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The life-changing University of Sunderland has 20,000 students based in campuses on the North East coast, in London and Hong Kong and at its global partnerships with learning institutions in 15 countries. They have a long-established commitment to widening participation, world-leading research, public and private sector collaborations and their track record for providing quality student experiences that result in graduates who are the tomorrow-makers of society and the economy.
Everyone has friends, colleagues or family members who have dyslexia. You may not know it, and those who have dyslexia may not even know it themselves. But it’s a condition that impacts at least 10-15% of the population, and many more cases beyond this go undiagnosed. So it’s a simple fact that it affects way more people than you’d think. Dyslexia is a learning difficulty close to our hearts as our founder and CEO, Ross Linnett, is himself dyslexic, and Recite Me was borne out of his passion to make the online world a more accessible place for others like himself. What is Dyslexia? Dyslexia is a learning disorder characterised by problems with reading, writing, and spelling, particularly when it comes to word order and identification. Additional factors that complicate comprehension for dyslexics include font choice, font size, and colour contrasts between written text and the background. Those who suffer from dyslexia may also experience problems with attention span, organization, and timekeeping. What dyslexia is not, is a marker of decreased intelligence. When diagnosed early, children with dyslexia can achieve just as much as any other student. But they will likely need additional tutoring or a tailored education program, as they do not fit into the normal education model of reading and written exams. As awareness of dyslexia increases, schools and colleges are becoming better at identifying signs and symptoms, which in turn means more tools and support for dyslexic students. However, the condition can often go undetected for many years, and in some cases (as with Ross) is not identified until adulthood. This puts dyslexics at a much higher risk of exclusion. A Dyslexics Story As Recite Me’s mission is to make the internet a better place for dyslexics, we asked Ross a few questions so we can share his story with you. The chances are that you or someone you know will share a very similar experience… When you were at school and university, did you ever suspect that your learning style was significantly different from your friends? "Yes. When I was at school I definitely suspected there was something different about the way my brain was working and learning. I was very strong in subjects that didn't have a lot of English, but weak in those that required large amounts of reading or writing. The thing that stood out most was that these weaknesses never really improved no matter how hard I worked on them, whereas with other subjects I got better the more effort I put in. Interestingly, I once said to my English teacher I thought I might be dyslexic, but she dismissed the idea and told me I was being stupid!" What did you struggle with the most in an academic setting? "The thing that I struggled with the most was reading aloud. Basically, I just couldn't do it. I managed to keep my inability/slowness in reading hidden for the most part, but you can't hide when you have to read out loud. I was very confident and happy in school, but the thought of reading in front of the class used to scare the life out of me." What was your feedback from your teachers when you were at school? "Interestingly, the teacher who told me not to be stupid when I said I thought I was dyslexic was very supportive and wanted to help me a lot. She did pass my writing over to a special needs teacher, but she also dismissed that I was dyslexic without even giving me a test. If either of these teachers had been more open-minded, and particularly if the special needs teacher had done a more thorough job, I think my academic experience would have been completely different. However, I do believe that having to work hard and find my own adjustments instead of being given support has provided me with some advantages." When were you diagnosed with dyslexia? "Not until after I had graduated from university. I was giving a presentation and was writing some notes down on paper when a colleague commented that I was displaying all the signs of dyslexia. At this time I was really searching for answers because, in the run-up to exams in the final year of my engineering degree, I had been one of the students that was showing all the others how to answer questions in the mock exams. It was clear I had a lot more knowledge than many of my course mates, yet in a final exam environment I never finished within the allotted time and other students were beating me by up to 20%. A classic sign of dyslexia is taking much longer in exams." How does dyslexia affect your life the most? "The biggest problem areas are still reading and writing. However, within Recite Me, the vast amount of communications I do are internal. Luckily it’s my company, so everybody has the understanding that messages will come through with grammatical errors, and in some cases be hard to understand. It's all about the acceptance of that, rather than me spending two or three times longer trying to make something perfect. The whole mission of our product is to support those who learn and communicate differently, so having a solid internal understanding of how that works in a real-life setting is actually really great for the team. " What changes have you made internally to make the company more Dyslexia aware? "A limited attention span is a common dyslexic trait, so we try to keep meeting lengths down as much as possible - which comes with the added advantage of making our meetings much more efficient and focused. Did you know that Winston Churchill was dyslexic? He would often refuse to have a meeting longer than 20 minutes, and if he can run an entire war operation this way, I'm confident that our business and any other company can also manage!" Dyslexia as a Positive It is common for those who struggle with dyslexia to try and hide it as much as possible, just as Ross did when he was younger. However, being dyslexic is not necessarily a disadvantage as it comes with amplified competence in other areas such as analytical thinking, big-picture thinking, and heightened creativity in general. These are incredibly sought after skills in some of the world’s biggest industries and are particularly useful in areas like IT, analytics, architecture, design, fashion, science, and medicine etc. In fact, some of the world’s most famous innovators have been dyslexic. Prominent examples include Sir Richard Branson, Agatha Christie, and Albert Einstein. In today’s world of constantly evolving technology and fast-paced change, there is more space than ever for those with enhanced problem solving, critical thinking, and leadership skills – all areas in which dyslexics typically excel. However, to provide the best opportunities possible, education institutions and businesses must have a support system in place to allow those who learn and process information differently to succeed. How Technology Can Help Dyslexics can be supported easily through the use of technology like the Recite Me assistive toolbar. Recite Me is perfect for those who have dyslexia as it allows users to: Have text from any website read-aloud to them Download and save any written web content as an MP3 file Choose the exact colour contrast between the text and background Change the font type and size Zoom in on any part of a webpage Use the built-in spell-checker and a fully integrated dictionary and thesaurus It also helps people who suffer from a wide range of other disabilities and impairments such as hyperlexia, ADHD, decreased vision, colourblindness, epilepsy, physical disability, and those who speak English as a second language. Find Out More If you’d like to learn more about supporting your students or workforce with our dyslexia-friendly assistive software, please feel free to contact our team for more information or a book a real-time demonstration of our toolbar. Dyslexia week 2020 is currently underway and runs from the 5th-11th of October. Free dyslexia resource packs for schools, colleges and workplaces are available online via the British Dyslexia Association website.
While the doors of Leicester’s Curve theatre may be closed, the theatre has remained committed to providing a range of accessible features online. To enable everyone to discover shows and digital content, gather vital access information and book tickets, the theatre offers accessibility and language support online. Everyone should have the opportunity to be able to access online content, yet there are over 14 million people across the UK who face barriers when visiting inaccessible websites. The numbers don’t stop there, there are a wide range of reasons why people need online support; • 15% Of UK residents are Neurodiverse • 2 Million of people in the UK have a visual impairment • 15% of the UK population have learning difficulties • 10% of the UK don’t speak English as their first language • 11.8 Million UK residents are aged 65 years and over To create an inclusive digital platform and to break down barriers, Curve provides all website visitors with Recite Me assistive technology. The Recite Me toolbar gives visitors the ability to fully customise the look of the website and ticketing platform for personal ease of use. Comprising of a number of accessibility and language features, the Recite Me toolbar includes text to speech functionality, fully customisable styling options, reading aids and a translation tool with over 100 languages, including 35 text to speech voices and more. Before lockdown, the Recite Me toolbar on Curve’s website supported over 800 people every month with accessibility and language support to discover new performances and book tickets online. Over a 12-month period, this equates to nearly 13,000 toolbar launches, highlighting the importance of creating an inclusive website to support everyone with online access challenges. Curve’s Chief Executive Chris Stafford and Artistic Director Nikolai Foster said: “We believe everyone should be able to access high-quality arts and culture, both on and off Curve’s stages. With the Recite Me toolbar available on our website, the entire online experience is more accessible and personal for every visitor. It’s brilliant to see how many people have already used these features to engage with our theatre online.” Over 750,000 people annually engage with Curve through performances and projects in Leicester, across the UK, and internationally. Under the leadership of Chief Executive Chris Stafford and Artistic Director Nikolai Foster, Curve has developed a reputation for producing, programming and touring a bold and diverse programme of musicals, plays, new work, dance and opera. All of this presented alongside a dynamic mix of community engagement, artist development and learning programmes, which firmly places audiences, artists and communities at the heart of everything the theatre does. In 2019, three Curve originated productions played in London’s West End; On Your Feet! (London Coliseum), Sue Townsend’s The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ - The Musical (The Ambassadors Theatre) and White Christmas (Dominion Theatre).
The University of Sunderland believe that everybody should be treated equally, and opportunities afforded to all. Through hard work, best practicing and technology they continue their mission to support all. We recently spoke to Justine Gillespie the Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Manager at the University of Sunderland to find out what they are doing to create an inclusive University... Please introduce yourself and your organisation My name is Justine Gillespie and I am the Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Manager at the University of Sunderland. I joined the University in 2013 after over 25 years in retail. As an alumni of the University, I feel very proud to be working at the place that was instrumental in steering my career at the outset. I am passionate about its values especially that of inclusion and its focus on widening participation. We have 20,000 students at four campuses across Sunderland, London, and Hong Kong. Our key strengths are sciences, education, advanced manufacturing, software, enterprise and innovation, and creative industries. These strengths are reflected in our internationally excellent research, global partnerships, and knowledge transfer partnerships. We recently opened a new School of Medicine, with the first students starting in September 2019. What is your D&I mission for this year and beyond? Here at the University of Sunderland, we believe that everybody should be treated equally, and opportunities afforded to all. However, we also recognise that treating everyone equally has shortcomings when the playing field is not level. Where possible we take an approach that everyone should be treated according to their needs. Our inclusion strategy focuses on ensuring that everyone at the University, regardless of their background, identity or circumstance, feels valued, accepted and support to succeed. Positive change on inclusion can only come about through concerted, meaningful and intentional action. Can you share some D&I best practice examples? In 2017, the proportion of professorships held by women in UK Universities was declining, despite huge efforts to improve gender equality, and was sitting at 24%. In their report, Advance HE shows that the decline has stopped, but the percentage of female professors still remains at only 25.5%. Since 2013, the University has used gender-balanced panels and Equality Impact Assessments at each stage of the professorial appointments process (designed to ensure that the scheme does not discriminate against any disadvantaged people). Promotions workshops for all potential applicants were also organised, led by a panel of current female professors. As a result, the University can celebrate a different story. In the 2018 Internal Promotions rounds for professors, more than half of applicants and appointments were women. Figures show that 54% of our professors are women, which is more than double the national average and has steadily been growing since 2013. What are you doing across your digital landscape to be inclusive? The University takes the view that inclusion for all is about creating an environment and a culture where staff and students feel valued and included. In today’s work and especially so during this pandemic, everything we do is online. Therefore, it is an important aspect of our inclusion strategy to make our webpages as accessible as possible to everyone. Our digital content team was delighted to collaborate with Recite Me, to provide assistive technology to both prospective and current students. Since its launch in June 2020 the Recite Me accessibility toolbar has been used over 47,500 times. Can you share an example of D&I success at your organisation? During lockdown, we focused on setting up staff networks that were led by the needs of the staff. There was an overwhelming response to the call out for interested staff to set up these networks and within 6 months have set up 8 fully thriving groups who meet virtually every month. The networks are an incredibly powerful way to engage staff in shaping the culture of the University and whilst we are all working remotely these feel more important than ever before. Our networks are: • All Identities Included (LGBTQI+) • Fertility Support • SOLO (Living along or in isolation) • BAME Staff and Allies • CAPS (Parents and Carers) • Enabled (mind and body) Staff and Allies • Menopause Support Concluding message you would like people to take away We are an international and multicultural community, which values and encourages diversity. Inclusion is what is needed to give diversity real impact and drive towards a University where all students are empowered to thrive. Whilst diversity and inclusion often go hand in hand, inclusion is fundamentally about individual experience and allowing everyone to contribute and feel a part of our community and is a value at the heart of the University strategy.
Preston City Council is a district council, working alongside Lancashire County Council as part of a two-tier local government system. They have 48 elected councilors who are responsible for making decisions about the future of Preston and important public services such as planning, housing, leisure and culture, and rubbish and recycling.
To create a fully inclusive online environment Preston City Council now provides Recite Me accessibility software to enable all visitors to access council information barrier-free. 14.1 million people in the UK live with some form of disability and there are 11.8 Million residents aged 65 years and over, all of which can experience challenges online. As a council, it is vital that their content is easily accessible to all, regardless of their needs. To achieve the council's goal of supporting the diverse population of Preston with multimedia communications, over the past 12 months they have provided the Recite Me accessibility software which has enable people with disabilities, learning difficulties, visual impairments, and people who speak English as a second language to experience our website in a way to suit their individual needs. On average every month, they help over 340 unique people with accessibility and language support needs. Over the last year, there has been a total of 4,000 Launches of the toolbar to remove barriers and create a better online experience. When people use Recite Me assistive technology to support their journey, they view on average 5.1 pages, gathering all the information they need. The Recite Me accessibility toolbar provides a unique range features including, text-to-speech functionality, reading aids and styling options, where people can change the colour scheme as well as the texts font style, size, colour, and spacing. For people who speak English as a second language, the toolbar also includes on-demand translation into over 100 languages, including 35 text to speech voices. “We really want to meet the needs of the people who live and work in Preston, and we believe the tools Recite me offer helps us achieve this. Recite Me helps us by making our website and content accessible for all and with Preston such a diverse community it allows the website to be viewed in over 100 languages, making it easier than ever to engage with the Council.” Ian Heslop, Digital and Web Manager, Preston Councils
National Inclusion Week runs from the 28th of September through to the 4th of October in 2020, and is a celebratory week that recognises and promotes inclusion in the workplace. The week is run by Inclusive Employers, the UK's first and leading membership organisation that supports businesses trying to develop more inclusive practices within the workplace. Recite Me are proud to list Inclusive Employers as one of our clients, and National Inclusion Week presents a perfect opportunity to look at digital inclusion from an internal company perspective. The Recite Me assistive toolbar is used by hundreds of companies in both public and private sectors to help customers and subscribers access their products, services, and information. However, many organisations also use Recite Me on internal systems like intranets and learning platforms to ensure company information is also fully accessible and inclusive to their employees. We are a Disability Confident Employer. Are You? Disability Confident schemes exist in many countries including the UK and the USA. The overall aim is to help employers to be more inclusive and explore the benefits of employing disabled people. Although the scheme is voluntary, it is heavily subscribed by progressive and forward-thinking companies, and in the UK alone there are over 18,000 organisations already listed as Disability Confident Employers – Recite Me being one of them, of course. The key for employers is to alter their perceptions and the way they think about disability, and make positive changes to the way they attract, recruit, develop, and retain disabled employees. “Diversity and inclusion is not an initiative but core to who we are as a company and how we run our business operations.” Alexandra Forsch, President of Awin US One of the fundamental challenges companies face when looking at digital inclusion is taking account of the many and varied barriers that employees face online. We tend to think of disabilities purely in terms of mobility and physical restrictions, but in reality, there is a whole range of diverse conditions that can prevent users from gaining equal access to online information. Examples include: Visual impairments Deafblindness Colour blindness Dyslexia Hyperlexia Dyspraxia ADHD Speaking English as a second language Epilepsy The Importance of Being Digitally Inclusive in 2020 This year more than ever before, we have seen a significant shift to remote working due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent studies show that in the coming years, as much as 25-30% of the workforce will be working remotely at least one day per week. This means that businesses need to act quickly to ensure that all of their employees have the tools and support they need to access company systems and contribute to this new way of working. As it stands, the majority of companies are already behind here, as despite a rise to nearly 77% of workers wanting to access business websites, intranets and documents from outside of the office, 38% of employees say that the technology they are provided with doesn’t operate correctly in a remote setting. Supporting Inclusion through Assistive Technology A proven way of supporting people online is by utilising assistive technology. Assistive software allows adaptions to be made to account for several barriers including learning difficulties, visual impairments, disabilities, and varied linguistic needs. Recite Me’s accessibility software supports a diverse range of staff in the workplace by providing a variety of tools that allow users to create a fully customisable experience. Our accessibility features can either be used individually or combined to make multiple adjustments for ultimate ease of use. Users can: Personalise font size, type, and colour options to make each web page easier to read. Utilise the mask screen tool, which isolates parts of the page to help with focus. Use the ruler tool to make reading easier. Download content as an audio file as an alternative to reading. Convert page content into over 100 different on-screen languages. Have the page read aloud in a choice of 35 different languages. Customise PDF documents and have them read aloud or translated. If you’d like to know more about how assistive technology can help make your business more inclusive, you can contact our team or request a demonstration. The Benefits of Being Inclusive Many companies shy away from online accessibility and inclusion factors as they perceive them as being complex, expensive, or simply too difficult to work around. Yet the average cost of making an accommodation for a disabled employee is just a few hundred pounds/dollars, and data shows that employees with disabilities take less time off and tend to stay with companies for longer. So in reality, this is nothing more than a common misperception, especially when you consider all of the additional benefits of becoming an inclusive employer: Drawing from the widest pool of talent available Acquiring high-quality staff who are skilled, hardworking and loyal Improved innovation thanks to the wider perspective you gain by having a more diverse team Demonstrating fairness in the workplace Reduced staff turnover rates overall Improved staff morale Showing customers and other businesses that you are committed to equality in the workplace There is also growing evidence that improved inclusion leads to increased revenue and profits. “According to Accenture’s 2018 study, The Disability Inclusion Advantage, companies that embrace best practices for employing and supporting people with disabilities outperform their peers with higher revenue (28%) and profit margin (30%).” John Stern, Accessibility Advocate Each One, Reach One A significant part of the challenge of becoming inclusive is knowing that the tools exist. So now you know about it, why not tell someone else? We encourage you to start a conversation about inclusion this week! The theme for this year’s National Inclusion Week is ‘Each One, Reach One’. The idea is to make an inclusion chain and inspire individuals and businesses alike to play their part in making inclusion an everyday reality. By reaching out on an individual or organisational level, and helping others to understand the opportunities presented by inclusion, we can all make a positive difference.
European Day of Languages takes place annually on the 26th of September. The aim of the day is to encourage language learning across Europe, and to promote awareness about linguistic diversity and the importance of protecting linguistic heritage. This is definitely something that the team at Recite Me can get behind, as the text translation tool and text-to-speak translation function are two of the most frequently used components of our assistive toolbar. Europe is incredibly diverse in many respects. It is a continent steeped in history, with a wide array of cultures and traditions, beautiful countryside and city vistas, varied architectural styles, incredible food, and of course, many languages. With English being the global ‘lingua franca’, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this is the most commonly spoken language in Europe, but that is not the case. Despite having over 400 million native speakers worldwide, only 70 million reside in Europe, which doesn’t even put English in the top 3 most-used languages across the continent: Russian – 120 million native speakers German – 95 million native speakers French – 80 million native speakers English – 70 million native speakers Turkish – 70 million native speakers Italian – 69 million native speakers Spanish – 45 million native speakers Ukrainian – 45 million native speakers Polish – 40 million native speakers Dutch – 22 million native speakers The implication for business here is significant – if your website is only available in English, then you are missing out. Even if your company only operates in the English market, you are still excluding the 10% of the population who speak English as a second language. Accounting for Languages in Business Globally, around 1 in every 4 internet users speaks English as a first language, so it is common practice, particularly for western companies, to publish their website in English first and foremost. However, the case for having your website available in more languages is clear – accessing the other 75% of the market! “When your site is available in multiple languages, you attract the attention of an international market. You also become identified as a global brand which elevates your status and improves your reputation. Consumers tend to trust global brands more than ones that are only known locally.” Nick McGuire, E-commerce specialist and blogger Many website owners try duplicating their website into multiple languages. But for smaller businesses this can be difficult due to budget restraints as the more languages you add, the more expensive it becomes. Plus, some languages require complicated coding. Take Arabic and Hebrew for example. Not only does the text need to run from right to left, but the whole layout will need to be altered and many graphical elements will need to be repositioned to account for the change. Then comes the problem of which languages to prioritise. Granted, most companies will take time to research and analyse their website traffic data before spending on multilingual sites. However, simply knowing which countries website visitors come from doesn’t necessarily guarantee success. For example, if a website doesn’t receive any visits from Italian internet users, does that mean there is no interest in those particular products or services in Italy? Or simply that there are not enough translations in Italian to attract potential buyers? One of the best ways to avoid all of the question marks and make your website inclusive to as many users as possible is to use assistive technology. Recite Me’s assistive toolbar makes websites inclusive by providing: Text translations in over 100 languages Text-to-speech in 35 languages A built-in dictionary and thesaurus to check definitions The Benefits of Being Linguistically Inclusive There is always a cost-benefit analysis to consider when looking at expanding your online presence, and being inclusive of different linguistic needs does not disappoint when it comes to the list of benefits: Increased revenue – data shows businesses that translate their landing pages and ads can expect to gain up to a 20% increase in conversions. Discover new markets – A translation service on your website can open up your company to new customers from markets you previously could not access - or were not aware you could access. Get more website traffic – The more people you can attract and keep browsing on your website, the better your site will do in search engine rankings. Build trust and strengthen your brand – More visitors to your website means more awareness of your brand in general. But also, customers favour brands that are value-driven, so you can further improve your brand reputation through being inclusive of varying linguistic needs. Statistics & Case Studies Currently, Recite Me software is helping thousands of companies to be more inclusive. In the last 12 months, our toolbar made 21,663,682 translations in total, and the top five languages used were Arabic, English, Spanish, French, and Italian. This is not to say that these languages will always be the most used. That will come down to what industry you are in, and where your company is based. In terms of industry sectors, services that are regularly used by a wide cross-section of the community are some of the most important when it comes to being inclusive. This includes businesses like utility companies and transport providers: Western Power delivers electricity to over 7.9 million customers over a 55,500km² area in the Midlands, the South West, and Wales. In the past 12 months on their website, users have made over 6.5 million translations using the Recite Me. Gatwick airport is the second busiest in the UK, and the 9th busiest in Europe. Over the past 12 months using Recite Me software on their website, users have made nearly 2million translations. South Western Railway operates almost 1,700 train services per day, and is the main provider of rail transport in western Surrey, Hampshire, and Dorset, and also serves London, Berkshire, Wiltshire, Somerset, and Devon. In the past 12 months on their website, users have made nearly 100,000 translations using the Recite Me. The education sector benefits significantly by making accommodations for those who do not speak English as a first language. 2019 statistics show that there are almost half a million international students enrolled on higher education courses in the UK: Merthyr Tydfil College offers over 30 A Levels, a range of vocational courses, and is home to around 4000 students. They have seen half a million translations the past 12 month with the Recite Me software on their website. Ed Place offers home learning solutions from year 1 through to GCSE. Since installing Recite Me software on their website, users have made over 350,000 translations in total across the various Ed Place domains. London University is home to nearly 227,000 students and was one of the first educational institutions to embed the Recite Me toolbar onto their website. In the past 12 months, users have made over 80,000 translations. You don’t need to be a national corporation or large institution to benefit from translation tools, however. Even smaller local and regional businesses are seeing the advantages: Everton FC is a premier league football team whose stadium regularly hosts between 36,000 and 38,000 home fans in the stands on match days. Over the past 12 with Recite Me installed on their website, users have made over 70,000 translations. Situated in the heart of London, the Strand Palace Hotel offers a range of rooms and services for both leisure and corporate guests. In the last year with Recite Me software on their website, users have made nearly 20,000 translations. The Jorvik Viking Centre in York welcomes over 400,000 visitors per year. In the past 12 months and through the pandemic they have seen users translate nearly 6000 pieces of content. Get ‘Down with the Lingo’! While European Day of Languages aims to break down linguistic barriers in a more general and social sense, we hope you are starting to see the benefits of being inclusive of more diverse language needs online. If you need more information, statistics, or would like to see a demonstration of how our assistive toolbar works, please feel free to contact our team. If you would like to get involved in European Day of Languages on the 26th, the European Centre for Modern Languages (ECML) has set up a website with multiple resources including activities, games, fun facts, and self-evaluation tools, available in 37 languages.
Cura specialises in helping people with medical conditions, high-risk occupations, hazardous travel, and sports, to get good value insurance. Since 2012, Cura have been dedicated to helping as many individuals as possible to secure insurance policies. Many have previously been turned away by other brokers as ‘uninsurable’. They pride themselves on finding the right insurance products for clients where others cannot.
Cura, insurance experts enhance their website with Recite Me accessibility software to provide a barrier-free experience to obtain good value protection insurance. Cura specialises in helping people with medical conditions, high-risk occupations, hazardous travel, and sports, to get good value insurance. Cura’s work has seen many people that have been declined insurance elsewhere, to have the vital protection that they and their family need. At the start of this year, Cura began consultations with organisations about how they could develop some best practices for the whole insurance industry to address accessibility barriers. Across the UK over 14 million people have some form for disability who can encounter challenges online. To address this Cura now offer accessibility and language support on their website enable everyone to navigate, perceive and understand the content easily. The Recite Me assistive technology toolbar enables people to customise their online experience to suit their individual needs. The toolbar provides many accessibility and language options including text to speech functionality, fully customisable styling features, reading aids and a translation tool with over 100 languages, including 35 text to speech voices and many other features. Kathryn explains “We believe that this is an essential area of inclusivity that needs to be given clear focus. For us, an easy and essential way for us to improve Cura’s services has been adding Recite Me to our website in June of this year. This language and accessibility bar enables users to have documents read aloud to them, to download text as an MP3 file, change fonts, colours, sizes, to translate into over 100 different language and has a fully integrated dictionary and thesaurus.” Ross Linnett, Founder & CEO of Recite Me commented, “It is great to see Cura paving the way to improving web accessibility within the insurance sector. Being able to support everyone online to read and understand important information is crucial to providing great customer service to people who need it the most.”
The Equality Act as we know it today came into place in 2010, updating a number of anti-discrimination laws relating to race, gender, age, disability, religious belief, and sexual orientation, among other factors. It encompasses information previously found in the Equal Pay Act of 1970 and the Disability Discrimination Act of 1995, and is the go-to piece of legislation that companies need to consider when it comes to making their websites accessible and inclusive. Equality Act of 2010 Since the Equality Act came into effect, website owners have been obliged by law to ensure that their websites are accessible to all users, as it is illegal to treat those with disabilities less favourably. The regulations set out in the Equality Act apply to all service providers. So it is particularly important to public sector organisations like transport providers, local authorities, law enforcement, healthcare providers, emergency services, education institutions, and infrastructure suppliers. However, not being a public sector organisation doesn’t necessarily mean that the rules don’t apply to you. While the precise meaning of some of the terms in the Equality Act can be ambiguous, there is a general consensus that the ‘provision of a service’ applies to commercial web services just as much as it does to conventional public sector services. What Does the Equality Act Mean to You and Your Business? If you in the public sector, then the Public Sector Web Accessibility Deadline is your most pressing concern. Updates to the Equality Act that came into force in 2018 state that all public sector websites need to follow the principles of the World Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) accessibility Level AA by 23 September 2020. Based on our most recent data, only 74% of UK public sector sites currently comply with WCAG 2.1 AA. If you are in the private sector, then the chances are you don’t have a particular deadline on the horizon to work towards. But this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t put the same amount of effort into making your website accessible to as many users as possible. Making your website accessible is the right thing to do, and the benefits include enhanced brand reputation, increased market share and profit, and reduced legal risk. Plus, the principles of the World Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) do still apply to private companies. Understanding Accessibility Needs Having an inaccessible website means that users with varying disabilities are unable to access your information, goods, and services. Not only is this discriminatory, but it is foolish when you consider that at least 1 in 5 people have a long term illness, impairment, or disability – and many more may have temporary disabilities that affect their ability to access your site. Specific barriers that can make your website inaccessible include: Visual impairments Deafblindness Colour blindness Dyslexia Hyperlexia Dyspraxia ADHD Speaking English as a second language Epilepsy Mobility and physical impairments With such a broad spectrum of accessibility barriers, the pitfalls of an inaccessible website are wide-ranging, but the most common problems are with websites that: Are not easy to use on a mobile Cannot be navigated using a keyboard Have inaccessible PDF forms that cannot be read using screen readers Have poor colour contrast that makes the text difficult to read Do not have adequate link descriptions and/or alt text descriptions on images Use images containing text that is unreadable by speech synthesiser software How to Comply with the Equality Act The key for website owners is to adopt a design and layout that is clear enough so that most people can use it, while also supporting those who need to make adaptions. Many people assume this process would be complicated and costly, but that is generally not the case. “Many of the most common accessibility issues making sites difficult or impossible to use in a non-traditional way can be easily fixed.” Sam Stemler, web accessibility author Under the Equality Act, companies are required to make reasonable adjustments to their websites to make them more inclusive. The four cornerstones of the guidelines for compliance help eradicate the errors listed above, by requiring websites to be: Perceivable – Accommodating for various sensory differences in vision, sound, and touch so that users can comprehend and consume the information in a way that is perceivable to them. Operable – User interface and navigation components on a website must be usable by all. Understandable – Both website information and operation of the user interface itself must be consistent and understandable. Robust – The website must be standards compliant and able to function using all applicable technologies, including assistive software. Assistive Technology Solutions Software solutions like the Recite Me assistive toolbar helps websites to be totally inclusive through a suite of customisable accessibility and language options. When equipped with Recite Me accessibility software, websites become instantly accessible, readable, and much easier to understand. The software has been designed with WCAG principles at the core of the product, but our goal is to do much more than simply ‘tick the box’ on compliance for reasonable adjustments. Recite Me is about creating a totally inclusive digital environment, where users can: Personalise font size, type, and colour options to make each web page easier to read. This is beneficial to readers who have dyslexia, dyspraxia, colour blindness, or decreased vision in general. Download content as an audio file, which is great for those with vision problems. Access text to speak functions in 35 different languages, which is beneficial for all site visitors with English literacy issues. The text can be read aloud at different speeds with either a male or female voice, which is great for autistic users too. Utilise the screen mask and ruler, allowing those with ADHD and other attention disorders to focus rather than being distracted by other content on the page. Convert text content into over 100 different on-screen languages, which is ideal for those for whom English is not their first language. Make use of the toolbar’s built-in dictionary and thesaurus to check word definitions. This is particularly important for users with conditions like hyperlexia, who can read words but not necessarily understand their meaning. Switch to “text-only” mode. This feature is favoured by those with conditions like Epilepsy, as they can strip away any media or graphics that may cause a seizure. Want to Know More? If you are still confused by any of the jargon and terms, or unsure whether your website meets the Equality Act criteria for compliance, feel free to contact our team for more advice and information. You can also schedule a demonstration of our toolbar in action if you’d like to get a better idea of how it works, and how it can help you attain a more perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust online offering.
Violence Free Colorado was founded in 1977 and is the statewide domestic violence coalition in Colorado, USA. They work with hundreds of organizations and individuals in local communities across their state to prevent and end relationship violence and support those affected by relationship abuse. They do this by building the capacity of domestic violence and other community-based programs across Colorado, through their statewide advocacy and social change efforts, and by informing the public about domestic violence and survivors’ needs.
Diversity and inclusion have been considered important topics in business for some time already. Companies want to be viewed as supporting equal opportunities, and many businesses have developed comprehensive policies that embrace a more diverse workforce and support their customers better in the physical world. But when it comes to considering diversity and inclusion online, it is often the case that not as much thought has been given to the process. It is here that companies stand to gain the most in terms of brand reputation. Traditionally, diversity and inclusion policies have been focused on factors such as gender, race, sexual orientation, cultural background, age, and those with disabilities. In the online world, however, there are a whole host of additional conditions that put users at a disadvantage, yet we don’t necessarily think of as a disability. This includes vision problems, motor difficulties, cognitive impairments, language issues, and learning difficulties. There are over 1 billion people around the world who suffer from one or more of these disabilities, and their combined spending power is estimated to be around $6 trillion. So there are obvious financial benefits to being inclusive online, but there are also many benefits to your brand and reputation… What are the Brand Benefits of Being Inclusive? In short, welcoming people with varied disabilities and access needs allow you to promote your commitment to inclusion, the benefits of which include: More people having positive experiences with your brand. Building more brand ambassadors who are loyal to your brand. Demonstrating corporate social responsibility and community support. Better SEO results - SEO best practices and conformance to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) already overlap more than people think, and early indicators suggest that Google and other search engines will soon be incorporating accessibility factors into their algorithms. At Recite Me, we are confident that the resulting advantages outweigh any effort that is required to become inclusive, and there are several different ways to look at these benefits from different perspectives when conducting your cost-benefit analysis… The Customer Perspective If your company isn’t viewed as being inclusive, some customers simply will not spend their hard-earned dollars on your products and services. Recently, Forbes reported that 52% of all adult online consumers consider a company’s values when making a purchase. That rate is even higher among the Millennial and Gen Z generations, who are incredibly socially conscious in their purchasing habits. So to maximise sales, build stronger customer relationships, widen the customer base, and ultimately enhance profit margins, companies must be inclusive. The Employee Perspective Being an inclusive employer evokes a feeling of pride across the whole organisation, so there are benefits to be found in staff satisfaction, loyalty, and reduced turnover rates. Being inclusive also sets you apart as an employer of choice and will increase the pool of candidates who want to interview, work, and stay with you. And by attracting a more diverse team, you will gain a wider perspective and become more innovative. Being ‘The Good Guy’ Customers favour brands that care about helping others. In a world where consumers are increasingly value-driven, any company that actively promotes inclusivity in its operations will gain a more positive brand identity. Being a supporter of the community is important, and having empathy and making adjustments for the benefit of more marginalised members of our society is deemed a valuable quality. So prioritising web accessibility presents a great opportunity to generate positive PR. Not Being ‘The Bad Guy’ One of the main pitfalls of not being inclusive (along with reduced revenue and legal implications) is the increased risk of tarnishing your brand reputation. One of the best examples of this is Domino’s Pizza, who were sued by Guillermo Robles, a blind man who was unable to order food on the company’s website. Domino’s response was to take the case to the Supreme Court by arguing that the American Disabilities Act (ADA) should not apply to the digital world. The lack of empathy shown by the company backfired, resulting in a particularly brutal brand bashing on Twitter, and an overall negative public response. Becoming a Market Leader Embracing accessibility and becoming inclusive to all customers sets you apart from your competition. As it stands, fewer than 10% of businesses have a targeted plan to access the disability market, and over 98% of homepages across 1 million popular websites failed to meet legal accessibility standards in 2019. So by prioritising accessibility and inclusion on your website ahead of your competitors, you have more chance of cutting out a niche for yourself and gaining more customers. Plus, your products and services will be perceived as more credible and authentic. “Digital businesses with accessible websites are demonstrating leadership by example. They are showcasing proof that ethical accessibility practices can help increase brand credibility, inclusion for all, and online conversions.” Kim Krause Berg, Web Design Standards and Compliance Specialist The Financial Incentive Making a business accessible online increases profits as well as brand attraction, and allows your company to compete for its share in the $6 trillion disability market. What’s more, the initial outlay is normally negligible compared to the benefits, especially when you consider that: 71% of web users simply leave a site that they find hard to use. 83% of people with access needs limit their shopping to sites that they know are accessible. 86% of users with access needs would spend more if there were fewer barriers. The annual online spending power of people with access needs is now £24.8 billion in the UK and $490 billion in the USA. How to Make Your Website Inclusive We hope by now the ‘why’ is clear, but just how exactly do you go about making your website inclusive? Many businesses allow accessibility and inclusion factors to slip to the bottom of their ‘to do’ lists, as they think them too complex, expensive, or difficult to work with. But the truth is, it’s actually very straightforward and much more cost-effective than you’d think to make your website inclusive. The main steps to consider are as follows. Your Website Build - Most web designers can coach businesses on the best practices for a build that will increase traffic and conversions through making content more accessible. There are many factors to consider, but a few key examples are: Using a content management system that supports accessibility Using headings correctly to structure your content Including alt text for all images Giving descriptive names to your links Being mindful of colour use and colour contrasts Ensuring forms are designed for accessibility Being keyboard friendly Compliance with Accessibility Legislation & Guidelines - It is expected by law that businesses and service providers do not treat those with disabilities less favourably. The World Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) provide minimum standards that all business globally should adhere to, and outside of this, there will be additional national and international standards and regulations. The ones that apply to your business will depend on where your company is based, but examples include: The Equality Act of 2010 (UK) The European Accessibility Act (Europe) The Americans with Disabilities Act (USA) Utilising Assistive Technology – Software solutions like the Recite Me assistive toolbar promote inclusivity by allowing those with sight loss, cognitive impairments, learning difficulties, physical disabilities, and varying linguistic needs to access your website in the way that is best suited to them. Recite Me toolbar functions include: Fully customisable text size, font, and spacing. The ability to change text colour and background colour contrasts. A screen mask to provide colour tinting and block visual clutter. Additional reading aids such as an on-screen ruler and text-only mode. Text-to-speech functions in 35 languages. A real-time translation feature catering to over 100 languages. Learn More About Becoming Inclusive If you would like to enhance your brand reputation by joining thousands of other businesses who have already made their websites inclusive, we invite you to contact our team for more information. We are happy to advise you on compliance procedures and guide you through the process, and we already have experience in installing our software on websites across a wide range of sectors. So whatever field your organisation lies in, we can make a big difference to your brand!
To support everyone visiting the Abertay Housing Association website to access important information regarding social housing, they now provide Recite Me accessibility software. Across the United Kingdom, 14.1 million people lie with a disability and there are 11.8 Million residents aged 65 years and over, all of which can experience barriers when online. The Recite Me accessibility support toolbar will enable all staff and website visitors to read and understand important information easily on the Abertay Housing website. Across Dundee and Angus Abertay Housing support people in vulnerable situations with 1,800 houses to enhance the quality of life across their communities. This includes over 270 retirement housing properties across the city. It is vital that they are able to communicate with the people that need support the most, which includes on our website. Everyone visiting the Abertay Housing Association website will now be able to customise their website with a number of unique features. These assistive technology tools including text-to-speech, reading support functionalities, styling options, where people can change the colour scheme as well as the texts font style, size, colour, and spacing. For people who speak English as a second language, the toolbar also includes on-demand translation into over 100 languages, including 35 text to speech voices. Marjorie Sloan, Corporate Services Director commented, “We have been considering adding an accessibility tool to our website for some time, and Recite Me provides all we were looking for. We hope it will assist people to easily access the information provided.”