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To ensure digital inclusion and to improve user experience, Promo Direct has installed web Accessibility and language support tools across their website. One of the USA’s leading promotional product companies, Promo Direct, is offering a practical approach to addressing access barriers to their website by installing a state-of-the-art web accessibility tool. This inclusive solution provides 61 million adults in the United States living with a disability complete control to customize their online experience. Dave Sarro, CEO of Promo Direct, commented, “We believe that the internet should be available and accessible to everyone. We at Promo Direct are committed to delivering a website that is accessible to a wide range of audiences, regardless of their ability and circumstance.” People with disabilities, learning difficulties, visual impairments or people who speak English as a second language will be able to use a wide range of features to support their visit, including, text to speech reader, fully customizable styling tools, reading support features and a translation function with over 100 languages, including 37 text to speech voices. Mr Sarro, added, “Our website makes use of cutting-edge technologies that will make it accessible to anyone at any given time. People can conveniently access the Promo Direct website to gain smart marketing insights, discover awesome promo products, access the latest publications, and read business-related news. With our efforts, we hope to build a future where nobody is left behind.”
As Greek philosopher Heraclitus once famously stated, “the only constant is change”. For most of us, this has never been more apparent than in 2020, which has proved to be a year of monumental change. We’ve witnessed changes in the way we work, changes in the way we socialise, changes in our ability to travel, and changes in how we communicate. Essentially, there has been some element of change in almost every aspect of our previously normal lives and routines. Some of the biggest and most impactful changes of 2020 involve the internet, as so many of our daily tasks and activities have been pushed from the real world into the digital realm. For some of us this has been a learning curve, and at times frustrating. But for many in our society, it has proved impossible. We tend to think of the world wide web as a place where everyone has instant access to information at all times, but that’s simply not the case. So as International Human Rights Day approaches on December 10th, we’d like to take the opportunity to look at the inequalities that exist online, and why, especially in turbulent times such as these, web accessibility should be considered a basic human right. Inequality Online When Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the world wide web, he envisioned it helping to empower society by making information accessible to everyone, everywhere. “The power of the Web is in its universality… It is fundamentally designed to work for all people, whatever their hardware, software, language, location, or ability. When the Web meets this goal, it is accessible to people with a diverse range of hearing, movement, sight, and cognitive ability. Thus the impact of disability is radically changed because the Web removes barriers to communication and interaction that many people face in the physical world.” Sir Tim Berners-Lee We’ve discussed at length in previous articles the varied groups who face barriers online. In short, whether due to a temporary, lifelong, or age-induced disability, those with learning difficulties, vision deficits, language issues, and cognitive or neurological disorders 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 mousepad. 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 universal as it could be, and that when badly designed, websites and applications create barriers that prevent a significant number of people from using them. The Real Life Impacts of Inaccessible Websites While the number of examples is almost infinite, you can begin to gain an appreciation of how vulnerable and excluded people can become, especially during lockdowns, by examining just a few key areas of everyday life. Inaccessible websites and apps make it either difficult or impossible for users with access needs to: Manage finances – If information on online banking websites and applications is not accessible users cannot transfer funds, trade stocks and shares, manage savings and pension plans, or renew expiring credit and debit cards. To add insult to injury, they may not even be able to find details on a local branch for face-to-face assistance. Shop – Whether it’s doing the weekly grocery shopping, renewing household goods, or buying clothes, toiletries, and other everyday items, inclusive websites are essential to facilitate purchases. Plus, with Christmas just around the corner, inaccessible websites exclude users with access needs from buying gifts for their friends and family. Pay bills – Imagine the stress of not being able to pay your bills online and becoming fearful of having your heating, water, electric, or phone services cut off, simply because you were unable to use the providers’ websites. Work – 2020 has seen a significant shift to remote working. Many users struggle here, as the tools and support they need to access company systems remotely are often ill-considered. Even without touching on accessibility factors specifically, 38% of remote employees in 2020 said that the technology they are provided with didn’t operate correctly in a remote setting. Apply for jobs – Simple processes like registering with a recruitment agency can feel like an insurmountable challenge when websites are not accessible, and the task of completing online applications forms is made almost impossible. Even using job boards or business sites like LinkedIn and Upwork is so much more time consuming for those with access needs. Learn – During lockdown thousands of students migrated to online learning. But not everyone learns in the same way and it is almost impossible for any stand-alone online learning portal to accommodate for every type of access need. So those facing online barriers risked falling behind in their studies more than others. Access general information – More than ever before, the internet remains an essential source of information where people can research and compare options, keep updated on global developments, look for local services, and stay in the loop with community issues. All of this is only possible when the relevant websites are accessible, however. Keep in touch with friends and family – With human contact reduced during COVIS-19, not having access to inclusive websites and apps for communication with loved ones only further marginalises those with disabilities. Even when social gatherings are allowed, this invariably requires booking in advance which involves the use of online forms or using contactless apps that are not feasible to use on inaccessible sites. This is just a short list of some of the most important variables that govern our lives, and how those with disabilities and varying access needs are at a disadvantage. Between them, these factors determine our capacity to earn an income and keep ourselves fed, housed, warm, and in touch with one another. If that doesn’t constitute a set of basic human rights, we don’t know what does, so it’s incredibly important that more is done to provide all members of society with equal access. The Recite Me Pledge Recite Me believes passionately in barrier-free online support for all. So during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been offering to host a free accessible and inclusive landing page for any business, allowing organisations to share COVID-19 related messages and information with staff and customers. Since we initiated our pledge we have: Provided pledge pages for over 140 organisations Supported over 55,000 individual users to access information Of course, having just one webpage accessible to everyone is not a long term solution, but it’s a good start. More Change, Please! While it’s encouraging to see more and more businesses switch on to the concept of inclusion there is still a long way to go, as currently, over 98% of website homepages fail to comply with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). What’s needed is a shift in thinking. To achieve inclusion, we must change the way we think about the vulnerable and those with disabilities. Just as the United Nations ‘Build Back Better’ strategy seeks to create equal opportunities for all in the physical world by protecting people of vulnerable nations and communities against future disasters and shocks, we must strive to do the same in the online world by making it accessible to all. More than ever, the internet needs to be a place of equal opportunities, and unhindered access should be a right: Ecommerce companies must increase the value they place on those with access needs. After all, the disability market is worth billions of pounds nationally, and trillions globally. Service providers should ensure that billing details and customer support options are available to every single subscriber. Public sector bodies must act to ensure their websites and apps comply with the relevant local and national requirements and laws. Employers should consider adjustments and additional tools to ensure digital diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Education organisations must ensure their distance learning and online teaching programs are inclusive of all individual access needs. In a nutshell, we must all change the way we think about disability, accessibility, and inclusion. “Accessibility is a fundamental human right. Our intention is to make products that change people's lives. That make them simpler and easier and better. Not just for some people but for everyone. When you start with that, accessibility just naturally flows into everything you do." Sarah Herrlinger, Director of Global Accessibility Policy & Initiatives at Apple 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 real-time demonstration of our toolbar. Together, we can make a difference and provide everyone with equal opportunities online.
On December 3rd we will be celebrating International Day of People with Disabilities (IDPD) 2020. The disability market is considered to be the largest minority group in the world, as current data suggests that at least 15% of the world population are living with some sort of disability. This accounts for over a billion people in total! Our goal on IDPD is to spread awareness of the need for better support online for people with disabilities. Providing equal access opportunities for all is particularly important this year, as the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the population online more than ever before. Most of us will have struggled with the realities of COVID-19 in one way or another, but for those who face accessibility barriers online it has been a particularly challenging time, and the lives and mental well-being of those with disabilities have been disproportionately affected. Not All Disabilities Are Visible The theme for IDPD 2020 is ‘Not all Disabilities are Visible’, and this is something that we are incredibly aware of here at Recite Me. All too often, the word ‘disabled’ is used solely to describe physical and mobility issues, whereas, in reality, the term covers so much more than that. Particularly when discussing online access, disabilities can also include: Visual impairments - It is estimated that at least 2.2 billion people worldwide have a vision impairment. Learning difficulties - Dyslexia alone affects at least 15% of the population, and a further 5% suffer from attention disorders like ADHD. Literacy and language barriers - Around 1% of the population in developed nations have issues with basic reading and writing, and up to 1 in every 5 households speaks a language other than English at home. Neurological disorders – Approximately 450 million people are living with a mental or neurological condition. Examples include epilepsy, dementia, and Parkinson’s disease. Developmental disorders – Around one in every hundred people are on the autism spectrum. Temporary disabilities – Millions of new cases of chronic pain, fatigue, and brain injuries occur each year as a result of accidental injury. Individuals with one or more of these issues often struggle to access information on websites, as they may not be able to use a mouse, read the text properly, focus on the information they need, or find their way around a busy screen. International guidelines do exist to reduce these barriers, but unfortunately, accessibility principles are often overlooked. Web Accessibility for Disabled Users in 2020 Each year, a comprehensive analysis of the top 1 million home pages is completed by WebAIM, a nonprofit web accessibility organisation based at Utah State University in America. The program also studies hundreds of thousands of interior website pages to identify trends and areas for improvement. Sadly, the state of the internet from a disabled users’ perspective still leaves much to be desired, as 2020 WebAIM statistics show that: 98.1% of home pages have Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) compliance failures. This figure is up from 97.8% in the 2019 study. The number of web accessibility errors overall increased by 2.1% between 2019 and 2020. Home page complexity has increased significantly, meaning users with disabilities can expect to encounter accessibility errors on 1 in every 14 home page elements. It’s not all bad news though, as data does show small improvements in some areas. However, there are still far too many companies out there making web accessibility much harder than it needs to be. Often, significant improvements can be made by making simple adjustments such as: Formatting pages properly using descending H tags Ensuring alternative text is present on all images Adjusting colour contrasts Making sure there are no empty links or buttons According to WebAIM, addressing these concepts alone would significantly improve accessibility across the world wide web. Besides, not only are these good principles for best practice in general, they also impact SEO results in a positive way. So there is no incentive for companies not to make their websites more accessible. In fact, improving web accessibility by removing barriers should only strengthen the brand value, not to mention make the business more profitable. Did You Know…? The spending power of the disabled market is over £2.25 trillion annually! How is Recite Me Making a Difference? At Recite Me, we believe in accessibility for all and an inclusive online world. This starts by creating awareness on an individual and organisational level by helping others to understand the opportunities presented by inclusion. By guiding our clients through the same process, we hope we can all make a positive difference together. Essential Services This year we have found ourselves building and developing more and more relationships in the charity and public service sectors. This is important to us, as making sure information and services are available to everyone during the global pandemic is of utmost importance. "We help people in financial need, so accessibility is essential. The Trust is delighted that with the support of Recite Me, we now provide barrier-free access to our online application forms. Enabling people with a range of accessibility issues, including visual impairments, dyslexia, colour blindness and other forms of neurodiversity, as well as those who need to use alternative languages to apply " Jessica Taplin, CEO of British Gas Energy Trust We now support over 100 charitable organisations, local councils, utility providers, and transport companies. In the last 12 months, we have helped over 1.5 million people to read and understand content online. Our assistive toolbar is installed on well over 2000 websites worldwide, allowing site visitors to strip away barriers and create a 100% customisable experience. Our accessibility and language support options include text to speech functionality in 35 languages, on-page translation in 100 languages, fully adjustable styling features, reading aids, and the ability to change the look and layout of the page to suit individual preferences. Covid-19 Information During these uncertain times, Recite Me is on hand to support businesses and help ensure that all online information related to COVID-19 is accessible and inclusive for everyone. To that end, we are offering to host a free accessible and inclusive landing page for organisations to share their Coronavirus messages with all of their staff and customers. “When information is vital, it is vital that information is accessible and inclusive for all.” Ross Linnett, Recite Me CEO and Founder Is Your Business Striving for Digital Inclusion? There is no better time than on International Day of People with Disabilities for companies and brands around the globe to make positive changes and ensure their website and web content is fully accessible to everyone. We recommend all organisations take the following steps: Make sure the build of your website is up to date in terms of best practices for accessibility. Develop a thorough understanding of the WCAG and ensure any required updates are completed for compliance. Look into assistive technology solutions like the Recite Me toolbar to bridge the gap between accessibility and usability, creating an inclusive online experience for all users. If you’d like to join the thousands of businesses who have already integrated our accessibility software onto their sites and are seeing the benefits, please contact our team or book a demo.
International Day of People with Disabilities was an opportunity for Recite Me CEO Ross Linnett to take stock and think back on the crazy year we have been through and reflect with close business partners on how this has affected people with disabilities and neurodiverse conditions. This round table discussion brought together Prof Amanda Kirby, CEO of DO IT Solutions, Caroline Turner, CEO of Creased Puddle and Susan Sanford, CEO of Sue Sanford Specialist Coach. This open discussion goes in-depth about if there has been a shift in the understanding of neurodiverse conditions throughout the pandemic? Have individuals and companies been able to adapt psychically and mentally to understand that the world we live in is different and everyone will work in different ways? The team shares some great advice on how people can work from home effectively by trying a number of useful tips. They also share real-life feedback and how businesses can change their outlook to help staff. In concluding the conversation the question is asked of the team if businesses can learn from the pandemic and put diversity and inclusion at the forefront of their strategic plans for 2021? A big thank you to Amanda Kirby, Caroline Turner and Susan Sanford for joining Ross Linnett for International day of people with disabilities.
This year we’ve noticed a sharp increase in the demand for inclusive websites, as the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed individuals and businesses online more and more for everyday tasks and communication. As I’ve been saying for a while now, when information is vital, it’s vital that information is accessible to all. That’s why we made a pledge to support businesses with a free inclusive landing page to keep their staff and customers up to date with accessible messages and updates about COVID-19. Our team spends a lot of time explaining accessibility principles to existing clients and prospective buyers. This normally includes discussing best practices, accessibility and inclusion goals, and how the Recite Me assistive toolbar can help to achieve them. The Business Benefits of Setting Inclusion Goals Hopefully, you already want to make your web content available to as many people as possible just because it’s the right thing to do. But if you still need convincing, there are a number of direct benefits to your business: At $3.02 trillion annually, the spending power of the disabled market is hard to ignore. Some accessibility features already form part of search engine algorithms, and indicators suggest that accessibility will become an even more significant part of SEO calculations in the near future. Being inclusive boosts your brand value, as some customers simply will not buy from companies who are seen to exclude minority groups. Reduced risk and fewer chances of facing financial penalties, either in the form of fines for non-compliance or individual court cases based on accessibility discrimination. Who Needs Web Accessibility Adjustments? No two people’s needs are the same, so I find it always helps to go back to basics and get a firm understanding of who needs help and why before we get into the complexities of best practices, standards, and the role of assistive technology. In short, lots of people require accessibility adjustments. Whether it’s a temporary need because of an accident or injury, a long-term requirement due to a lifelong condition, or simply a byproduct of the natural ageing process, many people struggle to access information on the internet in the same way the rest of us do. There are four main categories of barrier that affect web accessibility, and invariably all of those include ‘hidden disabilities’ that are often not considered when looking at website design, layout, and compliance with best practices for inclusion: Physical problems – examples include motor disabilities, repetitive stress injuries, and epilepsy. Visual impairments - such as partial blindness, colour blindness, and deafblindness. Cognitive, learning, and neurological issues - like dyslexia, dyspraxia, hyperlexia, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Language issues - this includes poor literacy in general as well as those who do not read English as a first language. Individual Benefits of Digital Inclusion The sky is the limit here. Most of us take it for granted that we have instant access to information and services online, and these days we use the internet for almost everything. From job searches, banking, and paying bills to shopping, booking holidays, and staying in touch with friends and family, we rely on the internet to keep us connected. Inclusive websites remove barriers so those with disabilities, learning disorders and language barriers can enjoy the same level of access and benefit from the same opportunities as everyone else. Web Design: Accessibility Versus Inclusion We’ve noticed that there are still some sizeable gaps in understanding over what it means to have an accessible website, whether that’s the same thing as being inclusive. As we’ve discussed in previous articles, your website isn’t necessarily inclusive just because you’ve made it accessible. You can tick all of the right boxes for a more accessible website build, but what makes a website truly inclusive is personal ease of use. Every internet user is unique. We’re all individuals with our own needs and preferences, and it’s virtually impossible to account for the full array of diverse needs without additional technology. Working Example: Take an internet user who is dyslexic, and has specific preferences for a particular font, its colour, size, and the contrast ratio between the text and background. But they are also predisposed to epilepsy and have a sensitivity to light and movement, meaning they also need to strip away image carousels or graphics from a webpage before they can read it comfortably. Even by applying the best web design practices and being in compliance with the relevant laws and guidelines, all of these needs are impossible to accommodate simultaneously without additional software. That’s where Recite Me comes in. Our technology and supporting services bridge the gap between accessibility and usability. We create more inclusive online experiences by giving people as many choices as possible in how they view and consume the information on a webpage. Put simply, accessibility + usability = inclusion. Web Accessibility Guidelines & Statutes The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) provide minimum standards that all businesses should adhere to. WCAG guidelines define how content should be made more accessible to those with disabilities, and at Recite Me, we stand by the 4 main cornerstone principles by making online content: Perceivable – Accommodating for various sensory differences. For example, our toolbar provides text-to-speech in 35 languages and also offers the option to convert website text or documents like PDFs into audio files. Operable – User interface and navigation components on a website must be usable by all. Recite Me assistive technology provides users with a screen reader for easier navigation. The screen reader also supports content reading time as users can control text-to-speech reading speeds. Understandable – Both website information and operation of the user interface itself must be consistent and understandable. Recite Me styling features allow people to change the way the content is displayed by customising the website's colour scheme as well as font style, size, colour and spacing. Robust – Websites must be standards compliant and able to function using all applicable technologies, including assistive software. Our assistive toolbar is delivered as SaaS (Software as a Service). Once installed onto your website, you will receive regular updates and always have the latest version. Bear in mind that while the WCAG covers what you should do to make your website build accessible, every region has rules in place listing what must be done to meet minimum legal web accessibility requirements. What type of organisation you are part of will also be an important factor as the rules vary depending on whether you are a private company, a not-for-profit organization, a public sector body, or a government department, etc. The most important thing to bear in mind, however, is that legal compliance shouldn’t simply be about covering your bases. The whole reason these laws exist is to make information clearer and easier to read for those with varied accessibility needs. So you should always keep that insight as the end goal. “Accessibility isn’t a checklist, and standards aren’t a target. I’ve worked with some clients that were more interested in compliance with standards than with making their site accessible. It was as if, for them, accessibility was just a somewhat interesting by-product of their work on complying with accessibility guidelines and standards.” Nicola Steenhout, a prominent speaker and consultant on inclusion, accessibility, and disability. Using Assistive Technology to Achieve Inclusion To go beyond accessibility and be inclusive, you need to support everyone who needs to make adaptions, and that’s where assistive technology really makes the difference. As I hinted earlier, we like to think of the Recite Me toolbar is the bridge between accessibility and inclusion. By making your website more usable on a case by case basis, no matter what adjustments are required, we provide the ultimate ease of access to as many site visitors as possible and create more inclusive online experiences. “The single most important thing to understand is that people use websites in very different ways. This doesn’t just mean disabled people using special equipment, but everyone – regardless of whether you might think of them as having a special need.” Mel Pedley, Black Widow Web Design Not sure whether your website is accessible, inclusive or compliant? Our team is on hand to guide you, so feel free to contact us for a no-obligation chat or a demonstration of our toolbar.
To provide accessible information online to over 29million passengers every year, Orlando International Airport now provides an inclusive experience on the MCO website. Passengers with disabilities spend over 17.3 billion dollars a year on travel and 34 percent say they would travel more if impediments were eliminated. The importance of online accessibility is greater than ever. Effective online communication is critical and being able to provide personalized assistance online gives everyone the ability to research and book travel arrangements in a way that works for them. Orlando International Airport has rolled out Recite Me accessibility and language support across its website to enable everyone to gather this vital information barrier-free. Supporting travelers with a wide range of disabilities and impairments, from dyslexia to sight loss and color blindness, to easily access their content. “Orlando International Airport (MCO) has a long history of innovative solutions to spearhead its focus on customer service and added one more in early 2020 by adding the Recite Me accessibility toolbar to its web site. Recite Me was not only a more cost-effective solution for delivering web content in foreign languages but also added so many more accessibility tools to improve the user experience for visitors to our site.” Jerry Harris, Assistant Director of Marketing & Air Service Development The Recite Me assistive toolbar is accessed by the “Accessibility” button at the top of the Orlando International Airport website providing a unique range of tools including, text to speech functionality, fully customizable styling features, reading aids and a translation tool with over 100 languages, including 35 text to speech voices and many other features. Recite Me works across all mobile and desktop devices to enable support through a traveler’s full journey.
Orlando International Airport (MCO) is managed by the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority and opened its doors in 1971. MCO is the busiest airport in the state and the tenth busiest airport in the United States. Annual they help over 29,000,000 passengers to travel around the world.
One of the key attributes of Recite Me is our close working relationship with all clients. Understanding their need then educating and guiding them correctly to understand the online world of accessibility and inclusion. On our journey, we crossed paths with Barbara Grehs, a Senior Digital Professional who was also on her own mission to provide the best possible online experience. After implementing Recite Me across two platforms we sat down with Barbara to rewind back to the start of her journey to find out more about her passion and where her mission started for wanting to provide an inclusive online experience for everyone. Beginnings My awareness of web accessibility began when I joined a housing association in 2014 that was using a cloud-based accessibility toolbar. As someone who thrives on user experience (UX), I instantly “got” the contribution this type of functionality made to providing an inclusive experience for all visitors. From that moment on, I made it my goal to find out as much as possible about web accessibility. What does “great” look like? As I explored the subject in more detail, I came to realise that accessibility isn’t simply about providing an accessibility toolbar: truly accessible websites have a combination of the following key characteristics: Adherence to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) standards Responsiveness (work well across all devices) Accessible design (colour schemes, fonts, and tagging of images and PDFs) Clear menu structure (easily understood by users) Easy to find information (ideally no more than three clicks from the homepage) Plain English standards set at a level that matches the users’ needs Clear and engaging content Inbuilt accessibility tools as a minimum, but preferably (in my view) cloud-based from a specialist third party provider Carrying the prestigious Internet Crystal Mark for web accessibility Window of opportunity In 2015, the housing association put out a call to staff to apply as candidates for a new Inclusive Ambassador initiative. Keen to make a positive contribution from a digital perspective by championing best in class web accessibility for customers, I applied and was accepted. Around the same time, our budget to build a new corporate website from scratch due to an ageing content management system (CMS) was approved. It was the moment I had been waiting for: I instantly made web accessibility one of the KPIs in the scoping of the new build. Foundations and launch We founded the new website build on two core principles: user focus and collaboration. Working intensively with internal stakeholders, I mapped out a user-focused menu structure and user-led content. Our in-house creative team had superb knowledge of accessible design principles and guided the web agency through the design phase. The web agency’s team were experts in responsive builds and really came into their own with this chance to create a new website. The housing association was also a member of Plain English Campaign, whose expertise and advice I sought on many elements of plain English. Coincidentally, around that time the housing association was also at a regulatory point of needing to issue an invitation to tender for its cloud-based web accessibility. The tender was won by Recite Me, a new supplier for the housing association, and we were able to synchronise the introduction of the product alongside the build process. It was a dream of mine to win Plain English Campaign’s prestigious Internet Crystal Mark for the new website. I submitted the application shortly after launch and, much to my delight, we were awarded the mark. Our internal communications programme along the way had created lots of interest in the new website, and colleagues were particularly enthusiastic when we announced the news about the mark. Onwards and upwards After moving on from the housing association in 2019, I began a 12-month maternity cover contract at a London university. Although there had been a refresh of the corporate website earlier that year, there were no in-built or third-party accessibility tools. Having had such a positive experience with Recite Me, I immediately set about championing its introduction at the university via a process of internal stakeholder engagement. We launched the product a couple of months before the end of my contract. Many colleagues were particularly interested in the potential for Recite Me to be used on additional platforms owned by the university, such as the intranet and portals. My thoughts on Recite Me Having honed my expertise in web accessibility over the past six years, I can honestly and objectively say that I have never seen a product of the scope, quality and reliability of Recite Me. It has become my “go-to” web accessibility product for one key reason: wherever an organisation might be in its journey to providing great web accessibility, Recite Me is a route to quickly improving the user experience for those with a disability and/or neurodiversity requirement. The functionality includes read aloud of text, interactive dictionary, translation tool with over 100 languages, colour schemes (with personal preference setting), font style (including Open Dyslexic font), screen ruler, screen mask, clutter-free view, and magnifying glass. The subscription represents excellent value for money, often amounting to fractions of a penny per user per year. It can be extended to work on additional domains owned by an organisation (intranets, portals, microsites). Detailed monthly reporting provides numbers of users, feature usage, mobile/desktop and browser information, and can be linked to Google Analytics. In addition to all of this, the Recite Me team really excel at customer service: they are collaborative, supportive and really listen to their clients. Today, despite a corporate focus on inclusivity, I still see many websites that could benefit from improvements to their accessibility. Less than 50 websites in the UK carry the Internet Crystal Mark. I believe that all organisations need champions to advocate best in class web accessibility, so that every single visitor can enjoy an inclusive user experience. In my view, the Internet Crystal Mark sets the standard for this, and I hope to see more and more organisations make this an integral part of their website KPIs the future. Links WCAG https://www.w3.org/WAI/standards-guidelines/wcag/ Plain English Campaign http://www.plainenglish.co.uk/ Internet Crystal Mark http://www.plainenglish.co.uk/services/internet-crystal-mark.html Barbara Grehs, Senior Digital Professional LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/barbaragrehs/
With Black Friday and Cyber Monday fast approaching, retailers are hoping for a big surge in online sales, as current lockdown measures mean in-person shopping is unlikely. Trends from this weekend will undoubtedly set a precedent for Christmas shopping habits next month. There has already been a significant shift to online shopping in recent years. Last year on Black Friday, 142.2 million people in the US shopped online, compared to only 124 million people who chose to shop in-store. Meanwhile, in the UK, online shoppers spent well over £1.5 billion on Black Friday. In fact, the number of online shoppers on Black Friday surpassed those of Cyber Monday, which is typically when shoppers flock to the internet in droves to pick up the best digital deals. Online Shopping Trends in 2020 The tendency to buy online has only been amplified in 2020, due to the social distancing measures imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Industry research suggests that: Online holiday spends in 2020 is expected to surpass $189billion in the US and £84.5 billion in the UK, an increase of nearly 33% on 2019 figures. 66% of shoppers will increase their online spend this year 65% of shoppers will buy online to avoid crowds This is good news for online retailers, and many businesses are looking forward to a period of increased profitability at the end of what has been a difficult year. Typically, even small businesses receive revenue boosts of over 100% during the holiday season, and data shows that around 38% of consumers this year will make a deliberate effort to shop local and support smaller businesses. Financial Gain: the result of being inclusive It is incredibly important that companies take steps to support disabled customers online, as we already know from sources like the Click Away Pound Survey, 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. From these statistics, it should be fairly obvious that the business case for making websites more inclusive is a no-brainer. Providing the right experience for people’s buying habits It’s also worth thinking a little more in-depth about your target demographic. Millennials were the biggest spenders on Black Friday in 2019 with an outlay of hundreds of pounds/dollars per person and a 25% increase in year-on-year spending from 2018. Millennial and Gen Z generations are incredibly socially conscious in their purchasing habits, so if your company isn’t viewed as being inclusive, some of this group simply won’t spend on your site. FACT: Less than 10% of businesses have a plan in place to target the disability market Consumers Need Accessible Websites A word of warning to retailers – just because the potential market is there does not guarantee you a share of the spend. What many online store owners forget is that a significant percentage of their potential customer base includes buyers who face barriers when accessing websites. Those with learning difficulties, visual impairments, physical disabilities, and varied linguistic needs find e-commerce sites incredibly difficult to navigate and use for a multitude of reasons. This makes online shopping an almost impossible task, and these users will need additional support to be able to use your website at all, let alone make purchases on it. So the key to gaining more traffic and sales is to make your website accessible to everyone. Last month (October 2020) over 162,000 people used Recite Me assistive technology to aid their online journey, and all over the world companies are using assistive technology to enable website visitors to better read and understand their content. “Being able to make your website welcoming and easy to use for all customers is key to creating the perfect online experience. Ross Linnett, CEO & Founder of Recite Me Case Study: Awin Awin is a global affiliate marketing network that partnered with over 15,000 advertisers and more than 211,000 publishers in 2019, generating over 150million sales in total. Responsible for connecting businesses and customers around the world in sectors ranging from finance and telecommunications to retail and travel, equal access to all website visitors has been an important consideration for the Awin team. Awin recently launched a Recite Me toolbar on their American and Canadian websites so that site visitors can access information and services barrier-free. "At Awin, diversity and inclusion is not an initiative but core to who we are as a company and how we run our business operations. Recite Me allows us to ensure an inclusive online environment and positive user experience for all of our partners and employees. We couldn’t be more thrilled to provide this tool for their website usage. " Alexandra Forsch, President of Awin US How to create an Inclusive Online Shopping Experiences While many businesses invest heavily in enhancing branding and the general user experience (UX) to maximise their online stores and sales, not enough seem to have considered accessibility and inclusion factors. Assistive technology is one of the easiest and lowest-cost solutions to provide equal access to all consumers. For example, the Recite Me toolbar removes barriers for all users by: Accounting for differences in vision - users can adjust the font size, font type, and use a screen reader for better focus and ease of reading. Removing barriers for people with learning difficulties - toolbar functions include options for changing colours and colour contrasts between background and foreground, the spacing between words, and stripping out distracting graphics. Providing information in clear language - we provide text to speech in 35 languages, on-screen translation in 100 languages, and inbuilt spell check and thesaurus functions. Making your website easier to navigate - keyboard accessibility allows users can navigate to interactive elements, which in turn, can also be used with keyboard functions. Providing accessible publications - our DocReader means PDF documents on your webpage are also accessible. Hundreds of organizations already use Recite Me to make their websites more accessible for people with disabilities and are seeing great results. “The Recite Me accessibility and language support toolbar enables all website visitors to browse and purchase hassle-free. People who face online challenges because they either have a disability, learning difficulty, visual impairment or speak English as a second language, can now use a wide range of support functions to aid their shopping.” Mat Robinson, Hornets Retail Store, Watford FC To learn more, please contact our team, or book a demonstration. Installation typically takes less than an hour, so if you act now, you will be ready for a successful Christmas shopping season!
Curve is a spectacular state-of-the-art theatre based in the heart of Leicester’s vibrant Cultural Quarter. Opened in 2008 by Her Majesty The Queen, our award-winning building, designed by acclaimed architect Rafael Viñoly, offers a completely unique visitor experience. Over 750,000 people annually engage with Curve through performances and projects in Leicester, across the UK, and internationally.
Have you heard of dyspraxia? Many people haven’t, and as such may be tempted to skim past this article assuming it does not apply to them or anyone they know. However, it is a condition that affects around 10% of the population in total, and at least 3-4% in a significant way. So, the chances are that in any classroom or office space there will be a student or colleague who has dyspraxia and needs to be supported. What is Dyspraxia? Dyspraxia is a neurological disorder, also referred to as Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD). Typical symptoms include clumsiness, poor spatial awareness, forgetfulness, and difficultly mastering motor skills. In a formal learning or professional environment, common difficulties can include being overwhelmed by information, problems with spelling, and struggling to read and process information at the same rate as others. Dyspraxia is a lifelong disorder but can often go undiagnosed in children or be confused for other learning difficulties or disabilities. For example, our guest blogger from last year, Daniel Cobb, was not diagnosed until the age of 43. Did you know that over 15% of the population are neurodiverse? As with most other neurological disorders and learning difficulties, dyspraxia is not a marker of intelligence. Those who have it simply have brains that work differently and don’t assimilate information in the same way as other people. You can read more about dyspraxia on the Dyspraxia UK website. Dyspraxia and Web Accessibility Because dyspraxics often suffer from sensory overload, busy web pages with lots of text and many graphics can be overwhelming, and therefore reading and processing on-screen information is difficult. Some colour contrasts also present problems, black text on a white background being particularly hard to read. When you consider that this accounts for the vast majority of websites, it becomes clear that the online world is not as navigable for dyspraxics as it is for other users. This puts them at a significant disadvantage using websites and online communication channels for everyday tasks and can also make job searches much more difficult. Whether it’s using job boards or business sites like LinkedIn and Upwork, or simply registering with a recruitment agency or completing an online application, dyspraxics will need to spend much more time on each task, and the process can be incredibly frustrating. Dyspraxia and Employment Dyspraxia needn’t stop people from being successful or finding their dream job, but employers need to be mindful that dyspraxics on their team may need additional support. At Recite Me, this is something we actively encourage. The average cost of making an adjustment for an employee is typically 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 any outlay is almost certainly recouped many times over. Equally importantly, dyspraxia is included in the list of disabilities covered under the Equality Act of 2010, so many employers have a legal obligation to make reasonable adjustments. Dyspraxic employees display similar qualities to dyslexics in that they are often creative thinkers and strategic problem solvers, and are generally highly motivated and hard-working. Many modern-day employers see the benefits of a team that includes neurodiverse members, as it allows them to be more progressive and develop better strategies for working effectively. In fact, many top-end companies and organisations actively seek out neurodiverse employees: Facebook – Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg recently praised a dyspraxic teenager who created a developmental disorders app. GCHQ Intelligence Agency - To maintain operating as a world-class organisation, the agency formally recognises that different kinds of thinkers are required, and admits to placing a high value on candidates who are cognitively different from their peers. Ernst & Young - Senior partners at the company believe that employees with disabilities are more empathetic, more resilient under pressure, and have well- developed coping strategies, making them particularly attractive to the firm. Supporting Dyspraxia Online Recite Me assistive technology is the perfect solution to help businesses and organisations support their neurodiverse team members, as users can make singular or multiple adjustments to adapt the way web content is presented to suit their individual needs. To combat accessibility barriers presented by dyspraxia specifically, the Recite Me toolbar offers: A totally customisable screen reader Options to have content read aloud in over 35 different languages Full control over the speed at which the text is read aloud Customisation options for text font, colour, sizing, and spacing A spell-checker and a fully integrated dictionary and thesaurus Find Out More In the increasingly digital landscape of 2020, it has never been more important that everyone has equal access to information online. For further details on becoming more inclusive by utilising our assistive technology, please feel free to contact our team or book a demonstration of our toolbar.
To support all website visitors from around the world Landsec now offers accessibility and language support options on 30 of their leisure and retail websites. Landsec is one of the leading real estate companies in the UK with a portfolio value of £12.8bn spanning across retail, leisure, and residential which includes, Trinity Leeds, Bluewater Shopping Centre, and Xscape Yorkshire. To enable all website visitors across their expanding digital landscape to engage with their retail and leisure outlets barrier-free, they now provide Recite Me assistive technology. This inclusive software provides everyone with the option to customise their online experience to suit their individual needs. The easy-to-use toolbar includes screen reading functionality, styling options, multiple reading aids, and an on-demand live translation feature which boasts over 100 languages include 35 text to speech. Taking this step forward to create an inclusive online world falls in line with Landsec's outlook on diversity and inclusion throughout their business. Mo Kebbay, Landsec’s Diversity & Inclusion Manager, is delighted to be using Recite Me on our website and believes it marks another step forward for Landsec’s D&I journey. Mo commented, “Online inclusion is a central part of our work and we are excited to be working more closely with the team at Recite Me going forward as we aim to break down the barriers for our employees and customers”.
Today marks Purple Tuesday, an international initiative that celebrates diversity and creates awareness about the spending power of those with disabilities. Commonly known as ‘the purple pound’, the e-commerce spending power of this consumer group is all the more important this year, as during 2020 our society has been pushed online on a daily basis much more than ever before. Of course, physical accessibility factors are still an important consideration, but as the largest minority group in the world, it is important to remember that the disability market covers much more than physical disabilities alone. So businesses must consider digital accessibility in their long term strategies and ensure the inclusion of those who struggle with cognitive, learning, and neurological disorders, have visual impairments, poor literacy, or read in English as a second language, as well as those who are physically disabled. The Disability Market Spending Power Approximately 20% of people in the UK and 25% of people in the USA sit in the disability market. The sheer size of this market demonstrates why it is vital that website content is accessible and inclusive for everyone. With a spending power of £24.8 billion in the UK alone (around 10% of the total online spend), it also emphasizes how considerable the potential opportunities are for businesses who can step up to meet the demand for accessible websites. “Ensuring that disabled people are able to access shops, restaurants and clubs isn’t just the right thing to do - it makes business sense too. By failing to cater to their disabled customers, many businesses are missing out on the spending power of disabled people and are denying them the opportunity to enjoy something which many people take for granted. There is still time to get involved in this important initiative and I encourage businesses across the country to do just that - and reap the rewards.” Sarah Newton, Minister of State for Disabled People, Health and Work The Click Away Pound Click-Away Pound is a research survey that analyses the online shopping habits and experiences of people with disabilities. The latest survey in 2019 demonstrates in relatable terms exactly how important it is for retailers to provide digital accessibility on their websites and apps: 70% of online consumers surveyed will click away from websites that they find difficult to use. 83% of participants limit their shopping to sites that they know are accessible. 86% of respondents choose to pay more for products from accessible websites rather than purchase the same products for less on websites that are harder to use. 35% of users with access needs use a smartphone as their preferred device for online shopping. Only 8% of users with access needs will contact the site owner about any accessibility barriers they experience. At Recite Me, we believe that online shops and services should be open to everyone. But despite these overwhelming statistics, many retailers still don't design and build their websites and apps to include everyone, turning away millions of customers and billions in revenue in the process. E-Commerce Trends Internet service providers like BT's Openreach reported a 20% surge in internet use in the first quarter of 2020. But even before the Covid-19 pandemic, retailers were already seeing a significant shift towards online shopping year on year: In 2018, the market penetration rate of digital consumers worldwide was already 47.3%. The global online shopping market size is predicted to hit 4 trillion by the end of 2020. According to a study by Invesp, the USA and the UK are the countries with the highest average e-commerce revenue per shopper, at $1,804 and £1,629 per person per annum respectively. The British Retail Consortium expects that over half of all UK retail sales will be online within 10 years. The USA is expected to have 300 million online shoppers by 2023. That’s 91% of the entire population! We are living in a time where more and more daily tasks and transactions are taking place on the internet, so these statistics highlight the need for imminent action in order to meet the demand for more accessible online products and services. The Disability Market & E-Commerce Trends The spending power of disabled people and their families is rising by 14% per year on year, yet less than 10% of businesses have a plan in place to target the disability market, and over 98% of homepages across 1 million popular websites failed to meet legal accessibility standards in 2019. As only a small percentage of consumers contact companies directly when they run into accessibility barriers online, it is possible that most businesses aren’t aware of how inaccessible their websites are. What is clear, however, is that people with disabilities will buy more and are prepared to pay premium prices to businesses that offer them a better and more accessible online service. So businesses that are forward-thinking and progressive would do well to act now to ensure survival and continued success. "Digital communications can influence every stage of the visitor’s decision-making process, and as the first port of call for many people planning a trip, it is important that our website reflects inclusivity and allows people of all abilities to access the information they need.” Emma Burdett, Web & Digital Marketing Manager, Visit Belfast How to Support Disabled Shoppers Online We encourage companies to take the Purple Tuesday pledge and make changes to improve the online experiences of people with disabilities. Making your website welcoming and easy to use for all customers is key. Not just on Purple Tuesday, but every day, 365 days a year. If you think you might be missing out on the Click Away Pound, the Recite Me assistive toolbar is a simple and highly effective solution that can be embedded onto your website in a matter of minutes. Our software allows consumers barrier-free access to explore products and services online. Features include: A screen reader for easy navigation and focus. Styling options to fully customise text style, size, and spacing, and alter colour contrast for ease of use. Reading aids such as an on-screen ruler and text-only mode. A translation tool with over 100 text languages and 35 text-to-speech voices. Make Your Website Accessible Today! Join the thousands of satisfied clients who have already successfully integrated our accessibility software onto their sites and are benefiting from the value it provides. “Diversity and inclusion is not an initiative but core to who we are as a company and how we run our business operations. Recite Me allows us to ensure an inclusive online environment and positive user experience for all of our partners and employees.” Alexandra Forsch, President of Awin To find out more or to book a demo please contact the team.