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Great customer service prevents business failure. Fact. These days, businesses are relying more and more on providing online options where customers can reach out for help. According to SuperOffice, 70% of customers now expect company websites to include a self-service application, which usually comes in the form of an FAQ section, discussion forum, or chatbot. But just because this service is available, it doesn’t mean it’s right for, or accessible to, every customer. Last week our CEO, Ross Linnett, sat down for a webinar chat with Caroline Wells, founder and CEO of Different Petal. Caroline is an expert on customer service and accessibility, serves on many national advisory boards and panels, and in 2020 was awarded Advisor of the Year by the National Centre for Diversity. Together, they discussed all things customer service, and how website accessibility factors can be a stumbling block for companies looking to provide exceptional experiences online. Here’s a summary of what they covered and some important points for businesses to consider… What Do We Mean by Online Customer Service? What industry you are in and how your organisation operates will dictate whether the most crucial aspects of customer service occur before, during, or after the provision of services. But one thing that remains constant is the need for customers to have access to support, assistance, and advice when they need it, and in a way that suits their needs. When it comes down to it, consumers want two things: Answers to their questions and solutions to their problems as quickly as possible. To be treated fairly and have the same experience as everyone else. So when we talk about online customer service, we don’t just mean having the right staff available to provide resolutions (although, of course, that is important). We mean ensuring the provision of online customer service portals that account for a wide range of users and their needs and preferences. Customer Effort Scores Reducing the effort needed by the customer is key to improving customer service and ensuring loyalty and growth. Yet a study by The Northridge Group determined that: 44% of consumers say they think companies make it hard to contact them. 55% of customers reported using two or more communications channels before their issue was resolved. Despite low customer effort being a driving factor, the number of businesses measuring customer effort scores was only 29% in 2020. So where are businesses tripping up? Bad customer service scores come from treating the entire customer base as one entity, rather than a range of individuals with different access requirements. What Barriers Do People Face? Whether people can access the information they need online depends on whether they can see, understand, and navigate through all of the information a website provides. There are several reasons that customers may struggle, including: Visual impairments such as poor eyesight, deafblindness, and colour blindness. Learning difficulties like dyslexia, hyperlexia, and dyspraxia. Neurodevelopment and neurological conditions like ADHD, autism, and epilepsy. Mobility and physical impairments. Speaking/reading English as a second language. Any one of these factors can make information on a website hard to read, focus on, understand, and navigate. What Are the Real-World Repercussions of Access Barriers? As a dyslexic himself, our CEO Ross is all too familiar with the pitfalls of not having the tools he needs to communicate with businesses online. “If a website doesn’t have the accessibility adjustments that work for me, it feels like a huge uphill struggle and I often end up not doing things.” Ross Linnet, CEO, Recite Me One particular example Ross highlighted was how he’d missed out on opportunities to save money on his electricity bills at home because switching suppliers online was not possible without significant frustration and hassle. All because the information online is not presented in a dyslexia-friendly way. This is just one example, but when you think about the number of tasks we conduct online, you can begin to gain an appreciation of the scale of inequity. Inaccessible websites and apps make it difficult or impossible for users with access needs to: Manage finances – This includes many activities that are considered vital, including transferring funds, trading stocks and shares, paying bills, managing savings and pension plans, or renewing expiring credit and debit cards. 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. Apply for jobs – Registering with a recruitment agency can feel like an insurmountable challenge when websites are not accessible, and completing online applications forms is often almost impossible. Learn – Online learning portals that are not inclusive mean those facing online barriers cannot take part or risk falling behind in their studies. How Can Organisations Support People Online? Businesses need to provide clear signals about how they want their customers to communicate with them. However, there still needs to be flexibility in the range of channels available, and all of those channels need to be accessible to everyone. The key lies in treating each customer as an individual. Historically, companies have shied away from accessibility compliance, seeing it as either too complicated or too expensive. It needn’t be a case of spending thousands of pounds on single customers though. As Caroline points out, if you design something well, it works for everyone. “The flexibility needs to be there for customers to communicate in their preferred way. Businesses should be empowering customers by giving them choice, rather than making them ask for alternatives or work harder to get responses. “ Caroline Wells, CEO, Different Petal Tools like the Recite Me assistive toolbar help businesses to organationalize inclusion by providing an all-in-one resource that allows individuals to change the way a website looks based on their individual preferences. You can view a demonstration of our toolbar here. The Benefits of Inclusion Being inclusive isn’t just the right thing to do, it comes with many benefits to businesses that put in the effort: Customer retention - It costs anything from 5 to 25 times as much to attract a new customer than keep a current one, and 51% of customers say they wouldn’t do business with a company again after just one negative experience. New customers - 64% of consumers find customer experience more important than price, and 59% would try a new company to receive better customer service. Recommendations and endorsements - 69% of customers would recommend a company to others after a good customer service experience. This percentage increases in the case of poor experiences. In the immortal words of Warren Buffet, “It can take 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it”. Increased Profits - 70% of consumers said they spend more money with companies that deliver great service, and 84% of organisations actively working towards better customer service reported increased revenue. Sources: HelpScout and Groove Final Notes on Accessibility Support You may be reading this thinking your business is already inclusive. After all, most companies - and certainly the majority of big brands - have accessibility statements on their website. But what does that statement really mean? Is it there for compliance, out of a genuine desire to help, or simply to pay lip service to the inclusion movement? If you don’t know the answer to that question as a business, it’s not likely to help your customers. Not least because ‘accessibility’ isn’t a term people generally search for on websites, or the fact that accessibility statements are normally located in a difficult place to find on most websites. This is probably the best way to sum up our advice when it comes to improving customer service through inclusion. We’re happy to see that the mentality towards online accessibility is changing, and every year more businesses are seeing inclusion as a positive change rather than something they have to do simply to check the box. But there’s still a way to go before we achieve our goal of achieving inclusion for all. For further guidance on providing a better online service for your customers or on using accessibility software to promote inclusion, feel free to contact Caroline or the Recite Me team directly.
Recite Me Founder and CEO Ross Linnett sits down with Caroline Wells, Director of Different Petal Consulting to discuss the importance of accessible online customer service and the barrier people may face.
Dyslexia is a condition that impacts at least 10-15% of the population. If you, your family or close friends haven’t been touched by someone with dyslexia it may be easy to underestimate how widespread it is. Dyslexia impacts people in different ways. So, symptoms might not look the same from one person to another. Primarily dyslexia affects skills involved in the accurate understanding, reading, spelling and writing of words. We caught up with Sophie, a university student, to find out about her experience with dyslexia and how assistive technology is helping her during her studies. What university do you go to, and what do you study? My name is Sophie, and I am currently in my first year of Primary Teaching at the University of Roehampton. I love my course; it is incredibly rewarding, and I have learned so much already. When were you diagnosed with dyslexia? I was diagnosed with dyslexia not long after starting university. At first, I had mixed feelings about being diagnosed considerably later than others. However, as I began to recognise my strengths and learn more about the support I could receive, I accepted my unique abilities and focused on creating a toolkit to allow me to achieve my goals. What’s it like to have dyslexia? I often describe dyslexia as my creative lens to the world. My ‘out of the box’ thinking is a strength. On the days where my concentration is poor, and I cannot seem to get the words out, I have learned to look at this with a flexible mindset and find a way of working with what I can do rather than with what I can’t. How has dyslexia affected you in your academic studies? With my studies in mind, I find that it takes me considerably longer to complete reading and writing tasks. I often get apprehensive when I see a lot of text on a page and have developed a range of problem-solving skills that help me tackle the challenges I face. How did you find out about assistive technology? To start with I did not know much about assistive technology. I came across some information on the internet when I was looking for support after struggling with managing my academic workload and I was rapidly losing belief in myself. Talking to someone who completely understood dyslexia opened doors of opportunities which helped my mindset and gave me the courage to push forward. How does assistive technology help your studies? Assistive technology has opened a positive pathway for me to work through the challenges I have by acknowledging my strengths and learning to accept the support as a stepping stone to success. What features of assistive technology help you the most? There are many benefits to assistive technology, and I am so grateful to have it. The toolbar is user-friendly and has been an asset to my academic progress. I can use the screen overlay to adjust the page to a colour that helps me to read with ease and enables me to study for longer. The screen mask allows me to follow the reading with a tinted screen around the text I am focusing on which prevents me from losing track of what I am reading. The option to have the text read to me has made reading expectations manageable and I complete them on time and at my pace. The text extractor tool is great for consolidating the key points from reading and I can convert it to an audio file if I want to listen again. Is there anything else you would like to add? Having Dyslexia is not something that should hold anyone back. If you find yourself feeling stuck in the daily struggle, I encourage you to look into assistive technology – you will not regret it! Find Out More If you would like to learn more about supporting your students with dyslexia-friendly assistive software, please feel free to contact our team for more information or book a demonstration of our toolbar.
In 2020, we all relied on digital technology to perform everyday tasks, but for some people, this was very challenging. In these changing times, education organisations across the globe made efforts to provide students with the tools needed to engage in remote learning. Walsall College took this one step further by making sure no student is left behind. This was achieved by providing a unique accessibility toolbar to enable students to customise their digital experience to suit their own needs. Walsall College is one of the most successful colleges in the UK, with more than 14,000 students studying vocational-technical qualifications, apprenticeships, and higher education every year. To fulfill their commitment to being a further education provider that goes the extra mile to maintain communication and quality of service. Walsall College launched Recite Me assistive technology on their website to provide barrier-free information to those who are neurodiverse, visually impaired, or speak English as a second language. In the past year, over 12,500 Walsall college website users received support to read and understand educational material online, enabling users to customise their web page in a way that works best for them. These features include translating content into different languages, reading aloud, and styling assistance. Jayne Holt, Assistant Principal for Learning Services at Walsall College commented, “We understand the paramount importance of providing our stakeholders with a website that is welcoming, accessible, and simple to navigate. Our layout and content are designed to showcase our values, key purpose, and ambitions in a way that informs and inspires everyone. “The Recite Me software is well-equipped to support these intentions, giving website audiences the freedom to navigate and download information in a manner best suited to their needs. Our substantial user numbers show just what a valuable impact the toolbar has on peoples’ overall browsing experience.” 2020 toolbar data shows that 57,942 pieces of content were read aloud using the text-to-speech engine and 6,640 pages were translated into a different language, including Spanish, Polish and French. Other support tools include styling and reading assistance. 3,329 styling changes were made in total, including alterations to font type, size, and colour, and overall colour contrast between background and foreground. With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to push people online, website accessibility factors are at the forefront of educational development in 2021. The Recite Me toolbar is fully customisable meaning web pages can be consumed in a way that is personalised and tailor-made to each unique website visitor. Students can customise their experience on the Walsall College website.
Dunelm Careers provides a digitally inclusive employment journey with the support of accessibility and language tools online. Dunelm is the UK’s number one homeware retailer, that provides over 50,000 products to over 5 million visitors online and in-store a week. To fulfil Dunelm’s commitment to value each customer and employee, building helpful and committed relationships, Dunelm Careers has implemented Recite Me assistive technology online to provide equal opportunity to Dunelm job vacancies. 14.1 million people in the UK have a disability that prevents ease of access to our digital world. With the introduction of assistive technology on the Dunelm Careers website those who are visually impaired, neurodiverse, or who speak English as a second language can apply and search for job opportunities barrier-free. Paul Jenkins, at Dunelm Careers, commented, “Consideration to an inclusive recruitment process was delivered through removing barriers to ensure opportunities are fully accessible to all. “Recite Me was engaged to provide a complete web-accessible site that could be customised for users’ needs to engage and interact with the Dunelm brand and for Dunelm to reach a wider audience.” The accessibility and language toolbar on the Dunelm Careers website provides online visitors with a customisable experience. Features include screen reading functionality, multiple reading aids, an on-demand live translation feature that boasts over 100 languages and 35 texts to speech and styling options. Over the past 12 months, Dunelm has supported 2,449 unique users online to explore and apply for jobs barrier-free. Toolbar data shows that: On average users viewed 4.4 pages on the Dunelm careers website, the average internet journey depth s 2.8 pages The most popular feature is the screen reader, 529 translations have been made to Polish, Chinese, Spanish and Panjabi. Reading aids were used 643 times, and 1,783 styling changes were made with 25 people changing the font colour to yellow and 38 people changing the background to black. Diversity and inclusion strategies are at the forefront of many organisations in 2021, to ensure equal opportunities, a diverse talent pool, and closure of the disability employment gap. To access Recite Me unique and supportive features on Dunelm Careers website click ‘Accessibility Tools’ at the top of their website. Recite Me is quick and easy to implement on your website. Join the thousands of recruitment businesses that have created a diverse and inclusive talent pool. For more information go to Recite Me or contact a member of our team.
In 2020, global online shopping sales reached over $4.28trillion, demonstrating a significant rise from previous years. In line with this, the volume of e-commerce outlets also rose sharply. On Shopify alone, the number of new stores increased by 62% in just one 6-week period during March and April in 2020. Normally consumers have a choice of whether to shop online with a retailer or visit a physical store. But in the last year or so, that element of choice has been largely removed. So what does this mean for retailers? How do they succeed in the competitive online market? How do they stand out among new competitors? And how do high street sellers safeguard their market share in the transition to making more online sales? Web accessibility can be a big factor in helping e-commerce companies gain a competitive edge. Evolving E-Commerce Behaviors The restriction of access to retail shops during the COVID-19 pandemic pushed more shoppers online. E-commerce spending jumped from 15.8% in 2019 to 21.3% in 2020, and is expected to rise to over 27% in 2021. But even before COVID, retailers were already seeing a significant shift from in-store to online spending. This can be contributed to a number of factors including: The increase in smartphone mobile shopping Social media influences like Facebook and Instagram shopping New technology The changing buyer preferences of Millennials to Gen Z’s. These changing market trends have been a driving factor behind the rapid growth of the e-commerce industry in recent years. But there’s a problem…. Just because something is digital, doesn’t mean that it’s accessible. So to be successful, e-commerce operators need to ensure that their websites are optimised for user experience. This means taking account of all users, including those with disabilities and accessibility barriers. “Too many website projects suffer from strategies that don’t put accessibility at the core and therefore fail to meet some of the most basic of accessibility guidelines and requirements.” Dean Appleton-Claydon, Web Developer & Entrepreneur The Strength of the Purple Pound The Purple Pound is the term used to describe the spending power of those with disabilities. There is a wide range of internet users who face access barriers to online shopping sites. This includes those who struggle with: Vision problems Physical disabilities Learning difficulties Cognitive or neurological disorders Language and literacy issues Approximately 20% of people in the UK and 25% of people in the USA sit in the disability market. This equates to spending power of £24.8 billion in the UK alone, while in the USA the total disposable income of the disabled market sits at $490 billion. The big takeaway here is that if your website is not accessible, you are excluding a vast number of potential customers and missing out on significant revenue opportunities. The Perils of the Click Away Pound Click-Away Pound is a research survey that analyses the online shopping habits and experiences of people with disabilities. Their latest survey demonstrated that: 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. These statistics show how important it is for e-commerce sites to provide digital accessibility for all on their websites and apps. Web Accessibility is the Smart Thing to Do It’s not all about revenue though. From improving brand reputation to avoiding legal complications, the benefits of making your e-commerce site accessible are widely documented: Forbes magazine reports that 52% of all adult consumers consider a company’s values when making a purchase online. Many customers, and Millennials to Gen Z’s in particular, favour brands that care about helping others. Becoming inclusive sets you apart from your competition. Demonstrating inclusive policies helps you become an employer of choice. It is expected by law that businesses do not treat those with disabilities less favourably. Web Accessibility is the Right Thing to Do All of these business bolstering reasons aside, ensuring your products and services are available to everyone is simply 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, Computer Programmer and Web Usability Expert How to Make E-Commerce Stores Inclusive Most businesses avoid web accessibility and inclusion factors, dismissing them as too complicated or too costly. But that needn’t be the case. Here are our top three strategies for making your e-commerce store more inclusive. 1. Adapt Your Website Build Making websites more accessible is not rocket science these days. Most reliable developers are well aware of accessibility factors, as they are becoming more and more prevalent in Google ranking algorithms. The first steps are to ensure that your website: Uses a content management system that supports accessibility Uses headings correctly to structure your content Includes alt text for all images Gives descriptive names to your links Is mindful of colour use and colour contrasts Ensures forms are designed for accessibility Is keyboard friendly 2. Comply with Accessibility Legislation & Guidelines The World Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) provide a breakdown of accessibility factors and classify compliance into various levels. For e-commerce stores to meet minimum requirements for accessibility, it is recommended that websites should be aiming for WCAG 2.1 at an AA level. There are also legal considerations. The laws that apply to your business will depend on where your company is based, but examples include: The Equality Act of 2010 (UK) The European Accessibility Act (Europe) The Americans with Disabilities Act (USA) 3. Use Assistive Technology Software solutions like the Recite Me assistive toolbar promote inclusivity by allowing those with sight loss, cognitive impairments, learning difficulties, physical disabilities, and varying linguistic needs to access your website in the way that is best suited to them. Toolbar functions include: Fully customisable text size, font, and spacing. The ability to change text colour and background colour contrasts. A screen mask to provide colour tinting and block visual clutter. Additional reading aids such as an on-screen ruler and text-only mode. Text-to-speech functions in 35 languages. A real-time translation feature catering to over 100 languages. We already work with several businesses in the e-commerce sector, including Promo Direct, Curve Theatre, Awin, Rugby League World Cup ticket store, and Watford FC’s Hornets Shop. "We believe that the internet should be available and accessible to everyone. At Promo Direct are committed to delivering a website that is accessible to a wide range of audiences, regardless of their ability and circumstance." Dave Sarro, CEO of Promo Direct A Case Study: Watford FC Hornets Shop Having the Recite Me toolbar available to fans shopping for Watford FC merchandise made a huge difference. Over a 12 month period: 661 unique users clicked to open our toolbar 2,382 pages were viewed on the Hornet Shop website using Recite Me On average users viewed 3.6 pages per session, whereas the average website journey is only 2.8 pages. "The Recite accessibility tool has transformed the way we can help customers to buy from us and also get all of the club's updates and information we provide. Recite has been invaluable in helping us achieve this." Mat Robinson, Head of Retail, Watford FC Learn More About Becoming Inclusive Want to learn more about our web accessibility tools and boost the success of your e-commerce business? Contact our team or book a live demonstration today, and join the thousands of other organisations who are already enjoying the benefits of a more accessible website.
As plans are put in place to reopen the country from lockdown, many of us have turned to the digital world to search and book tickets for upcoming events. This is not as simple for those with disabilities and neurodiverse conditions who often face online barriers that prevent access to events information and bookings. We caught up with Ross Dempsey, Digital Marketing Manager at the Scottish Event Campus (SEC), to dive into how online assistive technology is playing a big part in supporting a diverse range of people to explore events and pre-book tickets online. The SEC Centre is situated in the heart of Glasgow, Scotland’s cultural and commercial capital, and is one of the UK’s largest integrated spaces, purpose-built for exhibitions, conferences, and live entertainment. The SEC is committed to making an entire experience for customers enjoyable and accessible with the introduction of Recite Me assistive technology on their website, in which website users can customise their online experience to suit their own needs. Ross Dempsey tells us more… How has Recite Me played a part in your digital plans ahead of reopening? SEC currently holds the ‘Attitude is Everything’ Gold Award and we are committed to continually improving venues to maintain this gold accessibility level. The Scottish Event Campus’s mission is to make our venues not only as accessible as possible physically but online too. Ahead of reopening, Recite Me allows us to offer online accessibility tools to our customers to enable an easy online booking experience for those who face online barriers. How do you think Recite Me will benefit your company ahead of reopening? The Recite Me accessibility toolbar will support all SEC website visitors to explore events and find out information about the venues before visiting. Assistive technology will support people with a wide range of disabilities, learning difficulties, or people who speak English as a second language. The assistive toolbar allows everyone to customise the SEC and SSE Hydro websites in a way that works best for them to understand and read website content easily. If more events companies begin to use Recite Me, how do you think this will impact the events sector as a whole? The implementation of accessibility tools on events websites is an opportunity to provide an inclusive and diverse experience for all customers. We are providing accessibility tools to visitors from around the world to find the information they need. Why is it important to you and your company to provide an inclusive experience online? We are committed to making a visit to the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) an enjoyable experience for everyone and that includes using our websites. We recently launched the ability for users to purchase accessible tickets to our events online and once we discovered Recite Me, we felt it was a great addition to improve the functionality of our websites. We were very impressed with the Recite Me software and as well as accessibility tools, the language switcher allows our conference visitors from around the world to find the information they need. For more information on how you can provide an inclusive online experience, go to the Recite Me website or contact a member of our team.
Today marks the annual celebration of World Health Day. This year we’re reflecting on the 2021 theme of building a fairer and healthier world for everyone, as part of the World Health Organisations year-long campaign to eliminate health inequities. 2020 was a year we will never forget. COVID-19 highlighted the inequalities between us and revealed that some people can live healthier lives with better access to health services than others, entirely due to the conditions in which they are born, concerning age, gender, disability, and race. The COVID-19 pandemic has undercut recent health gains and amplified health inequalities. This is immoral and avoidable, provided we make efforts to ensure people can access quality health services when and where they need them. Assistive technology enables people to access vital health resources, information, and advice regardless of their race, religion, gender, disability, or social condition, enabling people to live independent and healthy lives. Healthcare is a Right Not a Privilege One billion people around the world live with some form of disability, and often encounter obstacles online when searching for healthcare services and COVID-19 guidance. The World Health Organisation estimates that only 10% of people have access to the assistive technology they need. “The Enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition.” World Health Organization Breaking Down Health Inequities with Recite Me Digital Accessibility Tools Recite Me works with health organisations around the world to provide accessible technology on websites. Our accessibility toolbar enables everyone worldwide to access vital health resources and information online. Our digitally inclusive toolbar offers features such as translation, screen reader, and styling options. This includes alterations to the size, font, and colour. These features support a diverse range of individuals who are most vulnerable to access barriers: Decreased vision Literacy Learning difficulties Physical disabilities Attention disorders Language/linguistic problems Individuals with these issues often face barriers when using websites to access healthcare information, as they may not be able to read onscreen information, use a mouse or focus on content without distractions. Welcoming people with varied disabilities and access needs are important to eliminating health inequities worldwide. Healthcare Diversity & Inclusion This year, health organisations and charities have joined the Recite Me mission of ‘Accessibility for All’ by providing online assistive technology to website visitors. This is important to us especially during a global pandemic where many people may feel isolated and struggle to gain access to information and services. We are proud to work with a range of healthcare organisations and charities to support their journey to becoming digitally inclusive, building a fairer and healthier world. Our Clients: “We know the information on our website needs to be available in different formats and languages to reach our diverse audiences, so we worked hard to find a solution that will make information we publish online more accessible.” Rebecca Fogarty, Engagement and Collaboration Manager at NHS Public Health Wales “We have found Recite Me to be an important feature added to our websites. It has made it easier for people with different accessibility and translation needs to tell us about their health and care experiences online using our Feedback Centre, which means that we can continue to share the issues that matter to the diverse population of Cheshire.” George Gibson, Communications and Research Officer, Healthwatch Cheshire CIC Toolbar data Over the past 12 months Recite Me has seen over 54,000 people use assistive technology to view 194,974 pages barrier-free, across NHS and health client websites. When visiting our client websites visitors are viewing on average 3.58 pages per session. This is higher than the internet average of 2.8 pages, showing a better user experience when using the support available to aid their journey online. As part of the options and tools available with the Recite Me toolbar translation plays a vital role to support people who speak English as a second language. Over 72,000 translate were made in the past 12 months on NHS websites with the most popular languages being Afrikaans, Bengali, Bulgarian, Italian and Tagalog. “We want to provide an inclusive online experience, where everyone can customise content to suit their needs. Organisations like NHS Wales who have a diverse range of website users can now offer healthcare information more effectively to all users, this is particularly crucial in current circumstances for COVID-19 advice and services.” Ross Linnett, Recite Me Founder and CEO A Digitally Accessible Healthcare Service Recite Me is a cloud-based assistive toolbar solution that bridges the gap between accessibility and usability, creating a more inclusive online experience. This web accessibility and language support help over 2 million website visitors every year to customise a site in a way that works best for them. There is no better time than on World Health Day for global health organisations to provide online accessibility tools, to ensure a fairer and healthier world with barrier-free healthcare information and services. We also want to take today to thank the amazing health workers worldwide, for their incredible work over this past year. If you would like to join the thousands of organisations that now provide accessibility tools on their sites to support a diverse range of individuals, please contact our team or book a demo. We would love to see your support on our social pages for World Health Day, join us in supporting the movement.
Following a roundtable discussion on diversity and inclusion and the effects COVID-19 has had on people with disabilities and neurodiverse conditions, we caught back up with Susan Murphy, CEO of Sue Sanford Specialist Coach, to dive a little deeper into Sue’s personal experiences and the effects she is seeing first-hand in the educational sector. My name is Sue Murphy. I am an experienced coach, often working with clients who have one or more neurodiverse conditions and I’m dyspraxic myself. Finding this out at 62 was a revelation and made a huge difference to the way I think and work. I hope it’s made me a better coach. I’m also a proud grandma to 4 wonderful grandchildren, all in primary school. They and their parents have had to cope with the disruption of their school education for a year. They all did really well, yet It hasn’t been easy for any of them. Three things in the last couple of weeks have made me think particularly about how lockdown has affected learning and wellbeing for neurodiverse children and young people; Firstly, a recent online meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Dyspraxia, which heard from Dr Sally Payne and Sophie Kayani about how dyspraxic learners in school have been affected by home learning through multiple lockdowns, based on the findings of a survey of their parents and carers. I came out of this discussion with a sense I commonly get that. What was clear was that no one size or set of measures fits any group and certainly not dyspraxic youngsters. Some students expected to do well in end-of-term exams learning in school were struggling with using unfamiliar technology and lack of structure. Assessing them against their online assignments submitted during lockdown will not give an accurate picture of how well that child would have done. For other students, being away from the distraction of the classroom and being able to focus on their own time working online-enabled them to thrive. Some of these students will struggle to go back to school and will lose the precious online resources and teaching they’ve had for a short while because schools can’t provide that level of support for an individual child. The phrase “maverick learners" is used to describe students who often don’t do particularly well during term time and continuous assessment yet achieve better than expected results in exams. This is a familiar picture to me and other neurodiverse adults who need the pressure of a meaningful black and white deadline with real consequences to work at our best. In the same week, I joined the campaign to end pen licences in primary schools. A primary school student “earns” a pen licence when their teachers decide their handwriting with a pencil is at a good enough level of neatness and accuracy. The child is now allowed to use a pen because they have mastered the cursive script. How many adults reading this handwrite regularly? If you do how often have you used cursive script since leaving school? Many children with neurodiverse conditions such as dyspraxia, dyslexia or other conditions (including hypermobility) are affected with the skills needed to shape letters and use handwriting to communicate are needlessly demotivated and humiliated by this practice. Yet an adult (or post 16 students) with a similar impairment would not be expected to write by hand. They would use a keyboard and maybe make use of speech to text software (which is now provided as a matter of routine in Microsoft software amongst other Then, in the same week, I received the summary of 2020 accessibility trends in education from Recite Me showing a huge spike in toolbar usage as lockdown kicked in and people switched to online earning. Toolbar launches enabled over 3.7 million educational web pages to be viewed. This flexibility and accessibility will have been a huge help to the students able to access it at a time when the structure of their further and higher education was blown apart by COVID. What a contrast with the experiences of children in the primary sector. My question now is: When are we going to stop expecting children with diverse needs and learning styles to use outdated technology, ie a pen, and study in environments designed for the convenience of mass teaching which stress and distract them? in order to learn, reflect and be able to communicate their learning when we wouldn’t do that to an adult. When are we going to change things systemically in education so that they can learn and express their ideas in ways that are natural to them, using the fabulous technology now available and so commonly used by their older peers? NB. I identify myself as Dyspraxic, rather someone “with dyspraxia”, so this is the language I have used here to describe myself and others. I know others will prefer to refer to themselves /their child as a person “with dyspraxia”, not dyspraxic and their preferences should be observed.
2020 was a year we will never forget where the physical world came to something of a standstill and we were all forced to perform everyday tasks online. Organisations across the globe made concerted efforts to maximise their online presence to ensure continued support and service to clients. Water company United Utilities did just this with the help of Recite Me accessibility and language options on its website. By making its digital world accessible and barrier-free to all website visitors and customers, people were able to self-serve accounts and explore products and services without having to call United Utilities for one-to-one support over the phone or live chat. United Utilities is responsible for delivering 1.8 billion litres of water a day to more than 3 million homes and businesses in the North West of England and is dedicated to providing its essential service at a high standard to the population. Studies show that 1 in 5 people have impairments that make accessing online information challenging. Excluding 20% of the population is not something that United Utilities was not prepared to accept. In 2020 the Recite Me toolbar helped over 100,000 people to read and understand website content barrier-free. Our unique assistive toolbar helps everyone to customise their online experience to suit their own individual needs. The Data shows that 552,059 pieces of content were read aloud using the text-to-speech engine and 20,707 pages were translated into a different language, including Polish, Portuguese and Arabic. Other support tools include styling and reading assistance. 12,326 styling changes were made in total, including alterations to font type, size, and colour, and overall colour contrast between background and foreground. With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to push people online, website accessibility factors are at the forefront of business development in 2021. We are incredibly proud to be part of a business’s development in the utilities sector. Louise Beardmore, Customer Services and People Director at United Utilities, commented “We chose to install the Recite Me assistive toolbar to make our website accessible and truly inclusive to all. The internet can be an incredibly intimidating place and anyone who finds it difficult to understand or communicate is at a significant disadvantage.” The Recite Me toolbar includes fully customisable styling features, reading aids, and translation tools, meaning web pages can be consumed in a way that is personalised and tailor-made to each unique website visitor. This includes the ability to change font size, type, and colour, adjust overall colour contrasts, strip away distracting graphics, download content as an audio file, convert content into over 100 different on-screen languages, or have the page read aloud in a choice of 35 different languages.
Beyond Housing has taken the necessary steps to achieve its mission of accessibility for all, with online assistive technology. Beyond Housing provides 15,000 homes and a wide range of services to over 30,000 customers living in the Tees Valley and North Yorkshire. As part of their mission to provide accessibility for all, Beyond Housing wanted to be transparent and inclusive, ensuring all web users could access essential housing information and services barrier-free. In North Yorkshire, it is estimated that 11,338 people aged 18 to 85 have a learning disability, and often require support online when using digital technology and software. With the implementation of Recite Me on Beyond Housing’s website, residents who are visually impaired, neurodiverse, or those who speak English as a second language can access support. Beyond Housing’s diverse customer base has customised their Recite Me toolbar by translating content into different languages, reading aloud, and styling assistance. This includes adjustments to colour, font, and size. Beyond Housing customer, Anda, who is from Latvia and a member of an Eastern European community support group, uses the Recite Me toolbar to translate online content. She said, “I have had a very good experience working with Beyond Housing since they upgraded their home page with new tools as part of their programme, ‘Believing in Accessibility for all’. “Now existing and new customers can access information with various different adjustments, including translation in many languages, some of them even in audio version. Using the orange button at the right side of the screen labelled ‘access and language tools’, one can change colours, languages, play audio, choose the text and other options according to their needs.” Beyond Housing website users can now access vital information barrier-free by clicking the orange “Access and Language Tools” button on their website, Beyond Housing. Recite Me assistive technology is quick and easy to implement on your organisation’s website. For more information, please go to Recite Me or contact a member of our team.
The Children’s Family Trust (CFT) has enhanced its ability to support a diverse range of people accessing fostering information online, with Recite Me online accessibility options. The CFT is a registered fostering charity that aims to achieve stability and security for children. Many of the children that The CFT care for have not had the best start in life and are unable to live with their birth families, this often means that they have faced great adversity and require a stable and secure home. 8% of children in the UK are disabled and regularly encounter barriers online that prevent them from accessing crucial online information and services. By using Recite Me assistive technology those who are visually impaired, neurodiverse, or who speak English as a second language can gain access to important information hassle-free. The CFT recruit, assess and support foster carers to look after children and young people in care. The CFT also demonstrates a commitment to any child that has been, is currently, or will be in the care of the charity, by providing them with support even after they have moved on to independence and adulthood. With Recite Me assistive technology, The CFT web users can customise the content in a way in which works best for them. Jessica Harper, Marketing and Media Manager at CFT commented, “We are excited to be launching the Recite Me Toolbar on our website in the hope that it will make the experience for all of our users more comfortable.” “As an organisation, we support both foster carers and children from all walks of life and backgrounds, and it is important for us to ensure that our stakeholders are receiving information in a way that suits them best. We are hopeful that adding the Recite Me toolbar will make our website function in a more accessible and inclusive way for all and allow us to reach more people.” Recite Me features include translating content into different languages, read aloud, and styling assistance. This includes adjustments to colour, font type, and size. Web users can customise their experience on The CFT website here.
Are you or any of your family, friends, or colleagues affected by autism? UK government statistics suggest that more than 1% of the population is on the autism spectrum, while in America the Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that autism may affect as many as 1 in every 54 people. So at some point in your home life, education, or professional environments, it is highly likely that you will meet members of the autistic community. What is Autism? Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a genetic condition that affects an individual’s development, and can often present challenges when it comes to social interaction, speech, behaviour, and nonverbal communication. Autism is a lifelong condition most commonly detected in childhood and is three to four times more prevalent in boys than girls. Every individual on the autism spectrum is different, and while some autistic people may need very little help, others may need much more. Like any condition under the neurodiversity umbrella, autism is not a marker of decreased intelligence. Many of those diagnosed with autism in early life go on to lead healthy, happy, independent, successful and fulfilling lives. Individuals on the autism spectrum may: Have difficulties communicating and interacting with other people Not understand the feelings and thought processes of others Take longer to assimilate information Become stressed in environments with excess noise or bright colours Demonstrate repetitive behaviour patterns Struggle in unfamiliar situations Become overwhelmed by busy social environments You can read more about dyspraxia on the National Autistic Society website. Autism and Web Accessibility Often, people with autism have heightened sensory awareness. This means they can be easily distracted by images, logos, and graphics on web pages. So processing website content can be difficult. Colour contrasts between text and background can also be distracting for those in the autistic community. Low-contrast neutral colour palettes are often preferred over the standard black text on white background options presented by most websites. Consistency is important to individuals on the autism spectrum, so if web pages are not easy to navigate or have an unpredictable flow, autistic readers are likely to click away. Supporting Autism Online Children and adults with autism face distinct challenges when reading information online. Plus, autism is often listed as a disorder that co-occurs with other neurodiverse conditions such as Dyslexia and Dyspraxia. So it is important that all individual differences and combinations are accounted for. With the Recite Me assistive toolbar, users can make singular or multiple adjustments to account for all individual requirements and adapt the way web content is presented to suit their specific needs. Recite Me assistive toolbar features that support autistic users include: A selection of colour palettes to account for contrast sensitivity between the text and background. The ability to change font type, font size, and font spacing. Text-only mode to strip away distracting graphics. Options to have content read aloud in over 35 different languages. Full control over the speed at which the text is read aloud, and a choice between male and female voices. A screen mask for easier focus. Client Feedback In the last 12 months, Recite Me has witnessed a surge in disability groups signing up for our website assistive technology, and we are proud to be helping more neuroatypical members of our community than ever before. Anna Kennedy Online Anna Kennedy Online provides workshops, training, legal advice and talks across the UK, and partners on annual events like AKO Autism Expo, the Autism Hero Awards, and ‘Autism’s Got Talent’. "Since we have been working with Recite Me and updating our website making it disability friendly, we have received many compliments and thanks from the autism community. Recite Me are always respectful and understand exactly what we are trying to achieve to make the website accessible to all " Anna Kennedy, CEO Autism Plus Autism Plus has been supporting adults and young people with autism, learning disabilities, mental health conditions, and other complex needs since 1986. "As a Disability Confident employer, we want to ensure we are as accessible as possible, not only to the people we support but for our employees and supporters too. Recite Me provides more options on our website and makes the content completely customisable. " Katie Mitchell, Marketing Manager To understand the online challenges and obstacles those with autism face, we sat down with Katie Mitchell, Marketing Manager at Autism Plus to discuss the importance of providing accessibility options online. User Experience From our user data, we can track which of our toolbar features are customised the most by our clients’ website visitors. Our records show that among Autism Plus users, the following features are the most commonly used on their website: Text enlarge Text-only mode Screen mask Magnifying glass This holds true with our knowledge of autistic users, in that they often prefer to focus on a particular area of a webpage. These specific tools help users to stay focused and avoid distraction from images and the other content on the page. It’s incredibly rewarding for the Recite Me team to see data like this, as it shows that our toolbar works effectively and we are succeeding in our goals of making the internet a more accessible and inclusive place for everyone. Find Out More In today’s increasingly digital landscape, 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.