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The National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) provides an inclusive digital experience to support those with learning disabilities and attention issues online. The NCLD was founded in 1977 as the Foundation for Children with Learning Disabilities and since has worked tirelessly to create an equal society for all, providing the skills needed to succeed in school, at work, and in life. The NCLD uses Recite Me accessibility and language tools on their website, to enable users with a disability, learning difficulty, visual impairment, or those who speak English as a second language to read and understand online content. 70% of websites in the US have critical accessibility issues, leaving those vulnerable with a lack of information and services. The assistive technology on the NCLD’s website includes screen reading functionality, multiple reading aids, customisable styling options, and an on-demand live translation feature that boasts over 100 languages including 35 text-to-speech and styling options. Grace Aiyedogbon, Communications & Advocacy Specialist at NCLD commented “Our mission is to improve the lives of the 1 in 5 children and adults nationwide with learning and attention issues-by empowering parents and young adults, transforming schools, and advocating for equal rights and opportunities. “It is essential to provide accessible ways to engage with NCLD’s content to serve and accommodate our growing community of diverse learners.” To explore the customisable accessibility and language toolbar go to the NCLD’s website. In support of Learning Disability Week, Recite Me is raising awareness to fight against social isolation and discrimination for those with learning disabilities. For more information on Learning Disability Week, go to Mencap. For more information on assistive technology book a demo with a member of our friendly team.
Learning disabilities and learning difficulties are not the same thing. A learning disability is significant and lifelong. It starts before adulthood and affects a person’s development. This means that a person with a learning disability will be likely to need help to understand information, learn skills and live a fulfilling life. Some people with learning disabilities will also have healthcare needs and require support to communicate. Learning difficulties such as dyslexia, ADHD, dyspraxia, and hyperlexia can also create complications in daily activities. However, conditions like this don’t affect general intellect. For example, people with dyspraxia may find simple tasks like tying their shoelaces difficult. But this is a coordination and movement barrier, not an intellectual one. Likewise, people with dyslexia may struggle with spelling and reading, but this is not a marker of low intelligence. On the contrary, many dyslexics have superior skills when it comes to analytical and creative tasks. From the 14th through to the 20th, Recite Me is supporting Learning Disability Week. Join us as we learn more about learning disabilities and how we can help those affected to enjoy more inclusive online experiences. Learning Disabilities in the UK Statistics from Mencap suggest that there are 1.5 million people with a learning disability in the UK. That’s over 2% of the population. The level of support needed varies on an individual basis, and will depend on the severity of the learning disability and the combination of other disabilities or learning difficulties. It is possible, after all, for someone to have a learning disability and additional conditions. In fact, multiple conditions occur fairly frequently. It’s not uncommon for people with down’s syndrome or autism to have learning disabilities, for example. People with mild learning disabilities can lead full and independent lives and may only need assistance with things like finding a job and managing money. However, those with severe or multiple disabilities may need full-time care. Supporting Learning Disabilities Online People with learning disabilities may not be able to use a mouse, read the words on a website, or find their way around a busy screen. This means they are unable to participate in online activities that can directly affect their quality of life. Examples include: Shopping Banking Paying bills Applying for jobs Accessing general information Communicating with friends and family Barriers to accessing these services lead to further inequalities, increased vulnerability, and a higher chance of additional stress and mental health problems due to isolation and discrimination. “It is vital that we understand the needs of people who are excluded from society. It is only by focusing on their needs and rights, and working to remove the barriers they face, that people with learning disabilities will achieve their rightful place in society”. Mencap Charity Support There are several national charities and organisations that offer support and education to help people with learning disabilities, their parents, and their teachers: Scottish Commission for People with Learning Disabilities The SCLD is committed to improving the lives of people with learning disabilities in Scotland by giving them a voice and the opportunity to be respected and included. The charity works closely with the Scottish Government to deliver The Keys to Life strategy. Scottish Learning Disability Week 2021, took place from the 10th-16th May. This year, the SCLD highlighted the importance of relationships and having other people in our lives. Adult Learning Wales Adult learning Wales focuses on the importance of removing barriers for people living with learning disabilities. They provide funding, courses, and support to help more people with learning disabilities into the job market. The National Centre for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) The NCLD has been improving the lives of young people with learning disabilities for over 40 years. Their goal is to create a society where everyone is included and provided with the academic, social, and emotional support they need to succeed in life. The National Institute for Learning Development (NILD) The NILD offers a range of one-on-one and small-group courses and workshops, geared towards helping educators understand and better meet the needs of students with learning disabilities. Assistive Technology The Recite Me assistive toolbar removes barriers for people with learning disabilities by allowing them to fully customise a webpage so it meets their individual needs. Features include: A screen mask to help with focus and concentration. Options to have content read aloud in over 35 different languages to negate reading difficulties. Full control over the speed at which the text is read aloud to allow for varying auditory preferences. Customisation options for text font, colour, sizing, and spacing, so that the look of the webpage can be tailor-made into the perfect format for every individual. A spell-checker and a fully integrated dictionary and thesaurus to help with comprehension. "The Recite Me tool has been really helpful in ensuring users can browse our websites without the need for specialist accessibility software. The toolbar’s extensive range of features means everyone, no matter what their needs are, can access our information. Libby Clement, Digital Communications Officer, SCLD How Accessible Websites Help Charities Over the last calendar year, Recite Me made over 350,000 charity and not-for-profit website pages accessible. Our data shows that: On average, Recite Me users view 4 pages of an accessible website per visit, almost double the average internet journey depth of just 2.5 pages per visit. The Recite Me assistive toolbar was launched on average 15,000+ times every month on the websites of national charities and not-for-profits. Smaller and more regional operations recorded toolbar launches of 5,000-12,000 per month. Over 770,000 individual styling changes were made by users accessing charity and nonprofit sites. Our translation options were the most popular features on not-for-profit sites, with some websites reporting as many as 20,000 unique translations. If you’d like more information on how your organisation can improve inclusion by utilising assistive technology, please contact our team or book a real-time demonstration of our toolbar. Together, we can make a positive difference and provide equal opportunities online. Get Involved in Learning Disabilities Week The last year has been challenging for many people, and especially so for people with learning disabilities and their families. The theme of this year’s Learning Disabilities Week is creativity, as for many people, getting creative has been a great way to stay active, connected, and positive over the last 12 months. You can find more information, resources, and activities on Mencap’s Learning Disabilities Week website.
Student Unions are at the heart of all Universities, providing students with the services and support they need to make everyone feel included and make sure they have a fulfilling experience. Throughout their time at University students want to be heard and listened to. A Student Union is their voice and plays a crucial part in highlighting the interests and opinions of the student body. This has rarely been as important as it is during the COVID-19 pandemic. Student Unions are at the forefront of providing support to those that may face challenges with remote learning and access to online resources. For some students there can be barriers online in accessing information. This can be due to temporary or lifelong disabilities. Those with learning difficulties, vision deficits, language issues, and cognitive or neurological disorders can also face obstacles online if they do not have the tools they need to consume information online as others do. Reasons include: Not being able to read the text due to font, text size, or text spacing. Not being able to read the text due to poor colour contrasts between background and foreground. Not being able to use a mouse or touchpad. Not being able to focus on the relevant section of text. Being distracted by graphics and image carousels. When you stop to consider these factors, it becomes very apparent that the online world is in fact not as universally inclusive as it could be for all students. This is when badly designed websites and applications create barriers that prevent a significant number of people from using them. How Technology Can Help For students that face barriers online, it can be difficult to read and understand online information. Using assistive technology can give those students a voice and give them the support they need to play an active part in the digital world. By embracing technology universities can remove online barriers and enrich the online experiences of all students. If students are enabled with online resources, they have on-demand access to both learning materials and tutor assistance should they need it, but without needing to be within physical reach of their teacher. With online resources, education doesn’t have to stop when the school day finishes. With more independent online learning solutions, students can work at their own pace, while also having access to lecturers, resources, and assignments anywhere they have an internet connection. It has been proven that more technological ways of learning promote practical thinking and collaboration skills in students, rather than them simply memorising information. Plus, simultaneously, they are assimilating additional skills in the use of technology itself. “Accessible to all, rather than just available to all” Barriers Students Can Face While the use of technology may encourage individual learning, it is important to consider that not everyone learns in the same way. Different learning styles and different abilities must be accounted for, and digital materials must be inclusive of everyone with different needs. So education providers must ensure that information is accessible to all, rather than just available to all. Again, this is no easy task when you consider that: In the UK, there were approximately 94,120 (13%) new students who had a disability and started in 2017/18. Approximately 200,000 children in England alone have special education needs One in every five children has attention issues At least 10% of all UK children are dyslexic Some students learn in a second language All of these students are disadvantaged in different ways in an online environment, as it is almost impossible for any stand-alone online learning portal to accommodate the broad spectrum of barriers that face these students. That’s where assistive technology can help. Using Assistive Software to Promote Inclusion Studies have shown that remote learning can be effective, however, large scale remote learning is not something that many education providers were set up for prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is especially true when considering the number of university students with varying accessibility needs. Providing equal access and the same level of inclusion online as with in-person teaching is a challenge without assistive technology to break down those accessibility barriers. At Recite Me, we are firm believers that university students need to be supported. Our unique assistive toolbar is an accessibility solution that allows students to customise a website in the way that works best for them, and in doing so compensates for numerous access barriers including: Visual impairments Deafblindness Colour blindness Dyslexia Hyperlexia Dyspraxia Autism ADHD Speaking English as a second language Epilepsy Mobility and physical impairments How Does Recite Me Assistive Technology Help? Recite Me’s assistive toolbar supports a diverse range of students by providing a variety of tools that allow web users to create a fully customisable experience. Students can get student union information with ease barrier free. The Recite Me toolbar comprises a number of accessibility features that 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. As people switched to online learning, Recite Me saw 3.7 million educational web pages viewed using the assistive toolbar. The spike in toolbar usage soared to over 18,000 unique users in May, an increase of 50% from January. Over the past 12 months, a staggering 625,000 toolbar launches were made supporting over 100 educational institutions including the University of London, Sunderland University, and Liverpool College.
At home learning and revision App, EdPlace provides online accessibility and language tools to support students to revise smart. 286,000 children in the UK have a learning disability, who may require additional support to revise for vital educational exams. To enhance at-home support and exam preparation, EdPlace provides online assessments, interactive activities, and English, Maths, Science and 11 Plus practice papers that cover the whole curriculum (from Year 1 to GCSE). EdPlace provides resources that are accessible for all students regardless of disabilities, learning difficulties, and language barriers. Since the launch in May 2020, 51,000 EdPlace students have used the Recite Me assistive toolbar to read and understand over 1 million pages of educational material to assist with remote learning. CEO Will Paterson founded EdPlace because of his own experiences at school. As a dyslexic Will faced a lot of challenges and set up EdPlace to ensure students can access relevant resources that are delivered in an engaging format. Will Paterson, CEO, and founder of Ed Place commented “I founded EdPlace because I was able to overcome my challenges of dyslexia in a traditional schooling system, principally because I was lucky enough to have amazing parent support. I wanted to use the huge advances in technology to foster this for many, not the lucky few. Our integration with Recite Me is a great example of this as the toolbar ensures our platform is accessible to all. A seemingly small achievement like getting a score in a subject you thought you didn’t understand can boost confidence and help unlock a student’s huge potential. Thanks to Recite Me, we’re able to provide this experience and help each and every child succeed in their learning.” The accessibility technology on the EdPlace app provides users with features such as translation into 100+ languages, read aloud, and styling assistance. This includes adjustments to colour, font type, and size. The assistive technology on EdPlace’s platform gives students and parents access to multiple features designed to support those with SEND needs. The ability to change a website's styling and enable educational activities to be read aloud supports students with Dyslexia. Toolbar data shows that students most commonly used the screen reader, followed by styling and translation tools. For more information on how you can provide students with essential additional online support contact us.
Distance and remote learning have always been popular. However, in the ever-changing landscape of 2020 and 2021, many education institutions that offer regular attendance programmes have found themselves scrambling to switch to online and remote learning formats. But it’s not as straightforward as simply converting materials, lectures, and workshop plans into a digital structure. It is important to consider that not everyone learns in the same way. Different learning styles and different abilities must be accounted for, so digital materials must be inclusive of everyone, not just available to everyone. The Student Demographic Some students are disadvantaged in an online environment because information on websites is not as easy to digest as it would be in a normal classroom or lecture hall environment. Examples include students who have visual deficits, physical disabilities, learning difficulties, attention disorders, autism, or literacy and language issues, including speaking/reading English as a second language. In the academic year 2019-2020, government statistics reveal that 332,300 higher education students in the UK identified themselves as having a disability of some kind. This accounts for 17.3% of all home students. While numbers for the last academic year are skewed by students returning to their home countries during the COVID-19 pandemic, statistics show that in the 2018-2019 academic year there were over 485,000 international students for whom English was not their primary language. Internal Learning Portals Introducing Moodle! Moodle is an open source online learning platform that enables education providers to create personalised learning environments for their students. Used by many top colleges and universities, Moodle is the all-in-one integrated system that allows students to: Access course materials and upload work. See their grades, gain feedback, and contact tutors. Keep a library archive of their coursework from the beginning to the end of their entire course. Watch online videos and lessons. Use messaging services and forums 24/7. From an administrator’s perspective, Moodle helps keep student data safe, secure, and easily accessible in one centralised digital location. Tutors can easily share and manage learning materials, communicate with learners, and monitor progress/reports. Incorporating Web Accessibility Moodle is a fantastic learning resource and an effective learning platform. But, like any online service, it will only work if every student has equal access. That’s where web accessibility software like the Recite Me assistive toolbar comes in. At Recite Me, we are firm believers that every stage of education should be inclusive. Our unique accessibility software compensates for numerous access barriers including: Visual impairments Deafblindness Colour blindness Dyslexia Hyperlexia Dyspraxia Autism ADHD Speaking English as a second language Epilepsy Mobility and physical impairments Comprising several accessibility features that can be used individually or combined, Moodle users at universities that have installed Recite Me software can 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. Recite Me, Birkbeck University of London, and Moodle Birkbeck University of London has been using Recite Me on their public-facing website since 2017. In the autumn of 2020, the university improved its accessibility rating further by installing Recite Me on their internal Moodle platform. The results in just a few short months were astounding: The Recite Me toolbar was launched 81,279 times 11,596 unique individuals used the Recite Me toolbar on the Moodle website. 220,448 individual styling features were clicked Interestingly for lecturers, our data shows that the most heavily used function was the player, which demonstrates that students do have a preference for having course content read aloud, just as they would in a classroom or lecture scenario. Brett Lucas, Head of Digital Education at Birkbeck University of London commented, “Adding the Recite Me toolbar to Birkbeck’s Moodle site has been a great success for our students over the last year. It is playing an important part in our goal to make all our digital tools and learning materials easily accessible to all our students.” Web Accessibility in the Higher Education Sector Recite Me is proud to be working alongside many other leading education providers already, including the University of Sunderland, Cranfield University, York University, New College Durham, and Capital City College Group. Data from the last 12 months show equally staggering results to those that Birbeck recorded: The Recite Me toolbar was launched 1.7 million times Over 9 million pages were viewed with the Recite Me toolbar enabled Over 48 million individual styling features were clicked Again, the most popular function was text to speech playback The Future of Remote and e-Learning In 2020, 43% of academic institutions offering higher-level education courses invested in additional resources to aid remote instruction. Yet, according to a survey by EducationData.org, 76% of higher education institutions still believe that online learning platforms need to be more accessible to students. Either way, whether due to continued social distancing regulations or simply because universities find it a simpler and more efficient way to teach, remote and distance learning courses look to be here to stay. 33% of post-secondary school administrators indicate they will continue to offer both remote and online course options even after their campuses have reopened and normal operations resume The online learning industry is projected to pass $370 billion by 2026 A Message to Educators To maximise on opportunities presented by the booming remote learning market, education providers must ensure that information is accessible to all, rather than just available to all. But it is almost impossible for any stand-alone online learning portal to accommodate the broad spectrum of barriers that face their students. That’s where assistive technology can help. If you’d like more information on how your organisation can make a positive change towards inclusion by utilising Recite Me assistive technology, please contact our team or book a real-time demonstration of our toolbar. Together, we can make a difference and provide everyone with equal education opportunities online.
Recite Me has recently become a certified member of Cyber Essentials Plus - a government certified scheme that guards organisations against the most common cyber threats and demonstrates our commitment to cyber security. We caught up with Rob, Recite Me’s Chief Technical Officer, to delve deeper into the world of cyber security and what we do to ensure our SAAS product is secure. What do we mean by cybersecurity and what is the risk? Cybersecurity is a term used to encapsulate all necessary security actions, precautions, and considerations we should make as digital companies to be aware of the digital threats which face us and mitigate those threats as best, we can. It covers not only physical assets such as servers and laptop computers but also our cloud environments, transfer of information and much more. In the same way as you would not go on holiday and leave your front door open, in the world of digital information we must take precautions to not leave our digital front door open. Failing to do this could allow attackers to utilise a vulnerability such as a misconfigured application, an open port, or some unprotected files to steal sensitive information. The risk of not taking cybersecurity seriously could be that your companies (or worse still, your clients) personal/sensitive information is stolen. Ransomware attacks are becoming increasingly common in today's digital society. These attacks can result in large sums of money being requested to restore files that a hacker may have encrypted and thus rendered unusable. This may all sound very scary, but whilst it must be taken seriously there are a lot of common-sense approaches you can take to keep yourself protected such as keeping applications up to date, checking that your firewall is configured correctly, ensuring you have solid backups in place and that your anti-virus software is up to date, etc. Should all tech companies have a cybersecurity strategy? Absolutely, it's imperative that all companies, both big and small, have a cybersecurity strategy so that they can both understand the risks but also mitigate and or plan for them. This strategy should be reviewed regularly so that it remains current as you never know when you may need to rely on it. What does Recite Me do to make sure their SAAS product is secure? At Recite Me we do several things to ensure that we're confident in our approach to cybersecurity. Our actions begin as low level as our development process and span through to regularly scheduled penetration tests and around the clock proactive monitoring. We take both our LAN environment into account with cybersecurity as well as our online (WAN) architecture and systems. We have recently undergone a Cyber Essentials Plus audit and we're happy to report that we passed with no issues, first time. Aside from the actions taken locally in our dev environment through to the server architecture that we use, we also apply a common-sense due diligence approach to onboarding 3rd party vendors. This is to satisfy ourselves that their security posture is aligned with ours and that we can trust them to perform their actions securely on our behalf. Does cybersecurity include people’s data, and what’s the best way to make sure this information is secure? Protection of data is one of the key goals of a solid cybersecurity strategy. As you can imagine, the protection of personal data, whether this be your own or that of your business and/or your clients is extremely important. Additionally, since the introduction of the GDPR in 2018 the legal obligations of all applicable organisations whether they be a data processor or a data controller, have been tightened. Failing to meet the requirements of the GDPR (which is aimed at keeping sensitive data private and protected) could result in business impacting fines. The best way to make sure this information is secure is to design and follow a good cybersecurity strategy across your entire organisation.
The American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) is the primary professional organisation for baseball coaches at an amateur level, with nearly 13,000 members in all 50 states and 33 countries. ABCA is committed to working to provide resources that promote diversity in baseball, via their diversity in baseball committee, which aims to research and implement opportunities to grow diversity for players and coaches within the sport.
According to Security Magazine, over 2,200 cyber attacks are made every day. That’s roughly one every 39 seconds. In today’s modern world, most businesses transfer documents and data across their networks in the course of everyday operations. So it is expected that organisations take a proactive approach towards ensuring cyber security. At this point, you’re probably thinking of your favourite hacker movies - perhaps some Matrix-style deceptions or Jason Bourne action. But in reality, most cyber attacks are not masterminded by collectives of highly skilled or technologically adept tricksters. The vast majority are perpetrated by amateurs and are fairly basic in nature. That said, it’s still vital that we are prepared. Why Cyber Security is Important to Recite Me The Recite Me accessibility toolbar is now installed on over 2,500 websites and last year we supported over 2million unique users. Our technology is all about the benefits to the end user and how web accessibility technology can bring people together. Therefore, it’s important to protect the assistive toolbar on our clients’ websites so that we can continue to help their online visitors have an easier and more digitally inclusive experience. Our goal is to adhere to the highest security practices so our customers have peace of mind, while still ensuring that online information is available and accessible to everyone, regardless of ability. Our Cyber Security Wish List By avoiding common online threats and security breaches, we can reduce the possibility of being targeted by more serious cyber criminals. Plus, we want to adopt security measures that provide the best protection for everyone - our clients and their customers, our shareholders, and our employees. These are not the only driving factors, however. Proper cyber security prevention also assists us with: Brand reputation – We want to reassure our customers, staff, and stakeholders that we take their data seriously and are actively working to secure our IT. New Business – The promise of efficient cyber security measures is important to many potential clients. Clarity – Having a clear picture of our own security levels and where we sit in relation to the industry norm and our competitors gives us a competitive advantage. Legalities – We work for several public sector organisations already, and many government contracts require a cyber security certification. Our Cyber Security Measures Recite Me is now a certified member of Cyber Essentials Plus. Operated by the National Cyber Security Centre, Cyber Essentials is a government-funded information assurance scheme that encourages organisations to adopt best practices for data security. “Cyber security is an essential part of today’s digital society. At Recite Me we make specific efforts to maintain a positive information security posture, both internally and through our global network. Obtaining Cyber Essentials Plus is just one way we help assure our customers that we are doing everything we can to minimise the threat of cyber crime and remain focused on providing quality, secure products. Rob Crozier, Chief Technical Officer, Recite Me Cyber Essentials Plus is the highest certification tier, requiring an independent evaluation of controls to ensure we comply with top level IT security practices. Our membership affirms our commitment to maintaining maximum data protection protocols, and also protects us against cyber threats such as: Hacking Phishing Password mining You can find more in-depth information about Cyber Essentials and certification levels on the UK Government website. Cyber Security and Web Accessibility We’re often asked whether accessibility features impact on website security. The short answer is no, but there are some important considerations to ensure that both accessibility and cyber security measures are met: Captcha Alternatives Standard captcha designs are inaccessible to many people with disabilities due to difficulties reading or hearing the letters and numbers. Alternatives include using spam filters, human test questions, heuristic checks, and honeypot traps to filter out robots from genuine customers who want to register or buy from your website. You can read more about captcha inaccessibility and solutions on the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) website. Input Assistance Mistakes are inevitable, but disabled users are more prone to making input errors that can block access to your website. This is why assistive technology solutions are so important. Tools like screen magnifiers, screen readers, and text-to-speech software help users with varying access needs to understand the instructions more clearly. In addition, being able to change the font, text size, and colour contrast makes it easier to input the required information, error-free. Again, you can access more information on input errors and input assistance on the W3C website. Our Security Promise We always want to provide the best possible service, so we are committed to continually reviewing our security measures to make sure we are protected, and that our assistive toolbar on your website is never threatened by the ever-changing risks in the online world.
Utilita Energy now provides an inclusive online experience to enable all their customers to access essential utility information barrier-free. Utilita Energy is the UK’s first and only specialist Pay as You Go Smart Energy supplier, providing energy to 800,000 homes across the UK. By providing accessibility and language options on their website, Utilita Energy is removing barriers for those with disabilities, learning difficulties, visual impairments, and who speak English as a second language. To maintain Utilita’s position as a leading PAYG supplier, they continue to embrace the latest technology, with a commitment to supporting those who face online barriers. 14.1 million people in the UK have a disability (19% of adults) who can encounter difficulties online that prevent access to energy information and services. Utilita Energy has launched Recite Me’s innovative accessibility toolbar to create an inclusive digital experience for all. The toolbar is packed full of customisable options to create a bespoke experience. Features include a multi-language screen-reader, a wide range of styling options, reading aids, and a translation function that can translate all their content into over 100 languages. “It's important to us at Utilita that our services are accessible to everyone, which is why we decided to implement the ‘Recite Me’ accessibility toolbar on our website. The toolbar has already made a huge difference to our customers, in the first month alone it helped over 1,000 users view our website in the best way for them.” Lauren Sanders Marketing Manager Only in the last month, Utilita Energy has supported over 1000 people online with accessibility and language options. This has enabled customers to access their accounts and new website visitors to browse products and information hassle-free. Toolbar data show that website visitors have viewed 1,689 accessible pages. This data provides Utilita with information on what pages people are using most and how this can be used to suit the needs of their customers. The most used accessibility toolbar feature is the translation feature, with 33% of web users. This feature translates web content into over 100 languages and includes 35 text-to-speech voices. The most commonly translated languages are Tagalog, Arabic, and Bulgarian, which supports Utilita’s diverse range of customers. Recite Me’s screen reader is a common feature used, with 32% of web users having online content read aloud in English, Italian, and Dutch. Utilita Energy web users can customise their inclusive online journey by clicking the speech icon at the top of their website. For more information on how you can provide accessibility options online, go to Recite Me or feel free to contact one of our helpful team members. Recite Me is quick and easy to implement on your website. Join the thousands of companies who have already ensured that their website is accessible for all.
As we are edging back towards normality it is important to take time to reflect on how the COVID-19 affected vulnerable customers. We caught up with Elaine, from Reynolds Busby Lee, to look back at the past year and how vulnerable customers have been impacted and how businesses can go about implementing and finding solutions. A Bit About Elaine I started my career working client side working for organisations in roles that focussed on improving the customer experience to drive real relationships and build revenue. I've worked in energy (Manweb), before moving to the world's largest home delivery wine company (Direct Wines which is behind the Laithwaites Wine and The Sunday Times Wine Club plus other), then I moved into mail order hosiery at HCI and then Time-Life where I was responsible for our European customer experience across inbound and outbound sales as well as customer service. My final stint client side was at IMP where I was responsible for customer experience globally. In 2005 I co-founded the Reynolds Busby Lee consultancy with two partners who eventually returned to client side roles and for the last 5 years I have been Managing Director running the consultancy. Our specialism is in Customer Experience and the inclusion of customers who for one reason or another find themselves in vulnerable circumstances. We work with clients across a wide range of sectors from Direct to Consumer to charities and public sector, enabling them to hear the voices of their customers and prioritise their focus to improve the customer experience and bottom line. Life Before Lockdown The significance of customers living in vulnerable circumstances has been a considerable concern for well over a decade and something I began working on in 2010. Back in the early days it was a difficult subject and not many of us wanted to stick our head above the parapet for fear of getting things wrong and being ‘shot down’. However, since we opened the discussions, it’s become clear that this is a subject that affects many of us and is one that those of us working in this arena are hugely passionate about. I was, therefore, delighted to be asked to write this piece for Recite Me. Much of the focus over the last 10 years or so had been around financial vulnerability with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) leading the way for the regulators. However, the spectrum of vulnerability within the UK is wider and further reaching than just the risk of harm or detriment coming from organisations regulated by the FCA. In more recent years we have seen different sectors, from fundraising to energy and communications, getting to grips with this issue and releasing their own position papers, launching charters and guidance. Vulnerability has never been a small-scale issue, affecting only small proportions of our customer bases or employees. It is widespread but for many years has been ignored or gone undetected. How we recognise vulnerability and adapt our products and services to better suit our customer / employee needs are a core challenge that we must now rise to. Before the pandemic, our mental health charities advised us that 1 in 4 of the UK population was living with a mental health concern at any one time, Cancer charities confirmed that 1 in 2 of us would experience a cancer diagnosis during our lifetime and over 800,000 UK adults were living with dementia. When coupled with other stressful life events such as moving to a new house, getting married or divorced or being made redundant, you can quickly see that the figures can mount, and we are not talking about small numbers. In 2019 The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) estimated that 50% of the UK adult population could be demonstrating characteristics of vulnerability at any one time, that may be caused by one of the FCA’s four recognised drivers of vulnerability Health: health conditions or illnesses that affect the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks Life events: life events such as bereavement, job loss or relationship breakdown Resilience: low ability to withstand financial or emotional shocks Capability: low knowledge of financial matters or low confidence in managing money, and low capability in other relevant areas such as literacy or digital skills Earlier this year, The FCA published an update to their Financial Lives survey. The survey data was collected in October 2020, just before the nation entered Lockdowns 2 and 3 and then released in February 2021 and there was a substantial increase in the estimated numbers of UK consumers showing one or more characteristic of financial vulnerability. This report estimated 27.7m UK adults could be considered to be living in vulnerable circumstances, an increase of 15% in just a few months, with 2021 expected to show a further increase. This equates to 53% the UK adult population – that’s more than half. (The energy regulator) OFGEM’s definition of vulnerability also links customers’ personal circumstances with aspects of the market which can create situations that lead to a customer being “significantly less able than a typical customer to protect or represent his or her own interests in the energy market and / or are significantly more likely than typical customers to suffer detriment, or detriment that is likely to be more substantial”. For example, low-income families, often placed on pay as you go energy tariffs requiring them to pay with coins in meters, found accessing coins almost impossible during the lockdowns and, therefore, energy companies had to make adjustments by changing customers’ access to enable them to remain connected to the energy network. Without making these reasonable adjustments, many of their customers could have been left without power. In its definition, OFCOM (the regulator for communications services) references that other circumstances such as “low income or a sudden reduction in regular income, job loss or living in an isolated or rural area” can create vulnerabilities. With millions of workers placed on furlough, others made redundant and others living in remote areas unable to access super-fast broadband speed or relying on Pay As you Go Mobile data to stay connected, you can quickly see how the pandemic will have created vulnerable circumstances for the UK’s Communications companies customers. Vulnerable circumstances are something that I believe can affect us all at any stage of our lives. We may not recognise ourselves as being in a vulnerable circumstance at the time or even for many years afterwards, if at all. Whilst others feel acutely vulnerable to exposure to harm and detriment most of the time. Therefore, we cannot rely on our customers and employees self-identifying and asking for additional support, as organisations serving the public. I believe that we must take responsibility and recognise the impact that vulnerable circumstances can have, inducing shock and impairing our usual ways of processing information or assessing risk and harm. The Impact of COVID-19 Firstly, Covid-19 has only added to the numbers affected. We have a new segment of the population who now identify themselves as ‘clinically vulnerable’. They shielded through Lockdowns and have had their ‘normal’ lives significantly affected with their usual habits and behaviours changed substantially. But we mustn’t be fooled into thinking that this is the only group affected. In the latest Financial Lives report, The FCA noted that “Covid-19 has had a profound impact on adults’ financial situations but has not affected the finances of all groups in society equally.” “Covid-19 has had a disproportionate impact on those of working age. The largest proportional increases in vulnerability since February 2020 – by more than 40% –have been among younger adults aged 18-34 and the self-employed. In contrast, retirees have seen a small proportionate decrease in the numbers who have characteristics of vulnerability”. Covid-19 has also had a significant effect on the nation’s mental health. Mind’s ‘The Mental Health Emergency’ Report (June 2020) identifying that more than half of adults (50%) and two thirds of young people (68%) have said their mental health has got worse during lockdown. A report from the WHO (World Health Organisation) in Oct 2020 recognised that “Bereavement, isolation, loss of income and fear are triggering mental health conditions or exacerbating existing ones. Many people may be facing increased levels of alcohol and drug use, insomnia, and anxiety”. This will create more anxiety. The same report also informed us that “meanwhile, COVID-19 itself can lead to neurological and mental complications, such as delirium, agitation, and stroke. People with pre-existing mental, neurological or substance use disorders are also more vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2 infection ̶ they may stand a higher risk of severe outcomes and even death”. I think we can all identify people within our family units, friends or colleagues that have experienced a loss, isolation, have been furloughed or made redundant or have had a planned health treatment delayed. There is huge concern that our physical health has also been negatively affected with patients not reporting changes in their health to GPs in their usual numbers leaving an expectation that we will see a surge in physical health diagnoses coming this year, with many coming too late to be treatable. I’m in agreement with Mind’s view that “the effects of this pandemic will continue to have lasting effects long after lockdown is over” as the nation comes to terms with the widespread impact this pandemic has had. Having experienced PTSD myself, aged just 18 (when many teenagers think that they are invincible and immortal), it took many years to come to terms with the reality of my situation and learn how I could function and move forward. There will be hundreds of thousands of lives affected by a late diagnosis of ill health, some will be treatable, others unfortunately, will have already become terminal. Therefore, I propose that the solutions we implement now and the Reasonable Adjustments we offer must not be considered as a short-term fix, instead they are here for the long- term and should be incorporated into our BAU (business as usual) ways of working. Implementing Solutions So, how do businesses go about finding and implementing solutions? I recommend starting by getting a foundation level of understanding of what vulnerable circumstances are and how they can impact your customers and they interactions that they have with you. Once you have grasped the scale and scope for your organisation, the next step is to develop your organisation’s position and strategy on how you will support your customers through Reasonable Adjustments, then assuring that your business processes and practices can and do support your aims – usually this is formalised in a Vulnerable Peoples Policy. Your staff will need to be trained initially and then supported on an ongoing basis through your learning and development programme, regular coaching sessions and gathering customer feedback to ensure you are following the plan, and that it is having the desired impact. At Reynolds Busby Lee we design and run training programmes bespoke to our individual clients’, so please get in touch if this could be useful to your organisation. In addition, you will need to understand how the new ways of working are affecting your workforce and whether they are inadvertently or otherwise creating vulnerable circumstances for your teams. During the pandemic, we’ve seen thousands of organisations accelerating their plans for digital solutions to enable customers to self-serve and lighten the load on the customer service and support teams. Offering self-service via a fully accessible website can be very useful for customers. Where websites are not accessible, driving customers to a site they can’t use, only serves to increase frustration, disempower your customers and create vulnerable circumstances. Remember that this is not a small-scale issue that only impacts a few customers, as discussed earlier, this is an issue affecting the many not the few. The good news is that accessible technology does exist and can be rapidly deployed. Here at RBL we have been working with ReciteMe for almost 4 years and have their tool built into our website. With very few lines of code (less than 10!), we’ve integrated a new tool bar into the website that will allow our readers and users to personalise the site to their own specific needs from increasing font size and colour, removing images, adding reading rulers, changing the language from our default English to one of over 100 languages should English not be your first language. In addition, the language tool will read the text aloud for you in English or one of the supported alternative languages. As a website user you set your preferences and they are retained for each subsequent website visit until you decide to change them. I’ve also been introduced to the ‘Interpreter Now’ service where a person with a hearing impairment can book BSL sign language support to help them during live face-to-face meetings online via MS Teams, Google Meet or Zoom. Live Transcribe is another useful tool. I was alerted to this by paramedics who use the tool to provide real-time subtitles to their face-to-face conversations when wearing face coverings which can negatively impact lip readers and those with hearing loss. You don’t have to think too carefully to see how this could be deployed at retail checkouts, bank counters or in job centres where staff are now sitting behind Perspex screens which can reduce the transmission of their voices. In the more mainstream solutions, Microsoft now has accessibility check tools in built to their core programmes, Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint and speech analytics tools are becoming faster and more accurate in their work of sentiment analysis which can support staff who are handling contacts with customers remotely. I was delighted to see one tool working in real-time and providing coaching tips and loading guidance to a contact centre agent during, rather than after, a call with a customer. The service delivered was significantly improved with the customer getting the support they needed from the outset, rather in response to a complaint. So, whilst the issue of vulnerability is a big challenge, I am more optimistic than ever that the UK’s businesses and organisations now have solutions available and at hand that will help them to recognise and address customer needs quickly and effectively. To find out more about how ReynoldsBusbyLee can help you in your journey please visit our website www.reynoldsbusbylee.com where you can trial the Recite Me solution for yourselves. Alternatively give us a call on 020 3637 0966 and we would love to help you to support your customers.
In 2020, we all relied on digital technology to perform everyday tasks, but for some people, this was very challenging. In these changing times, education organisations across the globe made efforts to provide students with the tools needed to engage in remote learning. Walsall College took this one step further by making sure no student is left behind. This was achieved by providing a unique accessibility toolbar to enable students to customise their digital experience to suit their own needs. Walsall College is one of the most successful colleges in the UK, with more than 14,000 students studying vocational-technical qualifications, apprenticeships, and higher education every year. To fulfill their commitment to being a further education provider that goes the extra mile to maintain communication and quality of service. Walsall College launched Recite Me assistive technology on their website to provide barrier-free information to those who are neurodiverse, visually impaired, or speak English as a second language. In the past year, over 12,500 Walsall college website users received support to read and understand educational material online, enabling users to customise their web page in a way that works best for them. These features include translating content into different languages, reading aloud, and styling assistance. Jayne Holt, Assistant Principal for Learning Services at Walsall College commented, “We understand the paramount importance of providing our stakeholders with a website that is welcoming, accessible, and simple to navigate. Our layout and content are designed to showcase our values, key purpose, and ambitions in a way that informs and inspires everyone. “The Recite Me software is well-equipped to support these intentions, giving website audiences the freedom to navigate and download information in a manner best suited to their needs. Our substantial user numbers show just what a valuable impact the toolbar has on peoples’ overall browsing experience.” 2020 toolbar data shows that 57,942 pieces of content were read aloud using the text-to-speech engine and 6,640 pages were translated into a different language, including Spanish, Polish and French. Other support tools include styling and reading assistance. 3,329 styling changes were made in total, including alterations to font type, size, and colour, and overall colour contrast between background and foreground. With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to push people online, website accessibility factors are at the forefront of educational development in 2021. The Recite Me toolbar is fully customisable meaning web pages can be consumed in a way that is personalised and tailor-made to each unique website visitor. Students can customise their experience on the Walsall College website.
According to the National Housing Federation, the number of people in need of social housing hit 3.8 million in 2020. That equates to 1.6m households. Having a roof over your head and a safe living environment is one of the most basic human necessities. Yet, as we approach the halfway point of 2021, the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are still taking their toll and the need for affordable housing has never been greater. There are many fantastic housing associations and council initiatives that support citizens and provide solutions to people in vulnerable situations. But often, information about housing services is only available online. Most of us take for granted that we can access information online whenever we want to. But for many in our society, access barriers prevent this. That’s why information on housing websites must be accessible to all. Who Needs Help Accessing Information About Housing? There is a proven link between inaccessible websites and financial vulnerability. Inequality in access to information leads to an inequality of access to services, causing further financial impacts and an increased feeling of helplessness. By very nature, many who struggle the most to access information about housing online are those who already face barriers in other areas like seeking education, employment, and being able to adequately self-manage their finances without access to in-person service. This includes anyone with: Decreased vision Literacy problems Autism Learning difficulties Attention disorders Physical disabilities Problems speaking and reading in English This list accounts for a significant percentage of our population, meaning there are many people who lack the tools they need to adequately understand or communicate online, and are missing out on the help and services that they so desperately need as a result: Over 14 million people in the UK are affected by disabilities. The UK is home to nearly 12 million residents aged 65 years and over, all of whom are less technologically adept and are more likely to develop age-related physical disabilities and vision deficits. The tenant base is becoming increasingly diverse with more applicants every year who speak English as a second language. How Can Housing Associations Help? The first step is to ensure that your website is as inclusive as possible by adopting a user-friendly design that takes account of accessibility features. Most public sector websites are now expected to meet minimum criteria for accessibility as per the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 accessibility Level AA. The deadline for website accessibility compliance was September 2020, so for housing associations in the public sector this isn’t just something that should be done, it’s something that must be done. Additional guidelines from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) recommend that providers should take the following steps to ensure that vulnerable applicants are not disadvantaged in accessing services because of their information needs: Provide simplified versions of communications Provide large print accessible websites Include audio options for online information Respond to the needs of vulnerable consumers at all stages of the customer journey Website Accessibility Technology Software like the Recite Me assistive toolbar can help housing providers to improve the usability of their websites, and our team is more than happy to advise on accessible web builds and WCAG compliance too. The idea behind our toolbar is that it can be fully customized to account for the preferences of each individual user, making your website not just accessible, but truly inclusive. Users can apply a range of tools to change the way a website looks so they can read and understand the information. This includes being able to: Personalise font size, type, and colour options to make each web page easier to read. Download content as an audio file as an alternative to reading. Access text to speech functions in 35 different languages. Have text read aloud at varying speeds. Utilise a screen mask and ruler for better focus. Convert text into over 100 different on-screen languages. Make use of the toolbar’s built-in dictionary and thesaurus. Switch to “text-only” mode to strip away graphics and page clutter. For people who find traversing the online world complicated, time-consuming, and ultimately frustrating, this is a huge help. It’s all about providing options so people can find information in their preferred way. Whether that be large print, audio options, alternative colour templates, or having access to content in their first language, it’s about choice. How Recite Me is Making a Difference We believe that housing initiatives play a critical role in supporting people by building communities and helping tenants to live healthier and happier lives. We’re proud to work with a number of organisations in the housing sector already, including: Believe housing Beyond housing Luton Community Housing South Tyneside Homes Abertay Housing association Beyond Housing Beyond Housing provides 15,000 homes and a wide range of services to over 30,000 customers living in the Tees Valley and North Yorkshire. They upgraded their home page with new tools as part of their ‘Believing in Accessibility for all’ strategy. One of their customers, Anda, was happy to weigh in on the difference the Recite Me toolbar has made; “I’m a member of an Eastern European community support group and regularly use the Recite Me toolbar to translate online content. I can access information with various different adjustments, including translation in many languages, some of them even in audio version. I can also change colours, text, and use other on-screen tools.” Believe Housing Believe Housing is one of the largest housing associations in the northeast of England, covering 862 square miles. Adding our accessibility features to their website has removed barriers and allowed the organisation’s tenant base of over 18,000 households to find out key information about their tenancy and the services available to them. "Recite Me was recommended to me by a web developer back in 2015 and we’ve never looked back! There are so many options from one source that aid the overall customer experience. It’s easy to use and gives a whole range of accessibility and language options from the click of a button." Jill Ancrum, Communications Manager, Believe Housing Our Data Based on our 27 clients in the housing sector, our data over a 12 month period shows that: Over 30,000 unique users opened the Recite Me toolbar More than 134,000 web pages were viewed The average number of pages users viewed per session was 4.4. This is way higher than the average of 2.8 pages. Over 183,000 pieces of content read aloud Over 31,500 pieces of on-page content were translated into other languages More than 12,000 individual styling changes were made Home Truths for Housing Organisations Access to affordable housing has undeniable positive impacts on families, and also encourages growth in the local economy. When tenants are able to live within their means, they can spend money on healthcare, education, transport, and other products and services in the local area. Housing assistance has also been proven to boost the health and academic success of children from low- income households, maximising the chances of financial success later in life, while reducing the long- term costs to society. So…Why should these benefits not be open to everyone? By choosing not to make websites accessible, housing organisations are cutting off access to a significant proportion of the very people they aim to help the most. If you’d like more information on how your organization can make a positive change towards inclusion by utilising assistive technology, please contact our team or book a demonstration of our toolbar. Together, we can make a difference and provide everyone with equal opportunities online.
A recent study found that the disability employment gap between disabled and non-disabled people was nearly 30 per cent in 2020. Why? Because modern recruitment processes rely so heavily on digital technology, many applicants cannot access the information, let alone complete the required online application forms and skills assessments. Download our Guide to Accessible Online Recruitment that we have written in partnership with Guidant Global. This guide will look at online access barriers, who needs support, the barriers that candidates face, why you should be inclusive and tips to provide an inclusive candidate journey.
We are delighted to announce a new Partnership with Eploy, a market leader in enterprise cloud-based ATS and e-recruitment software, to support inclusive recruitment. What does our partnership with Eploy mean? The partnership will enable customers to provide their candidates with an inclusive online journey. Eploy and Recite Me connect through the Eploy candidate portal to make recruitment easy and engaging for everyone, and accessible for all. Candidates are able to use the Recite Me toolbar to customise the content of the website in a way that works best for them. Users can read text aloud, translate content into another language, make styling changes to the page and aid reading with a virtual ruler and a magnifying glass. Both Recite Me and Eploy are excited about this partnership. "We are delighted to welcome Recite Me to the Eploy Marketplace as a partner that our customers can utilise to provide a better, more inclusive user experience with their web accessibility software. Eploy is committed to delivering amazing experiences for everyone involved in the recruitment journey and working alongside Recite Me provides greater flexibility to customise the candidate experience in a way that works best for each individual.” Chris Bogh, CTO at Eploy “Recite Me exists to create inclusive experiences online, so it makes perfect sense to partner with Eploy to provide accessible cloud-based ATS and e-recruitment software. Being able to provide an inclusive candidate experience is key to engaging and attracting the very best talent to achieve your business goals.” Ross Linnett, Recite Me CEO and Founder Why is Inclusive recruitment important? A survey of 4,000 people by the Recruitment Industry Disability Initiative (RIDI) found that 75% of disabled jobseekers have been impacted by their condition when job hunting and 54% have faced hurdles at multiple stages in the recruitment process. Research shows that on average disabled people apply for 60% more jobs before securing one. This demonstrates that inaccessible online and digital communications are preventing disabled jobseekers from flourishing in the recruitment process. How have we helped Dunelm through the partnership? The leading home furnishings retailer Dunelm has been using the Eploy candidate portal for some time to provide an inclusive experience to attract, engage and manage candidates. They are able to offer candidates a customised experience so they can perceive and understand content in a way that better suits them. This enables Dunelm to reach a wider talent pool and create equal opportunities. “Consideration to an inclusive recruitment process were delivered through removing barriers to ensure opportunities are fully accessible to all. Recite Me were engaged to provide a completely web-accessible site that could be customised for users needs to engage and interact with the Dunelm brand and for Dunelm to reach a wider audience.” Paul Jenkins, Dunelm Over the past 12 months, the Recite Me toolbar has supported 2,449 unique users online to explore and apply for jobs barrier-free. Our data shows that: On average users viewed 4.4 pages on the Dunelm careers website, the average internet journey depth is 2.8 pages The most popular feature is the screen reader, 529 translations have been made to Polish, Chinese, Spanish and Panjabi. Reading aids were used 643 times, and 1,783 styling changes were made with 25 people changing the font colour to yellow and 38 people changing the background to black. Learn More If you would like to find out more about the partnership, or if you would like to speak to one of the team about booking a demonstration of our assistive toolbar, please contact us and we will be happy to assist you.
To celebrate Global Accessibility Awareness Day, in this episode of The All-Inclusive Podcast, Ross Linnett is joined by Daniel Fellows, CEO and Founder of Get Optimal, to discuss online accessibility needs and how we can provide an inclusive recruitment process to ensure everyone is able to discover and apply for their next career step barrier-free.