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

Inclusive websites: the journey from start-up to industry standard

11 Feb 2021 | news

Have you heard of mind time? It’s the theory that suggests time passes quicker as you age, and is definitely something I’ve been feeling lately! It’s hard to believe that Recite Me is now into our second decade of operating. As the old saying goes, time really has flown! From a small regional start-up we’ve grown into a multi-national organisation, and the Recite Me accessibility toolbar is now installed on over 2,500 websites and supported over 2million unique users last year alone. Over the years we’ve branched out into more and more industries, and taken on bigger and bigger clients. Back when we first started, web accessibility was not really a thing, and what we do at Recite Me always took a fair amount of explaining – and that was just to family and friends, never mind the clients! Happily, those days seem to be behind us as more and more businesses are striving for online inclusion. We’re still some way off achieving our goal of accessibility and inclusion for all. However, we’re proud to say that we are already making a positive difference, and every month we are joined by more industry leaders. The Big Wins One of my proudest moments was when British Gas signed up with us at the start of this year, becoming the first energy supplier to offer an inclusive online experience in the process. With a customer base of over 12million, we can’t wait to see how much of a difference our assistive toolbar can make. It’s estimated that 1 in 5 people live with some sort of disability that can create barriers to website accessibility. Examples include decreased vision, physical disabilities, learning difficulties, attention disorders, autism, plus language and literacy issues. So within the British Gas customer base, we’re expecting to see a large volume of launches of the Recite Me toolbar, hundreds of thousands of page views, and lots of styling changes and language adaptations that make the website easier to read and understand on an individual user level. The Recite Me Passion From the start, web accessibility has always been a passion for me as I suffer from dyslexia myself and often struggled throughout school and university as a result. So my dream has always been to help others like me to have an easier time and a more digitally inclusive experience. This is the principle at the very core of the business. It’s all about the benefits to the end user, and how web accessibility technology can bring people together. This is an ideology that runs throughout the company and has been adopted by the whole team. Needless to say, I could not be prouder of all our amazing Recite Me staff, both past and present, who have worked so hard to bring us to where we are now. We’ve come a long way together, and it has definitely been a team effort. I’m already looking forward to seeing what happens this year and what other amazing things we can achieve. The Recite Me Pledge The passion and desire to make a genuine difference is why we launched the Recite Me Pledge back in March 2020. The effects of lockdowns during Covid-19 have pushed many businesses and consumers online, so it’s now more important than ever that people are kept up to date with the latest pandemic information and how it will impact them and the services they use. As part of our commitment to digital inclusion, the Recite Me Pledge offers to host a free accessible and inclusive landing page for any business where important COVID-19 messages and updates can be accessed by staff and customers Looking Forward Our accessibility data trends from 2020 show no signs of slowing down, and the demand for accessible websites has never been higher. Ensuring web accessibility and inclusion is the right thing to do, but aside from the feel-good factor, there are many other advantages such as increased web traffic, reduced legal risk, and an enhanced brand image. People are always interested when I get talking about what I do and what services Recite me offers, and there is no better time than right now to get ahead of the curve and embrace online inclusion. I invite you to learn more about inaccessible websites, the need for assistive technology, and how to become a more digitally inclusive business by reading our mini guide to web accessibility in 2021. Here’s wishing you all a healthy, happy, and inclusive 2021! - Ross Linnett Founder & CEO Recite Me

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The Value and Importance of Accessible Websites in the Utilities Sector

08 Feb 2021 | news

Fact: Every home needs access to gas, water and electricity. Yet, utility services are not always readily available to all. Throughout the last year, many customers have been homebound due to COVID-19 restrictions and unable to access services and information easily online. One of the easiest ways to ensure information is accessible to all is to utilise assistive technology. Recite Me is proud to be working alongside many of the country’s leading utility organisations already, including: British Gas Utilita Northern Powergrid Cadent Gas Limited Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water United Utilities Northern Gas Networks Northumbrian Water Western Power Distribution Severn Trent Water There are now well over 60 individual gas and electric suppliers to choose from in the UK, and the internet remains an essential source of information where people can research and compare their options. So it’s not just the utility providers themselves that need to be considering consumer accessibility needs, but also the many comparison sites that help people make the best financial decisions. We invite all energy suppliers and utility comparison websites to follow in the footsteps of these industry leaders and make their websites more inclusive. "Recite Me was the easy choice for Cadent not only because it was straightforward to implement but because it is so user-friendly for our customers and has such a broad range of features to support accessibility. We particularly like how an online customer can save their preferences, meaning that when they return to our pages they continue to have a personalised and hassle-free experience. " Jo Giles, Customer Safeguarding Manager, Cadent Creating an Inclusive Platform to Attract a Wider Audience Accessibility is the right thing to do. But there is a well-established business case for embracing assistive technology too. Making your website inclusive opens up an extra 20% of market share, as 1 in 5 people have increased online access needs. This includes those who: Have decreased vision – an estimated 2.2 billion people globally have a vision impairment. Struggle with literacy – around 1% of the population have issues with basic reading and writing. Are Autistic – around one in every hundred people are on the autistic spectrum. Speak/read English as a second language – up to 1 in every 5 households speaks a language other than English at home. Suffer from attention disorders – an estimated 5% of the population suffer from attention disorders like ADHD. Have learning difficulties - dyslexia alone affects as much as 16% of the population. Are affected by physical disabilities – millions of people have temporary or long term conditions that make the use of standard keyboards and computers difficult. Helping Customers in Vulnerable Circumstances We’ve outlined in previous articles why we believe accessibility is a basic human right, and this is particularly important when it comes to basic services like access to gas, water, and electricity. Anyone with one or more of the access needs listed above can fall into the category of being - or becoming - vulnerable. In the online world specifically, this means lacking the necessary tools to access and/or adequately understand information, and having the ability to communicate with suppliers online. In 2018, The Commission for Customers in Vulnerable Circumstances was established by Energy UK, and four out of the seven key themes include accessibility factors: Regardless of which company provides their energy, consumers in vulnerable circumstances should be well served and supported. The same minimal level of service should be available to all customers. Communication should come in a range of options that allows consumers to reach and be reached by their supplier in a way that meets their needs. Smart energy systems should help, not hinder, the experiences of customers in vulnerable circumstances. Optimizing Self-Serving Accounts Press 1 for frustration! With the continued closure of many retail outlets, customer service teams have been inundated with calls. Wait times have been at an all-time high, with consumers on the end of the phone not knowing if their call will be answered in 5 minutes, 5 hours, or not at all. “After calling twice and being on hold for over 50 minutes each time, I was disconnected. I tried to call back a further 3 times, but could not connect at all. I kept trying at different times of day hoping this would help, but was either disconnected again or unable to get through. Finally, I gave up. “ Christopher Dodds, on trying to reach his internet service provider by phone Improving web accessibility and providing more practical and efficient ways for customers to communicate online can help avoid situations like this. Plus, it not only improves customer service but uses employee time more effectively. How Assistive Technology Helps With the Recite Me assistive toolbar installed on your site, those with sight loss, cognitive impairments, learning difficulties, attention disorders, and literacy issues, and varying linguistic needs can access your website in a way best suited to their individual requirements. Users can: Personalise font size, type, and colour options to make each web page easier to read. Download content as an audio file as an alternative to reading. Access text to speak functions in 35 different languages. Have text read aloud at varying speeds. Utilise a screen mask and ruler for better focus. Convert text into over 100 different on-screen languages. Make use of the toolbar’s built-in dictionary and thesaurus. Switch to “text-only” mode to strip away graphics and page clutter. Utility Sector Data Trends Last year utility companies using Recite Me accessibility and language support witnessed: A significant rise in usage - 15,000 unique users in February grew to 21,000 by April, and 24,000 by June. More than 232,000 toolbar launches Over 944,000 website pages read using the Recite Me toolbar You can find out more in our 2020 accessibility trends report. Join us in making the online world a more inclusive place for everyone! Contact our team today to find out more or book an online demonstration.

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British Gas Become the First Energy Supplier to Offer an Inclusive Experience Online

02 Feb 2021 | news

British Gas leads the way as the first energy supplier to offer an inclusive experience online for over 12 million customers. By providing Recite Me assistive technology across their website, British Gas now enables all website visitors to read and understand online content easily. To drive British Gas’s commitment to support consumer vulnerability, there was a vital need to address digital inclusion. 14.1 million people in the United Kingdom have a disability (19% of adults) and can face obstacles online as a result. By providing accessibility and language support across their website, British Gas is removing barriers for people with disabilities, learning difficulties, visual impairments, and those who speak English as a second language. By using Recite Me’s innovative accessibility software to create a more inclusive environment, British Gas customers are able to self-serve their accounts, and other website visitors can research product and services barrier-free. Cecil Edey, Conduct and Consumer Vulnerability Manager at British Gas commented, “As the largest energy and services provider in Britain, it’s vital that our online customer support is accessible to all the diverse communities we serve around the country, which is why we are proud to launch the “Recite Me” accessibility toolbar on our website.” The Recite Me assistive toolbar provides a wide range of features to enable all users to fully customise their online journey to suit their specific individual needs. Features include a multi-language screen reader, fully customisable styling options, reading aids, and a translation tool with over 100 languages, including 35 text-to-speech voices.

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01 Feb 2021 | case-study

FirstGroup plc is a leading provider of transport services in the UK and North America. They create solutions that reduce complexity, making travel smoother and life easier. With £7.8 billion in revenue and around 100,000 employees, they transported 2.1 billion passengers in 2019.

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FirstRail boosts digital Inclusion

01 Feb 2021 | news

FirstRail prides itself on being a company that goes the extra mile to maintain communication and quality of service. Part of their commitment to providing the best possible online experience includes the additional layer of inclusive software across their digital landscape. By utilising accessibility and language technology solutions from Recite Me, FirstRail has supported over 19,200 people to read and understand the content on their website’s barrier-free during 2020. The unique assistive toolbar helps everyone across, and websites to customise their online experience to suit their own individual needs. 2020 data shows that 145,191 pieces of content were read aloud using the text-to-speech engine and 305,889 pages were translated into a different language, including Mandarin, French, and German. Other support tools include styling and reading assistance. 8,232 styling changes were made in total, including alterations to font type, size, and colour, and overall colour contrast between background and foreground. Studies show that 1 in 5 people have impairments that make accessing online information challenging and excluding 20% of the population is not something that the FirstRail team were prepared to accept. Subhash Mishra, Head of Digital Strategy at FirstRail commented, “We chose to install the Recite Me assistive toolbar to make our website not simply accessible, but to be truly inclusive to all. Accessing the internet can be a challenge for some key customer groups. This includes customers who may have decreased vision, struggle with literacy, are autistic, speak and/or read English as a second language, suffer from attention disorders, have a learning difficulty, or are affected by physical disabilities. "It is a pleasure to work with a specialist provider like Recite Me who takes great care to understand customer needs. We are proud to be a digitally inclusive company that values each and every online visitor” The Recite Me toolbar includes fully customisable styling features, reading aids, screen reader and translation tools, meaning their web pages can now be consumed in a way that is personalised and tailor-made to each unique website visitor.

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Computacenter Provide An Inclusive Digital Experience

28 Jan 2021 | news

To enable website visitors worldwide to access content barrier-free, Computacenter now offers enhanced accessibility and language support. Providing an inclusive toolkit of options enables everyone to customise their online journey in a way that best suits individuals' needs. Computacenter is a leading independent technology partner, trusted by large corporate and public sector organisations to source, transform and manage their IT infrastructure to deliver digital transformation. Computacenter is a public company quoted on the London FTSE 250 (CCC.L) and employs over 16,000 people worldwide. The importance of online accessibility is greater than ever. At least 15% of the world's population are living with some form of disability, resulting in facing barriers when accessing online content. Recite Me accessibility software provides everyone with an inclusive online experience. The toolbar includes screen reading functionality, styling options, multiple reading aids, and an on-demand live translation feature that boasts over 100 languages include 35 text to speech. Andrew Jack, Workplace Strategy Development Director, Computacenter commented, “At Computacenter we are centred around people and their experiences. We endeavour to ensure our people and our customers can access our digital content regardless of any impairment they may have. Studies say that one in five people have some form of impairment and for many that means that there are barriers to accessing content and information. By providing a tool to enhance accessibility, it is not just the right thing to do, but critical to our success and the well-being of our people and the organisations we work with.”

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28 Jan 2021 | case-study

Computacenter is a leading independent technology partner, trusted by large corporate and public sector organisations. We help our customers to source, transform and manage their IT infrastructure to deliver digital transformation, enabling users and their business. Computacenter is a public company quoted on the London FTSE 250 (CCC.L) and employs over 16,000 people worldwide.

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Supporting Customers in Vulnerable Circumstances

20 Jan 2021 | news

Energy services must be accessible Energy UK launched the Commission for Customers in Vulnerable Circumstances, to explore how the UK energy industry can meet the needs of customers in vulnerable circumstances, including people with disabilities. Recite Me submitted a paper to the commission panel and took part in a workshop, while attending a hearing to support the report the commission produced. The Commission for Customers in Vulnerable Circumstances Report 2019 recommends that customers in vulnerable circumstances must be offered a range of communication channels so they can engage with their suppliers in a way that best meets their needs. More recently, Ofgem’s Vulnerable consumers in the energy market: 2019 report states that: “Energy companies should make reasonable adjustments for disabled consumers and ensure that all new services and products are accessible to their consumers. “Making accessibility a core element at the design stage ensures that no consumers are unnecessarily excluded and allows changes to be made earlier, normally at a reduced cost to the company, if the service is not accessible to all consumers. “We want all consumers, including those with special communications needs…to be able to engage with the energy market and effectively communicate with companies.” (pp 23) Recite Me helps deliver digital inclusion That’s why energy companies like British Gas, United Utilities, Utilita Energy and many other utility organisations, have added Recite Me’s assistive toolbar to their website to create an inclusive experience. British Gas added Recite Me to its website to help support vulnerable customers online, removing online barriers for people with disabilities and people who don’t speak English as their first language. The introduction of the Recite Me toolbar allows website visitors to customize the British Gas website in a way that works best for them. Cecil Edey, Conduct and Consumer Vulnerability Manager at British Gas commented, “As the largest energy and services provider in Britain, it’s vital that our online customer support is accessible to all the diverse communities we serve around the country, which is why we are proud to launch the “Recite Me” accessibility toolbar on our website.” Visitors to the British Gas website can change the page styling by customizing the font size and colour and the colour contrast between text and backgrounds, or by using the reading aids to mask distractions on the screen. People who don’t speak English as their first language benefit from Recite Me’s real-time translation feature which can translate over 100 languages, including reciting text in 35 different languages. 1000’s of organizations already use Recite Me to make their websites more accessible for online visitors. To find out more or to book your Demo please contact the team.

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2021: The Year of Accessibility, A Mini Guide

18 Jan 2021 | news

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: web accessibility is a basic human right, and we believe that everyone should have the opportunity to use the internet in the way that it is intended. When Recite Me was founded in 2010 and we first began our journey, web accessibility was very much a low key factor. In recent years, however, thinking across all industry sectors is catching up, which is a fantastic development. We’re still some way off achieving our goal of accessibility and inclusion for all. However, we’re proud to say that we are already making a positive difference, and particularly with the additional complications of COVID-19 pushing more consumers online this year, accessibility factors in 2021 look to be at the forefront of business development more than ever before. Inaccessible Websites Inaccessible websites and apps essentially create barriers to users. No matter what sector of business your organisation sits in, this is simply not good for business: E-commerce companies are missing out on a cumulative global spend of $3.1 trillion annually. Employers are neglecting the prospects of potential staff purely on the basis of access needs. Financial institutions and utility companies are denying services and information to consumers who need them. Charities and not-for-profit organisations are failing to communicate with subscribers and recipients, and missing out on opportunities to attract and retain more supporters, ambassadors, and benefactors. Public sector and community organisations are not keeping all of their constituents updated with relevant information and news. These statements can be easily backed up by the results of the latest Click Away Pound Survey, which discovered that: 71% of users leave a site that they find hard to use. For 81% of users, ease of use is more important than price. In fact, 86% of consumers with accessibility issues said they would spend more if there were fewer barriers In the UK last year, £17.1 billion was spent by consumers on sites that were easier to use (up from £11.75 billion in the 2016 survey). At present 70% of websites in the USA have critical accessibility issues and businesses with inaccessible websites are missing out on total a disposable income for US working-age persons with disabilities of $490 billion. Despite these staggering statistics, over 98% of website homepages still fail to comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). “Website accessibility and usability has been a major issue for many disabled people with access needs for many years and little progress was being made despite the law, guidance, and publicity.” Rick Williams, Click-Away Pound Survey Who needs support In short, way more people than you’d think. The internet can be an incredibly intimidating place for those with disabilities - and it’s important here to note that disabilities come in a range of forms. We tend to think of ‘the disabled’ as those with physical or emotional deficits, but not all disabilities are visible. In the online world, anyone lacking the tools they need to adequately understand or communicate are at a significant disadvantage, and some people are unable to access the information they need at all. This includes all those who: 20% of the UK population and 25% of the US population live with a disability. Have decreased vision - it is estimated that at least 2.2 billion people globally have a vision impairment. Struggle with literacy – around 1% of the population in developed nations like the UK and USA have issues with basic reading and writing. This figure is significantly higher in less developed nations. Are autistic – around one in every hundred people is on the autistic spectrum. Speak and/or read English as a second language – up to 1 in every 5 households speaks a language other than English at home. Suffer from attention disorders – it is estimated that around 5% of the population suffers from attention disorders like ADHD. Have a learning difficulty - dyslexia alone affects upwards of 15% of the population. Are affected by physical disabilities – millions of individuals have physical disabilities that make the use of standard keyboards and on-screen navigation difficult. Best Practices for Web Design Making a website accessible starts at the very beginning with web design. As web accessibility moves further and further to the forefront (quite rightly so!) businesses invariably want websites that are ready assembled from the off to check all the right boxes for accessibility principles. Most good 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, including: Using a content management system that supports accessibility Using headings correctly to structure the content Including alt text for all images Giving descriptive names to all links Being mindful of colour use and colour contrasts Ensuring forms are designed for accessibility Being keyboard friendly Doing all of this will make website content easier to read, focus on, and understand. Plus it naturally accommodates for vision problems, physical disabilities, and cognitive impairments. The Need for Assistive Technology The main takeaway here is that accessibility + usability = inclusion. Even by applying the best web design practices, a website isn’t necessarily inclusive just because it’s accessible. That’s where assistive technology comes in. Software like the Recite Me toolbar bridges the gap between accessibility and usability and promotes inclusivity by allowing those with sight loss, cognitive impairments, learning difficulties, physical disabilities, and varying linguistic needs to access websites in the way that is best suited to them. 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 Text-to-speech functions in 35 languages Having text read aloud at varying speeds A real-time translation feature catering to over 100 languages A built-in dictionary and thesaurus A “text-only” mode that strips away graphics and other page clutter These functions account for singular adjustments and also more complex scenarios where users may require multiple adjustments for ease of use. By facilitating this, the Recite Me toolbar is able to remove barriers and allow for equal access, thus creating equal opportunities in the online world. “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 2020 Data Trends Last week, we took an in-depth look at accessibility data trends in 2020. We found that across the board, the demand for accessible and inclusive websites has grown exponentially in 2020: Throughout the year, we’ve taken on over 250 new clients across a range of sectors. We’ve provided free pledge pages for over 140 clients, supporting over 60,000 individual users to access COVID-19 information. Across a whole range of sectors including employment, education, public sector, retail, sport, leisure, travel, utility services, charities, and not-for-profit organisations, our end of year stats show that: We’ve supported over 1.8 million users Over 8.5 million pages have been accessed barrier-free Over 40 million accessible options have been used to create an unique user experience “The Recite Me assistive toolbar provides a great technology-based solution for us. Not only can our site be translated into hundreds of different languages, but we are also able to offer a screen reader function and a range of other accessibility tools that help make it easier for all of our passengers to access the information they need to enjoy the best journey possible through Gatwick." Mandie Armstrong, Digital Communications Manager, Gatwick Airport Web Accessibility Laws & Guidelines The final deadline for public sector compliance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) for accessibility level AA was 23 September 2020. However, even if your company is not within the public sector, we recommend getting ahead of the curve and preparing for more guidelines and requirements for accessibility factors in the near future. All businesses should be using the WCAG as a set of core principles and minimum standards to meet the needs of consumers internationally. Plus, there are national and international standards and guidelines that are mandated by law. Examples include: The Equality Act of 2010 (UK) The Americans with Disabilities Act (USA) The European Accessibility Act (EU) Plus, all indicators suggest that more private sector regulations are on the way soon, and that search engines are likely to start applying heavier positive weightings to websites that are accessible. The COVID-19 Impact Many companies have struggled in 2020. Most organisations have had to quickly adapt and transition to push more and more of their business functions online, while at the same time continuing to support the needs of their customers. With many people confined to their homes, it has never been more important that websites take into account all users, including those with disabilities and accessibility barriers. Essentially, this has changed the priority of accessibility to be something that has to be done, rather than something that should be done What has become clear, is that the pandemic simply acted as a catalyst for the already prevalent shift towards web accessibility and inclusion. Businesses and organisations that have already embraced these changes have learned that being inclusive can have a significant (and in some cases a much needed) positive effect on brand reputation, increase diversity in the workplace, reduce staff turnover, and lead to improved business efficiency all round. But besides anything else, being inclusive is the right thing to do. “The one argument for accessibility that doesn’t get made nearly often enough is how extraordinarily better it makes some people’s lives. How many opportunities do we have to dramatically improve people’s lives just by doing our job a little better?” Steve Krug, a prominent website user experience expert How to Embrace Accessibility and Inclusion in 2021 As the new year approaches, there is no better time to make a resolution to embrace online accessibility and inclusion in 2021. The digital requirements of the world show no signs of slowing anytime soon, so goal-setting for inclusion should definitely be a priority for your business in the coming months. Those who adapt earlier are much more likely to reap the benefits of increased profits, a happier and healthier workforce, and reduced legal risks. And, of course, there’s the feel-good factor too! Steps to follow for an inclusive 2021: Take some time to reflect on the difference being inclusive will mean for your target market. Perhaps you haven't been thinking of accessibility as a priority up until now. But by making your products, services, and information accessible to at least an extra 15-20% of the population, you stand to increase traffic flow and revenue considerably by being inclusive. Check that your web design conforms to best practices and principles for accessibility. Familiarise yourself with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), and make sure your website meets the national and international legal requirements for your region. Look into assistive technology software to add further layers of usability to your website to make it truly inclusive. Recite Me is simple to implement and in many cases can be installed on your website in under an hour by adding a small amount of JavaScript to each of your webpages. Join the hundreds of companies who have already installed our inclusive software by contacting our team for more information, or book a toolbar demonstration.

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Recite Me Continues to Host Free Inclusive Landing Pages During COVID-19

13 Jan 2021 | news

“When information is vital, it is vital that information is accessible and inclusive for all.” Did you know that Recite Me is still offering to host a free accessible and inclusive landing page so companies can share their COVID-19 messages with all of their staff and customers? With the recent regression back into lockdown, we wanted to update you on our accessibility pledge, and remind you that we are still here to support businesses and help organisations and consumers alike to access important information online, barrier-free. We launched our pledge back in March of 2020 in a bid to ensure that all online information related to COVID-19 is accessible and inclusive for everyone. We believe passionately in barrier-free access and support for all, and especially now that life in the real world is more restrictive again, it has never been more important that everyone has equal access to information online. Back in the beginning, we could never have imagined that these uncertain times would still be haunting us into 2021. But until the vaccines have been rolled out and normality is restored, we are committed to playing our part in helping people. “The Recite Me pledge provides the opportunity for everyone to share freely in our online world. There is no cost or agenda, just accessibility for all.” Ross Linnett, Founder and CEO What is the Recite Me Accessibility Pledge? Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic so far and for the foreseeable future, we are offering to host a free accessible and inclusive landing page for any business where important COVID-19 messages and updates can be accessed. Uncertain times make for uncertain minds, and naturally, many people are worried. This is totally understandable, so it’s paramount that people are kept up to date with the latest pandemic information and how it will impact them and the services they use. When the landing page is reached, the Recite Me accessibility and language support toolbar automatically launches. The toolbar includes fully customisable styling features, reading aids, and translation tools. Information is available in over 100 languages, including 35 text-to-speech voices. Who Benefits? The honest answer to this is everyone. Studies show that around 20% of the population is living with some kind of disability, long-term health condition, or situational impairment that makes accessing online information challenging. The Recite Me assistive toolbar removes online barriers, enabling people with different abilities, visual impairments, cognitive or neurological disorders, learning difficulties, and those who speak English as a second language to thoroughly understand the message being conveyed. Our toolbar also makes information easier to consume and use for users outside of that 20% too, as being able to customise a webpage and take in the information in a way that is personalised to your preferences is a benefit for everyone. “For people without disabilities, technology makes things easier. For people with disabilities, technology makes things possible.” IBM Training Manual The Story So Far Since we first launched, our accessibility pledge has helped more than 130 businesses across a range of sectors to share COVID-19 related information and updates. Examples include Virgin Money, Network Rail, Volkswagen, RSPCA, Public Health Wales, and London Luton Airport. Our pledge data trends show that: We’ve supported over 60,000 unique users Our free inclusive landing pages have been viewed over 82,000 times The average time spent on COVID-19 landing pages is 2 minutes. “Joining the Recite Me pledge has enabled us to communicate our COVID19 message to the widest possible audience. Visitors can customise their viewing experience through a screen reader, styling options, reading aids, and a translation function. This online support allows London Luton Airport’s key messages to be accessed and understood by all, particularly during these difficult and unsettling times.” Clare Armstrong, Head of Passenger Services at London Luton Airport Of course, having just one webpage accessible to everyone is not a long term solution, but it’s a good start. The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown online accessibility into the spotlight, and we’ve noticed a considerable increase in the demand for inclusive websites throughout 2020. With over 2,500 websites now using Recite Me inclusive technology, we’ve supported over 2million people on barrier-free online journeys. You can read more about accessibility trends in 2020 and projections for 2021 on our free downloadable report. If you think your business needs help to make your online COVID-19 related information accessible and inclusive to all your staff and customers, please contact us now, or visit the Recite Me website to find out more about how our free accessible and inclusive landing pages work and how to create your own.

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2020 Accessibility Trends

11 Jan 2021 | news

It will come as no surprise that internet use rocketed throughout 2020. In the first quarter of the year, broadband use increased by 47%, and online transactions increased by 26.7% between January and October. In line with the drastic shift towards online living, we noticed a significant increase in the demand for inclusive websites. Recite Me has brought together data from throughout the year to analyse the impact COVID-19 has had on people using assistive technology to support their online journey. To download this report please click the button below...

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Promo Direct

11 Dec 2020 | case-study

Promo Direct was founded in 1991 by Dave Sarro with the main goal of assisting organizations with boosting sales and improving brand visibility through promotional products and apparel. The company has always strived to provide a premium shopping experience, accompanied by smart marketing solutions. Promo Direct has won numerous national awards and is a leader within the promotional products industry.

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Promo Direct Provides an Inclusive Experience for All

11 Dec 2020 | news

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.”

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Web Accessibility is a Basic Human Right

09 Dec 2020 | news

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.

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Breaking Down Online Barriers for People with Access Needs

02 Dec 2020 | news

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.

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