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

Disability Rights Nebraska Breakdown Online Inaccessibility Barriers

08 Mar 2021 | news

Disability Rights Nebraska is supporting those who face challenges online by providing Recite Me assistive technology to the 22.2% of Nebraskans with a disability, enabling access to information barrier-free. Disability Rights Nebraska is a private, non-profit organisation that is designated to provide protection and advocacy services to the 1.9 million people of Nebraska. Protecting, supporting and promoting the rights of people with disabilities. To fulfill their commitment to Nebraskans, Disability Rights Nebraska ensures those with a disability live free from harm and exercise the same rights, opportunities and choices available to all citizens. By using Recite Me assistive technology, Disability Rights Nebraska has improved the quality of their communications online for those who are visually impaired, neurodiverse, or those who speak English as a second language. Eric Evans, the CEO of Disability Rights Nebraska, commented, “Disability Rights Nebraska is excited about the significant step we have taken toward cultivating a more accessible and inclusive online presence. Our website’s recent addition of the Recite Me toolbar provides each website visitor the ability to access our resources and materials in a way that best fits their individual needs and preferences. “We are confident that the toolbar will maximize the reach and value of our online content, especially for those who will benefit most from it.” The assistive toolbar on Disability Rights Nebraska website offers users features such as translating content into different languages, read aloud and styling assistance. This includes adjustments to color, font type and size.

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APSCo & Recite Me Create Strategic Partnership to Support the Recruitment Sector to Become Inclusive Online

04 Mar 2021 | news

Recite Me has joined forces with APSCo to educate and advise its members on creating an inclusive candidate journey online. This partnership will provide many recruitment organisations with the information, ideas, and support they need to create an inclusive experience online enabling all candidates to have equal access to job opportunities. APSCo leads the way as the only membership body dedicated to representing excellence in the professional recruitment industry. To drive APSCo’s mission to represent excellence in the recruitment industry it is vital that the digital world is accessible to all when applying and searching for job vacancies. 14.1 million people in the UK have a disability and often encounter obstacles online when applying for jobs. By providing accessibility and language support employers can remove barriers for those with disabilities, visual impairments, learning difficulties and for those who speak English as a second language. Sam Hurley, APSCo Operations Director commented, “APSCo believes that the services of recruitment firms should be accessible to everyone. We want our members to be able to access broader talent pools and be in a stronger position to support candidates and clients. We feel that Recite Me has the progressive technology and expertise that will enable our members to take positive action when driving inclusion throughout their recruitment practices. We look forward to joining forces with the team at Recite Me as we continue to push the diversity and inclusion agenda out to the recruitment sector." With only 51% of applications from disabled people resulting in an interview, assistive technology offers support to website users to enable them to understand information, making it easier to apply for jobs online. Website users can use features such as translating content into different languages, reading aloud and styling assistance. This includes adjustments to colour, font type and size. APSCo web users can customise their experience online with the Recite Me toolbar to suit their needs. They can also access Recite Me resources to help create an inclusive experience, attracting a wider talent pool for career opportunities. To find out more about the Recite Me toolbar and how it can help create an inclusive candidate journey online please contact the team or book a demo and make sure to quote our 10% discount code of APSCoReciteMe21

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Let's Talk: How to Create an Inclusive Candidate Journey

25 Feb 2021 | news

In our latest "Let's Talk" round table session, Recite Me's Chief Revenue Officer, Darryn Hall, Rezoomo CEO and Co-Founder Cathal Doorley and Jim Berrisford, the Chief Commercial Officer at Rezoomo, deep dive into how companies can remove online barriers to create an inclusive candidate journey. Recite Me assistive online technology has collaborated with Rezoomo’s talent acquisition software to provide an inclusive experience when attracting, engaging, and managing candidates. This will allow web users to customise their web page in a way in which works best for them. In this insightful discussion Recite Me and Rezoomo tell-all about inclusive recruitment, how to understand your audience and the options you should make available to help everyone apply for a job in a way that is best suited for them.

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NHS Public Health Wales Create an Inclusive User Experience Online

24 Feb 2021 | news

NHS Public Health Wales has improved the quality of their communications online by providing accessibility and language options to support a diverse range of people. NHS Public Health is the leading organisation in Wales working to improve the well-being of 3 million people in the UK. As part of the NHS, their aim is to continuously improve care to help create the safest and highest quality health service. 1 in 5 people (17.9%) in the UK are disabled and often encounter obstacles online when searching for information on healthcare, services and COVID-19 advice. By using Recite Me assistive technology those who are visually impaired, neurodiverse or who speak English or Welsh as a second language can gain access to healthcare information hassle-free. Rebecca Fogarty, Engagement and Collaboration Manager at NHS Public Health Wales commented, “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.” The assistive toolbar on the NHS public Health Wales website offers users features such as translating content into different languages, read aloud and styling assistance. This includes adjustments to colour, font type and size. In the first month of launching the Recite Me toolbar, there have been over 1600 unique users, accessing the assistance they need to support their online journey at https://phw.nhs.wales/ . Leah Morantz, Head of Communications at NHS Public Health Wales explained, “User experience has been at the heart of our website redevelopment project and we’ve always tried to keep the needs of the audience central to our content planning and layout design. “Working with the National Wales Informatics Service (NWIS) we’re piloting a way forward for the other NHS Wales websites. If the new developments meet audience needs, we’ll be able to roll them out to the other health boards and trusts across Wales.” Ross Linnett, Founder & CEO of Recite Me explained, “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.” Recite Me is quick and easy to implement on your website. Join the thousands of companies who have already adopted our inclusive software to make the digital world accessible for all.

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Public Sector Budget Planning Should Include Accessibility Technology

23 Feb 2021 | news

The end of the financial year is fast approaching. Come March 31st, all public sector companies will be rolling out their budgets and development plans for the rest of 2021 and into 2022, and web accessibility provisions should absolutely be part of that. Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen a significant rise in public sector organisations that use our web accessibility software. In the last 6 months alone we have seen a 20% increase in the need for online support. Making sure a website is accessible and inclusive to all users is important for any business, but by the very nature of the services offered and the functions served by public sector bodies, it is arguably even more important for them. 2021 has already been dubbed ‘The Year of Accessibility’. Digital inclusion factors rank high in priorities for business development, and with more and more people relying upon online information, those in the public sector are under increasing pressure to keep their users updated with all of the relevant information and news. Why is Website Accessibility So Important in the Public Sector? Looking towards the next financial year, public sector bodies need to be aware of a number of factors that affect digital accessibility… Equal Access to information We tend to think of the internet as a place where everyone has instant access to the information they need at all times, but that’s simply not the case. Here in the UK one in five people has a disability that means they struggle to access information online. Examples include: Visual impairments Learning difficulties Literacy and language barriers Neurological disorders Developmental disorders Physical disabilities Temporary disabilities Customers in Vulnerable Circumstances Any customers who struggle with one or more of the issues listed above can be considered vulnerable, as any inequality in access to information leads to an inequality of access to services. Plus, in challenging circumstances, vulnerability levels increase and those with accessibility needs fall further through the cracks as they struggle to keep up to date with changing information. Our Aging Population As the ageing population increases, so does the percentage of the entire population with disabilities, visual impairments, and hearing loss. The internet gives elderly people the ability to connect with relatives and friends on a regular basis and is an important tool in allowing senior citizens to lead independent lives. Helping Self-Serving Accounts With the continued closure of many retail outlets and points of face-to-face service, call centre teams are struggling to service the influx of callers. Wait times have been at an all-time high, and many consumers have struggled to reach an operator at all. Providing more practical and efficient ways for customers to communicate online can help avoid situations like this. Public Sector Accessibility Laws The government expects that public sector websites and mobile apps meet accessibility standards by complying with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1. The deadline for compliance was September 23rd 2020, yet recent research showed that 40% of local authority websites’ home pages still aren’t accessible to people with disabilities, and far too many other public sector websites don’t meet baseline accessibility standards either. The COVID-19 Effect With many people confined to their homes, it has never been more critical that websites take into account all users, including those with disabilities and accessibility barriers. Essentially, this has changed the priority of web accessibility to be something that has to be done, rather than something that should be done. 2020 Toolbar Usage During 2020 Recite Me could directly see the impact Covid19 was having on people accessing information online. This could be seen through a surge in toolbar usage with over 100,000 pages being made available to people with access needs in July alone. Throughout the year toolbar usage increased by 55%. Public Sector Data Trends Providing accessible websites is the best way to guarantee inclusion and ensure consumers do not become more vulnerable or excluded from the information, services, and support networks they need. Recite Me is here to help all public sector businesses and organisations to communicate information more effectively by making websites accessible and inclusive of all users. Over the last calendar year, we have helped many different organisations within the public sector to achieve this. Education To help education institutions provide an inclusive experience, we can install our assistive toolbar across the full digital landscape of educational organisations, not only the main website. This ensures that more people can access and modify the content in a way that makes it useful and usable. We’re proud to assist a number of colleges and universities, including: York University Sunderland University University of Cranfield New College Durham London University As people switched to online learning in 2020, Recite Me saw a spike in toolbar usage soar to over 18,000 unique users in May, an increase of 50% from January. Over the past 12 months, a staggering 625,000 toolbar launches were made, allowing users to view over 3.7million educational web pages. “The University of London is committed to providing an inclusive and accessible online experience. Recite Me enables us to provide additional online tools and services for those visiting our website and increase the level of accessibility quickly and easily.” Mark Harrison, Head of Inclusion, University of London Local Authority Local authorities are responsible for a wide range of community provisions, including housing, traffic schemes, voting systems, recreation, environmental projects, and amenities like rubbish collection. Without adequate online information about all of these services, residents are left in the dark about rules, regulations, and what is going on in their communities. We already work with a growing number of local authorities, including: Sefton Council West Devon Borough Council South Hams District Council Torridge District Council Comhairle County Council Preston City Council Recite Me Toolbar Usage across Public Sector websites At the start of the first lockdown, Recite Me usage on local authority sites increased by 87% between February to June and continued to increase steadily throughout 2020. The latest figures suggest usage by over 95,000 unique users accessing nearly half a million barrier-free web pages using Recite Me. “We really want to meet the needs of the people who live and work in Preston, and we believe the tools Recite me offer helps us achieve this.” Ian Heslop, Digital and Web Manager, Preston Councils Public Services Having access to public sector services like the police, fire brigade and ambulance are essential to the wellbeing of our society, and even more essential is the opportunity for equal access. The Recite Me toolbar already assists many public service organisations, including: Ireland’s National Police and Security Service Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service Scottish Ambulance Service "It is hugely important for us as an organisation to be accessible to the public we serve. Our website holds a lot of information which everyone should be able to access easily. Thanks to the Recite Me Toolbar, we have made vast strides in making our website more accessible”. Clare Kelly, Chief Executive, Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner Health Services Health services across the UK are in high demand due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Their websites are the gateway where people can access vital health information during a time where people are unable to leave their homes. Therefore it is paramount that this information is easily accessible. With over 20 NHS organisations using Recite Me, we can see clearly the demand for web accessibility support in this sector. Over 50,000 people have used Recite Me accessibility and language options to aid their online journey. Organisations we support include: Public Health Wales The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals (BSUH) Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust How Accessibility Technology Helps Software like the Recite Me assistive toolbar promotes inclusivity by allowing people to access websites in a 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 alterations and also more complex scenarios where users may require multiple adjustments for ease of use. By facilitating this, website owners are able to remove barriers and allow for equal access for everyone. Is website Accessibility on YOUR list of priorities for your 2022 budget? We hope so! If you’d like more information about our web accessibility services, please feel free to get in touch with our team for an informal chat about how we can help. Alternatively, you can book an online demo of our toolbar in action. Together, we can make a difference and provide everyone with equal access to vital information online.

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Inaccessible Websites Linked to Financial Vulnerability

16 Feb 2021 | news

Managing personal finances is one of the most important aspects of daily life. Most of us look to online solutions for banking, buying products and services, and paying bills. We also use the internet to search for and apply for new jobs. So, it should come as no surprise that access barriers to these services and information will lead to increased levels of vulnerability. Add to this that in 2021 in particular, households are reeling from the effects of the previous year and many are already facing a degree of financial struggle. Lots of people have lost their jobs, others have taken pay cuts, and some have lost entire businesses. Put simply, people need access to financial help and support more than ever, and those in vulnerable circumstances are the worst affected. Most of us take it for granted that we have access to the information and services we need online, but for those who battle with decreased vision, physical disabilities, learning difficulties, attention disorders, autism, and a whole host of language and literacy issues, life just isn’t that easy. Recite Me’s website accessibility solutions are here to help businesses and organisations to communicate information more effectively with vulnerable consumers by making websites accessible and inclusive to all users. Understanding Online Vulnerability In challenging circumstances, vulnerability levels increase and financial situations worsen, as any inequality in access to information leads to an inequality of access to services. There have always been vulnerable citizens who have found themselves at a disadvantage in the online world. So first of all, let’s make it clear that the COVID-19 pandemic is not the sole cause of soaring vulnerability levels. It has, however, acted as a catalyst and highlighted the need for significant change. With many other lines of communication blocked or prone to long delays, websites must be accessible so that everyone can access the information that is relevant to their needs – and act upon it accordingly. “The technology of consumer engagement is changing and moving online more and more. As a result, vulnerable customers need to be supported. Recite Me is calling on all businesses to ensure their websites are accessible. We look forward to seeing more companies using web accessibility software like Recite Me to safeguard and support customers in vulnerable circumstances.” Recite Me Founder and CEO Ross Linnett Website Accessibility is for Everyone It is worth noting at this point that it’s not just those with recognised disabilities and disorders that benefit from website accessibility software. In several more temporary circumstances such as bereavement or divorce, people become more vulnerable in general and may simply struggle to register or understand information. So the clearer and easier to access it is, the better for everyone. The Financial Conduct Authority on Vulnerability The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is the regulator for 58,000 financial services firms and financial markets in the UK. Its main role is to protect consumers, keep the industry stable, and promote healthy competition between financial service providers. Part of the FCA’s role includes advising on web accessibility factors to ensure that vulnerable consumers do not fall through the cracks. “Failure to communicate with vulnerable consumers in ways they can understand may result in an increased risk of [financial] harm. Consumers may not be able to understand the information they are sent or may struggle to communicate their needs. Low capability or physical impairments may result in particular communication needs. Several factors can drive low capability, including low literacy, numeracy, poor knowledge of financial products and cognitive impairments. Physical conditions can also result in particular communication needs. For example, sight and hearing impairments can make certain channels of communication impossible to use and alternative accessible formats essential.” The Financial Conduct Authority Report, July 2020 FCA guidelines make it clear that vulnerable consumers should not be disadvantaged in understanding or accessing products and services because of their information needs. How Companies Can Improve Web Accessibility to Support Vulnerable Customers The most recent report published by the FCA provides guidance for firms on the fair treatment of vulnerable customers. Key points relating to web accessibility issues include recommendations that businesses should: Ensure all communications and information about products and services are understandable for consumers in their target market and customer base. Take the individual needs of each vulnerable customer into account. Provide simplified versions of communications Provide large print accessible websites Include audio options for online information Proactively offer consumers communication options that can meet their needs. Respond to the needs of vulnerable consumers at all stages of the customer journey. Web Design that Promotes Digital Inclusion The FCA also encourages companies to take an inclusive design approach that meets the needs of their vulnerable customers specifically, as well as the majority of consumers in their target market in general. Most good web designers can advise on a build that makes content more accessible. This means including design features that ensure the needs of vulnerable customers are met, while at the same time benefitting a wider range of consumers on the whole. There are many factors to consider, a few key examples being: Using a content management system that supports accessibility Using headings correctly to structure your content Including alt text for all images Giving descriptive names to your links Being mindful of colour use and colour contrasts Ensuring forms are designed for accessibility Being keyboard friendly How Recite Me Accessibility Technology Can Help Abiding by best practices and guidelines to make your website more accessible is great, but won’t necessarily make it inclusive. Recite Me is a cloud-based web accessibility solution which allows consumers to customise your website in a way that works best for them. By installing Recite Me technology, you can essentially upgrade your well designed, accessible website and make it truly inclusive to all users. All of the FCA recommendations listed above can be taken into account by functions on the Recite Me assistive toolbar. Examples include the ability to: Personalise font size, type, and colour options to make each web page easier to read. Download content as an audio file as an alternative to reading. Convert text into over 100 different on-screen languages. Access text to speak functions in 35 different languages. Have text read aloud at varying speeds in either a male or female voice. Utilise a screen mask and ruler for better focus. Make use of the toolbar’s built-in dictionary and thesaurus. Switch to “text-only” mode to strip away graphics and page clutter. 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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DC SAFE commit to providing accessible services online

15 Feb 2021 | news

Disability isn’t always obvious, and it can present in many different ways. To enable everyone visiting the DC Safe website to access services and content barrier-free they now provide a suite of inclusive options. DC SAFE began its mission against Domestic Violence in 1997 and in 2006 became an independent non-profit organization and is now proud to be a leader in providing support for empowerment for thousands of survivors each year. With the intersections that exist between disability and domestic violence, DC SAFE is aware of the importance of making vital support information accessible. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, people with disabilities experience violent crime at 2x the rate of people without disabilities. To reinforce DC SAFE's commitment to accessibility they have added the Recite Me Toolbar across their digital landscape to improve the online experience for everyone. Recite Me Accessibility and language support provide DC Safe website visits with a range of tools including screen reading functionality, multiple styling options, reading aids, and a live translation feature that offers over 100 languages including 35 text to speech. Jennifer Wesberry, Director of Operations, DC SAFE commented, “It is incredibly important that DC SAFEs information get to the people that need it, Recite Me helps this happen. Survivors need access to accurate and timely information, without it decision-making can be hampered or dramatically limited and subsequently restrict full participation in the services available in their community. Recite Me helps us to meet this head-on, to ensure that individuals with disability and language access needs have options.”

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Assistive Technology: Who Needs It?

15 Feb 2021 | news

On an individual level, the short answer is about 20% of the population. This equates to a pretty staggering number – over 13 million people in the UK, and over 65 million in the US, for example. The internet can be a minefield for those with access barriers. On any given website, an access barrier can be any element of the design or formatting that prevents users from reading and understanding the content. The people who are most susceptible to access barriers are those who struggle with: Decreased vision Learning difficulties Literacy Language/linguistic problems Attention disorders Physical disabilities Assistive technology provides solutions and support for all of these, making the online world more inclusive and an equal playing field for everyone. So…Why Don’t ALL Companies Want to Provide Assistive Technology for Their Users? A fair question, given the possibility of adding to your market share with millions of new website visitors and customers. No matter what sector your organization sits in, ignoring 20% of the market is simply not good for business. Plus, there are other benefits to being inclusive, such as reduced legal risk and improved brand reputation. The two most common objections we hear from prospective clients are that “Our site users don’t need it” or “Those who need it will have their own technology already”. Yet we know from experience that neither of these statements is true. Busting Accessibility Myths The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that only 1 in 10 people have access to the assistive technology they need. For example, there are over 200 million people in the world with low vision who do not have access to assistive products to support them. “Assistive technology enables people to live healthy, productive, independent, and dignified lives, and to participate in education, the labour market and civic life. Without assistive technology, people are often excluded, isolated, and locked into poverty, thereby increasing the impact of disability on a person, their family, and society.” WHO, 2021 So, onwards to myth-busting…. 1. “Our Site Users Don’t Need It” Wrong! It’s a common reaction, mainly because many of the conditions that make websites inaccessible fall into the category of ‘hidden disabilities’, as they are not visible. Often, these conditions are kept purposefully hidden by those who have them for fear of drawing unwarranted attention to themselves or being discriminated against. This can be particularly true in the workplace environment. Let’s take dyspraxia as an example. Many people haven’t even heard of it, but it is a condition that affects around 10% of the population, and at least 3-4% in a significant way. So the chances are that within your website user base there will absolutely be individuals with dyspraxia who need to be supported. The same can be said of Dyslexia, Hyperlexia, and a myriad of other unseen conditions that impact on web accessibility. So rest assured, your users DO need assistive technology! A side note to employers: The average cost of adjusting for employee accessibility is typically just a few hundred pounds/dollars, and data shows that employees with disabilities take less time off and tend to stay with companies for longer. So any outlay is almost certainly recouped many times over. 2. “Those Who Need It Will Have Their Own Technology Already” Wrong again! Put simply, if people were able to - and preferred to - use their own assistive technology, we wouldn’t have seen the incredible increase in subscription coupled with the phenomenal rise in usage of the Recite Me toolbar over the last calendar year: Over 1.8 million unique users. Over 10 million pages viewed with Recite Me enabled. Over 47 million clicks on the Recite Me toolbar to use features like our screen reader, translation services, and styling features. Website users are deterred from using individual assistive technology tools for many reasons, including: Cost - At a time when those with disabilities can be particularly financially vulnerable, many simply can’t afford the technology that is required. For example, a single copy of JAWS (a computer screen reader program that assists the visually impaired) costs £800 without updates. From an ethical standpoint, should someone with a disability have to pay out of their own pocket to get the same access to information, services, and employment as everyone else? That’s a hard no from us! Usability - Individual assistive technology (such as JAWS) will work on only the device on which it is installed. With most people now moving between pc, mobile, and tablet devices on a regular basis, this is incredibly restrictive. Functionality - Unlike most other assistive tools, Recite Me remembers each individual user's preferences. So when they return to your site or any other site that hosts Recite Me, the toolbar will launch with personal preferences already installed thus providing continuity of user experience. Availability – Many internet users, and especially older users, are simply are not aware that solutions are available. “I think I faced more challenges when I was younger, as there wasn't the technology like today. I've just tried out the Recite Me toolbar to see how this would work for me, and it's very easy to use. What I particularly like about it, is that I can scroll over text and the words are read back to me, also you can change the language to suit your needs - that really stands out for me because no website that I know of has this feature." Michael McEwan, Freelance Journalist What Kinds of Business is Recite Me Good for? Every type of company and organization can benefit from Recite Me assistive technology. We work with businesses across all sectors, including e-commerce, finance, public sector, technology, education, utilities, transport, leisure and entertainment, sports, recruitment, and construction. Due to the very nature of our product, Recite Me is also very popular in the health and charity sectors. There are so many examples of people with disabilities reporting the vital need for assistive technology at a content level, that our technology has been assessed and tested by many disabled user groups prior to install. As a result, we work directly with many disability-specific charities who have adopted our technology after gathering extensive user feedback. You can see a full list of company testimonials here. What Recite Me Users Say One of our prospective clients commissioned the leading UK disability charity, to do some user testing on our toolbar. All participants said they would use the tool again and that they’d be more likely to use a website again if they knew that their accessibility needs were accommodated. Here are some of the user comments and feedback… “It doesn’t strain or hurt my eyes when I read now.” “It’s remembered my settings across different sites, I really like this” “It shows that they’ve given accessibility some thought, and that goes a long way with me.” “Being able to change the background to black is a real bonus for me - I get dry eyes so this extends the amount of time I can stay online.” “If a place I’m planning to visit has an accessible website, I think they are more likely to be accessible when I get there.” The Time for Accessibility is Now! The demand for accessible and inclusive websites has never been greater, so goal-setting for inclusion should be at the top of your company’s to-do list. Adopting an inclusive approach to your online services before your competitors will solidify your position as a market leader – and improve profits, customer service, and employee satisfaction at the same time. Recite Me is quick and easy to implement on your website, and can usually be installed in under an hour. Join the hundreds of companies who have already adopted our inclusive software by contacting our team for more information, or by booking a toolbar demonstration.

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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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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 gwr.com, southwesternrailway.com and avantiwestcoast.co.uk 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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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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