewer than 10% of businesses have a targeted plan to access the disability market. This needs to change and to accommodate those with differing abilities websites must be accessible. How to Support Shoppers Online Nearly one in five people in the UK have some form of disability that could affect their capacity to access information. Data shows that 70% of people with access needs will click away from an inaccessible website, yet only 8% will contact the site owner to alert them to barriers. This puts the onus on businesses to identify the needs of their online consumers and adapt to meet them. The Recite Me assistive toolbar allows consumers barrier-free access to explore products on a website. It is a cloud-based accessibility and language support toolbar that allows users to fully control the way they use a website based on their individual needs. Features include: A screen reader for easy navigation and focus. Styling options to fully customise text style, size, and spacing, and alter colour contrast for ease of use. Reading aids such as an on-screen ruler and text-only mode. A translation tool with over 100 text languages and 35 text-to-speech voices. The Benefits to Retailers Recite Me can help improve revenue by increasing enquiries and sales conversions. The impact of the Recite Me toolbar can be effectively measured by improvements in sales, and will also provide further useful insights into the buying behaviour of consumers. You needn’t just take our word for it though, as there are many testimonials from happy users who have already successfully integrated our accessibility software onto their sites and are seeing the benefits. “Watford FC aims to make the football environment one that all fans can enjoy. Having introduced many new measures within the retail stores’ environment to ensure we were fully accessible for our disabled customers, it was then time to ensure our online experience was also not only compliant but easy and attractive for all of our visually impaired and blind customers to use. Now fully integrated onto The Hornets shop, the Recite Me accessibility tool has transformed the way we can help customers with any visual impairment to buy from us and get all of the club’s updates and information. Recite Me has been invaluable in helping us achieve this.” Mat Robinson, Head of Retail, Watford FC 1000’s of organisations already use Recite Me to make their websites more accessible for online visitors. To find out more or to book a demo please contact the team.

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Accessibility software helps more than 22,000 people access vital COVID-19 information

11 Jun 2020 | news

At the start of the Coronavirus outbreak in the UK, Ross Linnett, CEO of Accessibility software provider Recite Me, pledged to help any organisation make their online coronavirus information accessible and inclusive at no cost for as long as this information remains important. Ten weeks on, this pledge has helped over 22,000 people to read and understand vital online information barrier-free with; Over 55,000 pieces of content ‘read aloud’ by the Recite Me Text-to-Speech engine Over 10,000 pages translated into a different language using real-time translation tools Nearly 7,000 styling changings (including colours, fonts, and sizes) applied to a page Studies show around one-in-five people have some kind of disability, long-term health condition, or situational impairment, which can make accessing online information challenging. Therefore, when information is vital, it is vital to consider the individual needs of these people by ensuring all online information and digital platforms are accessible to them. Over 100 organisations including Public Health Wales, Virgin Money, Network Rail, Volkswagen, RSPCA, and London Luton Airport, have joined the Recite Me Pledge. Clare Armstrong, Head of Passenger Services at London Luton Airport commented, “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. “ Any business can visit the Recite Me website now to find out how the free accessible and inclusive landing page works and how to create their own landing page. Ross Linnett, Recite Me CEO and Founder said: “When information is vital, it is vital that information is accessible and inclusive for all.” “During these uncertain times Recite Me is here to support businesses across the world to create online information related to Coronavirus that is accessible and inclusive for everyone. “Recite Me was a dream to drive change, to make society more inclusive and to enable everyone to explore and share our online world freely. “So, this is our pledge to help everyone in a time of need by helping any business make key information accessible online, free of charge.”

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What accessibility means to me

09 Jun 2020 | news

With the impact of COVID-19 making the majority of people work remotely and shifting everyday tasks online, this got Recite Me Sales Manager Martin Robertson thinking. What does "Accessibility" really mean to him and how this word now has so many different connotations. Martin shares with us his thoughts on accessibility and his journey through the changing world of online inclusion. I recently read this piece (from 2017 but very much still relevant) https://incl.ca/accessibility-people-not-standards/ on accessibility being about people and not about standards. It got me thinking about my own experiences during the time I've been at Recite Me and what accessibility means, primarily as it could be so many different things, whether that's the design of a building, a town, a city, a bus, a train or a car (you get the idea, I won't go on!), or, as is more common for me, a website or other platform accessed via a browser. Often my day includes at least 1 conversation where I’m explaining the basics of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG, which you can read more about at https://www.w3.org/WAI/standards-guidelines/wcag/) and how that differs from the Recite Me offering (which is more about inclusion, but I’ll get to that). Typically, my conversations are with those who don’t have any technical experience when it comes to the build of their sites or the platforms they use; think of the Diversity and Inclusion, Talent, HR, Marketing or Communications lead who has a responsibility and a desire for accessibility and inclusion, but doesn’t have the direct responsibility for the website/platform/application. Something that I’ve said a few times in presentations and webinars with audiences in these roles is that they should be asking their teams and/or vendors if the site/product/platform is built to WCAG AA. If the answer is yes, then great, be inquisitive about the level achieved and talk about what can be further improved. If the answer is no, they should challenge why not (hint, there’s no reason not to, not a good one anyway) and make sure it’s included in the scope from that point onwards. And if (as has happened) the answer is ‘what’s that’, then find a new vendor or invest in training for the team and people responsible. It is vital for users of assistive technology such as screenreaders that you are striving to achieve these standards. Buyer Beware: There are companies and products out there that will claim to make your site ‘accessible in minutes’, or ‘compliant using just a couple of lines of code’. They won’t and they can’t, because they can’t change the build, and neither can Recite Me, that’s your job. WCAG experts often, and rightly call out these claims as being nonsense (you can read the latest one I saw at https://developer.paciellogroup.com/blog/2020/05/bolt-on-accessibility-5-gears-in-reverse/). But for me, achieving WCAG compliance is not the end of the journey when it comes to accessibility. Another recent read was a piece by Vijay Matthew of Howlround Theatre Commons (https://howlround.com/making-your-website-accessible-vital-your-equity-diversity-and-inclusion-efforts) in which he states; “Our biggest lesson, however, was learning that simply complying to technical standards is not the same thing as true inclusion. We can’t just check the box of compliance and think that the work is done. It is quite possible to make a website that technically passes all the accessibility tests but that still is terribly difficult for a person to use.” I’d been trying to articulate that thought for 4 years! It’s here, in the world of being inclusive and promoting inclusion online that Recite sits and my focus is. Imagine if you will the person with Irlen Syndrome (you can learn what Irlen Syndrome is at https://www.irlensyndrome.org/what-is-irlen-syndrome/) who has a preference for green background and black text. A site that is compliant as far as standards and guidelines are concerned is still difficult for that person to use and, is difficult to replicate in most (all?) browsers. Here’s what google returns as theme extensions for example https://chrome.google.com/webstore/category/themes. Now, what about the person who has a preference for a particular shade of blue, using a particular font, in a particular language, but has sensory issues so would love to see that image carousel disappear. You (as in the provider of the site/platform/application) can’t accommodate this. It simply wouldn’t work for everyone, and that’s the point, we’re all individual, we all have our own preferences, you cannot provide an experience that works for all by meeting the highest of Web Accessibility Guidelines, it’s not possible (but you should still be building to them (see above)). What you can do is give people as many choices as possible, so that their experience is as inclusive as it can be. That is what Recite does. What it does not do, is make your site ‘accessible’, it helps you make your online world more inclusive for users and visitors. All of which leaves me thinking that the answer to the question I posed myself when I started this 'What does Accessibility mean to me' is, it means 2 different things – it means compliance, but it implicitly means inclusion too. I might start talking about Recite as Accessyclusion software!

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Recruitment: Diversity and Inclusion

09 Jun 2020 | event

Jobtrain collaborative webinar Join Recite Me's Sales Manager, Martin Robertson and Giles Heckstall-Smith Director of Strategic Development at Jobtrain as they discuss: The differences between accessibility and inclusion Demystifying and explaining WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) and AA compliance Learning and understanding your audience and the options you should make available for diverse groups (e.g. personalisation, colours, fonts and languages) Setting up your ATS to deliver an inclusive candidate experience Watch the Webinar back now

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Sefton Council support diverse population online

03 Jun 2020 | news

To enable all residents to access important information on the Sefton Council website they now offer accessibility and language support. At this time when it is vital that everybody is aware of the messages regarding COVID-19. Sefton Council is promoting the ability of Recite Me to help its’s diverse population who require additional support when visiting their website. By turning on the Recite Me accessibility toolbar, people visiting the Council’s website can use the support service to read website pages out loud in different voices and languages, customise the styling of the website including fonts and colours, and use reading aids such as a ruler and screen mask. ”I have Autism and Dyslexia and found that when using the Council’s website, I can change the font to Dyslexia font and add a ruler to keep my place, which really helps me to understand the information I need to stay independent. I am happy that the Council use Recite Me as it is very helpful and very interesting.“ Maria a Sefton Resident Meeting the needs of their residents is a priority to the council to reach those with a wide variety of communication needs and to ensure they are totally inclusive and accessible. Sefton Council spokesperson commented, “Recite Me has helped us to meet this vital requirement, offering a range of features supporting a wide range of communication needs, including for those people with learning disabilities, those with a hearing or visual impairment, and those for who English is not their first language. “This feature has been crucial during the COVID-19 situation; where clear communication and accessible information has been an important element in stopping the spread of the virus within our communities and keeping our population healthy. In some cases, those residents who benefit most from the Recite Me features are those same people for whom shielding and public health messages have the highest importance. "Communicating with them on issues such as mental health support, alterations to delivery of support services and public health guidance is extremely important and Recite Me ensures that all our information can be delivered in a format that suits the needs of our residents.”

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Sefton Council

01 Jun 2020 | case-study

Sefton Council is the governing body for the Metropolitan Borough of Sefton in Merseyside, North-West England. The Council is responsible for all residential and business matters from social care, recycling and waste to commercial property and tenders.

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The Public Sector Web Accessibility Deadline - September 2020

01 Jun 2020 | news

The final deadline for all public sector bodies to meet the new accessibility regulations for public sector websites and applications is set for 23 September 2020, which is fast approaching. With this in mind, we thought it was time to revisit the key details, emphasise the importance of accessibility to public sector information, and outline steps your public sector organisation can take to ensure you comply. Access to public sector information is especially important in light of recent world events. The Covid-19 pandemic has confined a significant percentage of UK citizens to their homes, making access to information particularly difficult for the elderly, disabled and vulnerable, further highlighting the need for equality when it comes to the accessibility of information online. We have touched on this previously with reference to how utility companies can help customers in vulnerable circumstances during lockdown, and many of the same principles apply when discussing public sector information. The Story So Far In September 2018 the new accessibility regulations for public sector websites and applications came into force, making it essential that providers of public services and facilities make their online information accessible to all. Public sector services are many and varied and include local authorities, law enforcement, healthcare providers, emergency services, education institutions, infrastructure suppliers, and transport providers. The new regulations came with two deadlines for compliance: ● New public sector websites published on or after the regulations came into force in September 2018 needed to follow the principles of the World Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 accessibility Level AA by 23 September 2019. ● Existing websites published before the regulations came into force in September 2018 must meet the new accessibility standards by 23 September 2020. What do the New Regulations Entail? The web content accessibility guidelines are based on four cornerstone principles that allow anyone to access and use web content. You can download a full guide to the regulations here, but some of the key points include: ● Using alt text tags for all images and videos. ● Using high contrast between text and background. ● Adding web accessibility software. ● Making documents such as PDFs, Microsoft Word docs, and any other online forms accessible. ● Ensuring page headings are displayed correctly. ● Allowing people using screen readers to easily navigate around the website. Why is it Important to Comply? To answer a question with a question, who wouldn’t want as many people as possible to be able to access and use their website? But of course, there is more to it than that… As the new rules are now official government legislation, public sector bodies must act to ensure their websites and apps comply with the requirements, otherwise they may face enforcement action and will also run the risk of significant damage to their reputations. So it is important to run a basic accessibility test before publishing any new public sector website or app. Aside from the potential for financial and reputational repercussions, there are several other motivating factors for public sector bodies to observe the new requirements: ● Nearly one in five people in the UK have some form of disability that could affect their capacity to access information. ● The UK has an ageing population, and the aged are some of the heaviest users of many public sector services such as transport provision, healthcare services, and local authority schemes. ● The older we get the more likely we are to develop a disability, and a 2019 study revealed that only 60% of local authority websites’ home pages were accessible to people with disabilities. ● With Covid-19 restrictions still in place and many citizens still in lockdown, accessibility to public sector information online is more important than ever. How can Recite Me Help? Hundreds of companies already use Recite Me software to make their websites more accessible to readers, including many healthcare providers, education institutions, and other organisations within the public sector. The Recite Me assistive toolbar makes it possible for websites to easily comply with the four cornerstone principles of the new guidelines by ensuring that online content is: Perceivable – our toolbar allows content to be perceived either via sound or enhanced visual means. Understandable – our styling features allow people to change the way that content is displayed for personal ease of use. Operable – our technology allows users to track their location on a page via the screen reader navigation feature. Robust - Once Recite Me is installed onto your website you will receive regular updates and will always have the latest version. More specifically, users of the Recite Me toolbar can: • Personalise font size, type, and colour options to make each web page easier to read. • Download content as an audio file so they can listen on the move. • 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. • Utilise the mask screen tool, which isolates parts of the page to help with focus. • Use the ruler tool to make reading easier. The Benefits: A Case Study of London University The University of London was one of the first educational institutions to embed the Recite Me toolbar onto their website, and the results were quite staggering. In just six months there was significant engagement and interaction, and the university was delighted with the outcome: • Over 16,400 unique users • 43,000 toolbar launches • 131,500 features used • 31,000 pieces of content translated • 97,000 pieces of content read aloud • 11,000 styling customisations These statistics show just how important inclusion and diversity considerations are on the web, and why ultimately, all public sector bodies should be doing as much as they can to ensure online accessibility for all. Want to Know More? Are you are concerned that your public sector organisation will not be ready for the deadline? To get more information about what you need to do to comply with the new regulations and how Recite Me can help you, please feel free to contact our team or book a demo.

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Disability Rights Tennessee raise the accessibility bar

28 May 2020 | news

The state of Tennessee is home to 6.7 million residents and around 30% face barriers accessing information online due to website inaccessibility and language barriers. Over a million Tennessee residents have a reported disability, which can impact their lives in varied ways, from limited sight, hearing and mobility, to reading comprehension and more. Additionally, more than 5% of residents speak a language other than English as their primary language. Disability Rights Tennessee (DRT) is on a mission to protect the rights of people with disabilities and support them at no cost. At DRT, they believe that access to online information is a right and they are deeply committed to providing accessible resources. on the DRT website there is a wealth of information online to help people find, understand, and access services they need, but without accessible tools, those resources may go unused. To fulfill this commitment and provide the most accessible support they now enable all website visitors to read and understanding content barrier-free through Recite Me assistive technology. This accessibility and language support toolbar offers a unique set of features to make their website accessible to both people with disabilities and non-English speaking users. Visitors can fully customize the DRT website to suit their individual needs to create a truly customized experience. Toolbar options include; 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 many other features. Kelsey Loschke, Director of Community Relations at Disability Rights Tennessee commented, "Disability Rights Tennessee is thrilled to offer the Recite Me toolbar to its web users. People do not always have the assistive technology they need to navigate online. This robust and fully customizable toolbar will allow all users to access our web content and services. Offering tools like Recite Me makes business sense for everyone that has a presence on the web. "

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How Utility Companies Can Help Customers in Vulnerable Circumstances During Lockdown

26 May 2020 | news

As Covid-19 continues to dominate our daily lives, there is increasing concern surrounding UK citizens who are classified as vulnerable – and the growing number who are becoming vulnerable – in their own homes. With internet usage skyrocketing across the country, additional value is being placed on the importance of having the necessary information and communication services available online so that everyone can address their basic human needs for gas, water, and electricity. With limited opportunities to leave the house, and most brick and mortar customer service outlets remaining closed, this can be a challenge for the more vulnerable in our society. When discussing the vulnerable, we typically think of the elderly, the infirm, and those living below the poverty line. However, the term also takes account of those without the ability to adequately understand or communicate, and those who do not have access to information that they need. In this case specifically, the information they need to keep them safe and warm during the Covid-19 lockdown. In relation to online accessibility, this includes those who are unable to read in English and those who suffer from visual impairments. The same principle is true of those with disabilities. We tend to think of ‘the disabled’ as those who are physically incapacitated. However, many types of mental disability also fall into this category. This includes those who suffer from conditions such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, and hyperlexia. The 2010 Equality Act identified all of these conditions as a disability because those suffering from them are unable to fulfill their potential. Online Accessibility Issues for the Vulnerable 10 % of UK citizens suffer from dyslexia. That’s 1 in every 10 of us that struggles with reading, writing, and spelling. In the online world, unless a website is equipped with accessibility software, this means encountering difficulties with readable fonts, colour contrast, and layout on any given webpage. 10% of the UK population speaks English as a second language. The majority of these can speak English too, but reading and writing in English are much more difficult than having a spoken conversion. This is mainly due to the many complex grammatical rules, but can also be exacerbated by additional factors such as differing phonetic systems between English and the native languages. So reading and communication online can be problematic. NHS statistics suggest that around 2 million residents in the UK are living with sight loss. Around 360,000 of these are registered blind, which leaves over 1.6 million partially sighted citizens that struggle to read web pages and use online chat functions. The Impacts for Utility Providers Over the last couple of decades, the UK has moved away from a nationalised gas and electricity system to a privatised system, and there are now more than 60 individual suppliers. This amount of choice can feel somewhat overwhelming, and the internet remains an essential source for information where people can research and compare their options. So it is not just the utility providers themselves that need to be considering consumer accessibility needs, but also the many comparison sites that help people make the best financial decisions. “The technology of consumer engagement is changing and moving online more and more. As a result, vulnerable customers need to be supported online. Recite Me is now calling on all UK energy comparison websites and energy suppliers to ensure their websites are accessible for people with disabilities. We look forward to seeing more UK energy comparison websites and energy suppliers using web accessibility software such as Recite Me to ensure they are fully supporting customers in vulnerable circumstances.” Recite Me Founder and CEO Ross Linnett The Covid-19 Catalyst Lockdown has made things more difficult for everyone. Communication is harder, human contact is reduced, and many people have withdrawn from society altogether. This has had a significant effect on individual psychology and stress levels, with studies and surveys already showing increases in cases of depression. All of us have struggled with the realities of Covid-19 in some way or another, so it is difficult to imagine how scared and frustrated some of our more vulnerable citizens are feeling at the moment. Imagine dealing with all of the regular day-to-day stress of living throughout the pandemic, plus having to deal with accessibility issues to the essential information and services you need to keep you housed, fed, and warm. It is under these circumstances that vulnerability levels increase, as any inequality in access to information (and by default services) can have significant financial impacts on the individuals concerned. This is especially true of those whose job or job security has been threatened by the coronavirus outbreak. The Solution Given the lack of physical contact and a reduced sense of community, it is clear that more needs to be done to develop stronger online communities. This means making information accessible to all, and especially information regarding basic needs like energy and heating. This is where products like Recite Me come in. The assistive toolbar allows those with sight loss or cognitive impairments like learning difficulties and dyslexia to access any website in a way best suited to their individual needs. It also incorporates different linguistic needs. Specific examples include: Text-to-speech functions. The ability to fully customise the look of a website for personal ease of use. A screen mask to provide colour tinting and block visual clutter. Additional reading aids such as an on-screen ruler and text-only mode. A real-time translation feature catering to over 100 languages, including 35 text-to-speech voices. The Recite Me accessibility toolbar is particularly useful during Covid-19 because it allows users to navigate and understand their online accounts without needing the additional support of live chat functions, or having to spend lengthy waiting times in telephone queues to speak with customer service representatives. Recite Me is proud to be working alongside many of the country’s leading utility organisations already, including Northern Powergrid, Cadent Gas Limited, Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water, and over 20 others. We invite all energy suppliers and utility comparison websites to follow their lead, and make their websites more inclusive by utilising assistive technology.

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