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According to Security Magazine, over 2,200 cyber attacks are made every day. That’s roughly one every 39 seconds. In today’s modern world, most businesses transfer documents and data across their networks in the course of everyday operations. So it is expected that organisations take a proactive approach towards ensuring cyber security. At this point, you’re probably thinking of your favourite hacker movies - perhaps some Matrix-style deceptions or Jason Bourne action. But in reality, most cyber attacks are not masterminded by collectives of highly skilled or technologically adept tricksters. The vast majority are perpetrated by amateurs and are fairly basic in nature. That said, it’s still vital that we are prepared. Why Cyber Security is Important to Recite Me The Recite Me accessibility toolbar is now installed on over 2,500 websites and last year we supported over 2million unique users. Our technology is all about the benefits to the end user and how web accessibility technology can bring people together. Therefore, it’s important to protect the assistive toolbar on our clients’ websites so that we can continue to help their online visitors have an easier and more digitally inclusive experience. Our goal is to adhere to the highest security practices so our customers have peace of mind, while still ensuring that online information is available and accessible to everyone, regardless of ability. Our Cyber Security Wish List By avoiding common online threats and security breaches, we can reduce the possibility of being targeted by more serious cyber criminals. Plus, we want to adopt security measures that provide the best protection for everyone - our clients and their customers, our shareholders, and our employees. These are not the only driving factors, however. Proper cyber security prevention also assists us with: Brand reputation – We want to reassure our customers, staff, and stakeholders that we take their data seriously and are actively working to secure our IT. New Business – The promise of efficient cyber security measures is important to many potential clients. Clarity – Having a clear picture of our own security levels and where we sit in relation to the industry norm and our competitors gives us a competitive advantage. Legalities – We work for several public sector organisations already, and many government contracts require a cyber security certification. Our Cyber Security Measures Recite Me is now a certified member of Cyber Essentials Plus. Operated by the National Cyber Security Centre, Cyber Essentials is a government-funded information assurance scheme that encourages organisations to adopt best practices for data security. “Cyber security is an essential part of today’s digital society. At Recite Me we make specific efforts to maintain a positive information security posture, both internally and through our global network. Obtaining Cyber Essentials Plus is just one way we help assure our customers that we are doing everything we can to minimise the threat of cyber crime and remain focused on providing quality, secure products. Rob Crozier, Chief Technical Officer, Recite Me Cyber Essentials Plus is the highest certification tier, requiring an independent evaluation of controls to ensure we comply with top level IT security practices. Our membership affirms our commitment to maintaining maximum data protection protocols, and also protects us against cyber threats such as: Hacking Phishing Password mining You can find more in-depth information about Cyber Essentials and certification levels on the UK Government website. Cyber Security and Web Accessibility We’re often asked whether accessibility features impact on website security. The short answer is no, but there are some important considerations to ensure that both accessibility and cyber security measures are met: Captcha Alternatives Standard captcha designs are inaccessible to many people with disabilities due to difficulties reading or hearing the letters and numbers. Alternatives include using spam filters, human test questions, heuristic checks, and honeypot traps to filter out robots from genuine customers who want to register or buy from your website. You can read more about captcha inaccessibility and solutions on the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) website. Input Assistance Mistakes are inevitable, but disabled users are more prone to making input errors that can block access to your website. This is why assistive technology solutions are so important. Tools like screen magnifiers, screen readers, and text-to-speech software help users with varying access needs to understand the instructions more clearly. In addition, being able to change the font, text size, and colour contrast makes it easier to input the required information, error-free. Again, you can access more information on input errors and input assistance on the W3C website. Our Security Promise We always want to provide the best possible service, so we are committed to continually reviewing our security measures to make sure we are protected, and that our assistive toolbar on your website is never threatened by the ever-changing risks in the online world.
Utilita Energy now provides an inclusive online experience to enable all their customers to access essential utility information barrier-free. Utilita Energy is the UK’s first and only specialist Pay as You Go Smart Energy supplier, providing energy to 800,000 homes across the UK. By providing accessibility and language options on their website, Utilita Energy is removing barriers for those with disabilities, learning difficulties, visual impairments, and who speak English as a second language. To maintain Utilita’s position as a leading PAYG supplier, they continue to embrace the latest technology, with a commitment to supporting those who face online barriers. 14.1 million people in the UK have a disability (19% of adults) who can encounter difficulties online that prevent access to energy information and services. Utilita Energy has launched Recite Me’s innovative accessibility toolbar to create an inclusive digital experience for all. The toolbar is packed full of customisable options to create a bespoke experience. Features include a multi-language screen-reader, a wide range of styling options, reading aids, and a translation function that can translate all their content into over 100 languages. “It's important to us at Utilita that our services are accessible to everyone, which is why we decided to implement the ‘Recite Me’ accessibility toolbar on our website. The toolbar has already made a huge difference to our customers, in the first month alone it helped over 1,000 users view our website in the best way for them.” Lauren Sanders Marketing Manager Only in the last month, Utilita Energy has supported over 1000 people online with accessibility and language options. This has enabled customers to access their accounts and new website visitors to browse products and information hassle-free. Toolbar data show that website visitors have viewed 1,689 accessible pages. This data provides Utilita with information on what pages people are using most and how this can be used to suit the needs of their customers. The most used accessibility toolbar feature is the translation feature, with 33% of web users. This feature translates web content into over 100 languages and includes 35 text-to-speech voices. The most commonly translated languages are Tagalog, Arabic, and Bulgarian, which supports Utilita’s diverse range of customers. Recite Me’s screen reader is a common feature used, with 32% of web users having online content read aloud in English, Italian, and Dutch. Utilita Energy web users can customise their inclusive online journey by clicking the speech icon at the top of their website. For more information on how you can provide accessibility options online, go to Recite Me or feel free to contact one of our helpful team members. Recite Me is quick and easy to implement on your website. Join the thousands of companies who have already ensured that their website is accessible for all.
As we are edging back towards normality it is important to take time to reflect on how the COVID-19 affected vulnerable customers. We caught up with Elaine, from Reynolds Busby Lee, to look back at the past year and how vulnerable customers have been impacted and how businesses can go about implementing and finding solutions. A Bit About Elaine I started my career working client side working for organisations in roles that focussed on improving the customer experience to drive real relationships and build revenue. I've worked in energy (Manweb), before moving to the world's largest home delivery wine company (Direct Wines which is behind the Laithwaites Wine and The Sunday Times Wine Club plus other), then I moved into mail order hosiery at HCI and then Time-Life where I was responsible for our European customer experience across inbound and outbound sales as well as customer service. My final stint client side was at IMP where I was responsible for customer experience globally. In 2005 I co-founded the Reynolds Busby Lee consultancy with two partners who eventually returned to client side roles and for the last 5 years I have been Managing Director running the consultancy. Our specialism is in Customer Experience and the inclusion of customers who for one reason or another find themselves in vulnerable circumstances. We work with clients across a wide range of sectors from Direct to Consumer to charities and public sector, enabling them to hear the voices of their customers and prioritise their focus to improve the customer experience and bottom line. Life Before Lockdown The significance of customers living in vulnerable circumstances has been a considerable concern for well over a decade and something I began working on in 2010. Back in the early days it was a difficult subject and not many of us wanted to stick our head above the parapet for fear of getting things wrong and being ‘shot down’. However, since we opened the discussions, it’s become clear that this is a subject that affects many of us and is one that those of us working in this arena are hugely passionate about. I was, therefore, delighted to be asked to write this piece for Recite Me. Much of the focus over the last 10 years or so had been around financial vulnerability with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) leading the way for the regulators. However, the spectrum of vulnerability within the UK is wider and further reaching than just the risk of harm or detriment coming from organisations regulated by the FCA. In more recent years we have seen different sectors, from fundraising to energy and communications, getting to grips with this issue and releasing their own position papers, launching charters and guidance. Vulnerability has never been a small-scale issue, affecting only small proportions of our customer bases or employees. It is widespread but for many years has been ignored or gone undetected. How we recognise vulnerability and adapt our products and services to better suit our customer / employee needs are a core challenge that we must now rise to. Before the pandemic, our mental health charities advised us that 1 in 4 of the UK population was living with a mental health concern at any one time, Cancer charities confirmed that 1 in 2 of us would experience a cancer diagnosis during our lifetime and over 800,000 UK adults were living with dementia. When coupled with other stressful life events such as moving to a new house, getting married or divorced or being made redundant, you can quickly see that the figures can mount, and we are not talking about small numbers. In 2019 The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) estimated that 50% of the UK adult population could be demonstrating characteristics of vulnerability at any one time, that may be caused by one of the FCA’s four recognised drivers of vulnerability Health: health conditions or illnesses that affect the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks Life events: life events such as bereavement, job loss or relationship breakdown Resilience: low ability to withstand financial or emotional shocks Capability: low knowledge of financial matters or low confidence in managing money, and low capability in other relevant areas such as literacy or digital skills Earlier this year, The FCA published an update to their Financial Lives survey. The survey data was collected in October 2020, just before the nation entered Lockdowns 2 and 3 and then released in February 2021 and there was a substantial increase in the estimated numbers of UK consumers showing one or more characteristic of financial vulnerability. This report estimated 27.7m UK adults could be considered to be living in vulnerable circumstances, an increase of 15% in just a few months, with 2021 expected to show a further increase. This equates to 53% the UK adult population – that’s more than half. (The energy regulator) OFGEM’s definition of vulnerability also links customers’ personal circumstances with aspects of the market which can create situations that lead to a customer being “significantly less able than a typical customer to protect or represent his or her own interests in the energy market and / or are significantly more likely than typical customers to suffer detriment, or detriment that is likely to be more substantial”. For example, low-income families, often placed on pay as you go energy tariffs requiring them to pay with coins in meters, found accessing coins almost impossible during the lockdowns and, therefore, energy companies had to make adjustments by changing customers’ access to enable them to remain connected to the energy network. Without making these reasonable adjustments, many of their customers could have been left without power. In its definition, OFCOM (the regulator for communications services) references that other circumstances such as “low income or a sudden reduction in regular income, job loss or living in an isolated or rural area” can create vulnerabilities. With millions of workers placed on furlough, others made redundant and others living in remote areas unable to access super-fast broadband speed or relying on Pay As you Go Mobile data to stay connected, you can quickly see how the pandemic will have created vulnerable circumstances for the UK’s Communications companies customers. Vulnerable circumstances are something that I believe can affect us all at any stage of our lives. We may not recognise ourselves as being in a vulnerable circumstance at the time or even for many years afterwards, if at all. Whilst others feel acutely vulnerable to exposure to harm and detriment most of the time. Therefore, we cannot rely on our customers and employees self-identifying and asking for additional support, as organisations serving the public. I believe that we must take responsibility and recognise the impact that vulnerable circumstances can have, inducing shock and impairing our usual ways of processing information or assessing risk and harm. The Impact of COVID-19 Firstly, Covid-19 has only added to the numbers affected. We have a new segment of the population who now identify themselves as ‘clinically vulnerable’. They shielded through Lockdowns and have had their ‘normal’ lives significantly affected with their usual habits and behaviours changed substantially. But we mustn’t be fooled into thinking that this is the only group affected. In the latest Financial Lives report, The FCA noted that “Covid-19 has had a profound impact on adults’ financial situations but has not affected the finances of all groups in society equally.” “Covid-19 has had a disproportionate impact on those of working age. The largest proportional increases in vulnerability since February 2020 – by more than 40% –have been among younger adults aged 18-34 and the self-employed. In contrast, retirees have seen a small proportionate decrease in the numbers who have characteristics of vulnerability”. Covid-19 has also had a significant effect on the nation’s mental health. Mind’s ‘The Mental Health Emergency’ Report (June 2020) identifying that more than half of adults (50%) and two thirds of young people (68%) have said their mental health has got worse during lockdown. A report from the WHO (World Health Organisation) in Oct 2020 recognised that “Bereavement, isolation, loss of income and fear are triggering mental health conditions or exacerbating existing ones. Many people may be facing increased levels of alcohol and drug use, insomnia, and anxiety”. This will create more anxiety. The same report also informed us that “meanwhile, COVID-19 itself can lead to neurological and mental complications, such as delirium, agitation, and stroke. People with pre-existing mental, neurological or substance use disorders are also more vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2 infection ̶ they may stand a higher risk of severe outcomes and even death”. I think we can all identify people within our family units, friends or colleagues that have experienced a loss, isolation, have been furloughed or made redundant or have had a planned health treatment delayed. There is huge concern that our physical health has also been negatively affected with patients not reporting changes in their health to GPs in their usual numbers leaving an expectation that we will see a surge in physical health diagnoses coming this year, with many coming too late to be treatable. I’m in agreement with Mind’s view that “the effects of this pandemic will continue to have lasting effects long after lockdown is over” as the nation comes to terms with the widespread impact this pandemic has had. Having experienced PTSD myself, aged just 18 (when many teenagers think that they are invincible and immortal), it took many years to come to terms with the reality of my situation and learn how I could function and move forward. There will be hundreds of thousands of lives affected by a late diagnosis of ill health, some will be treatable, others unfortunately, will have already become terminal. Therefore, I propose that the solutions we implement now and the Reasonable Adjustments we offer must not be considered as a short-term fix, instead they are here for the long- term and should be incorporated into our BAU (business as usual) ways of working. Implementing Solutions So, how do businesses go about finding and implementing solutions? I recommend starting by getting a foundation level of understanding of what vulnerable circumstances are and how they can impact your customers and they interactions that they have with you. Once you have grasped the scale and scope for your organisation, the next step is to develop your organisation’s position and strategy on how you will support your customers through Reasonable Adjustments, then assuring that your business processes and practices can and do support your aims – usually this is formalised in a Vulnerable Peoples Policy. Your staff will need to be trained initially and then supported on an ongoing basis through your learning and development programme, regular coaching sessions and gathering customer feedback to ensure you are following the plan, and that it is having the desired impact. At Reynolds Busby Lee we design and run training programmes bespoke to our individual clients’, so please get in touch if this could be useful to your organisation. In addition, you will need to understand how the new ways of working are affecting your workforce and whether they are inadvertently or otherwise creating vulnerable circumstances for your teams. During the pandemic, we’ve seen thousands of organisations accelerating their plans for digital solutions to enable customers to self-serve and lighten the load on the customer service and support teams. Offering self-service via a fully accessible website can be very useful for customers. Where websites are not accessible, driving customers to a site they can’t use, only serves to increase frustration, disempower your customers and create vulnerable circumstances. Remember that this is not a small-scale issue that only impacts a few customers, as discussed earlier, this is an issue affecting the many not the few. The good news is that accessible technology does exist and can be rapidly deployed. Here at RBL we have been working with ReciteMe for almost 4 years and have their tool built into our website. With very few lines of code (less than 10!), we’ve integrated a new tool bar into the website that will allow our readers and users to personalise the site to their own specific needs from increasing font size and colour, removing images, adding reading rulers, changing the language from our default English to one of over 100 languages should English not be your first language. In addition, the language tool will read the text aloud for you in English or one of the supported alternative languages. As a website user you set your preferences and they are retained for each subsequent website visit until you decide to change them. I’ve also been introduced to the ‘Interpreter Now’ service where a person with a hearing impairment can book BSL sign language support to help them during live face-to-face meetings online via MS Teams, Google Meet or Zoom. Live Transcribe is another useful tool. I was alerted to this by paramedics who use the tool to provide real-time subtitles to their face-to-face conversations when wearing face coverings which can negatively impact lip readers and those with hearing loss. You don’t have to think too carefully to see how this could be deployed at retail checkouts, bank counters or in job centres where staff are now sitting behind Perspex screens which can reduce the transmission of their voices. In the more mainstream solutions, Microsoft now has accessibility check tools in built to their core programmes, Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint and speech analytics tools are becoming faster and more accurate in their work of sentiment analysis which can support staff who are handling contacts with customers remotely. I was delighted to see one tool working in real-time and providing coaching tips and loading guidance to a contact centre agent during, rather than after, a call with a customer. The service delivered was significantly improved with the customer getting the support they needed from the outset, rather in response to a complaint. So, whilst the issue of vulnerability is a big challenge, I am more optimistic than ever that the UK’s businesses and organisations now have solutions available and at hand that will help them to recognise and address customer needs quickly and effectively. To find out more about how ReynoldsBusbyLee can help you in your journey please visit our website www.reynoldsbusbylee.com where you can trial the Recite Me solution for yourselves. Alternatively give us a call on 020 3637 0966 and we would love to help you to support your customers.
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.
According to the National Housing Federation, the number of people in need of social housing hit 3.8 million in 2020. That equates to 1.6m households. Having a roof over your head and a safe living environment is one of the most basic human necessities. Yet, as we approach the halfway point of 2021, the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are still taking their toll and the need for affordable housing has never been greater. There are many fantastic housing associations and council initiatives that support citizens and provide solutions to people in vulnerable situations. But often, information about housing services is only available online. Most of us take for granted that we can access information online whenever we want to. But for many in our society, access barriers prevent this. That’s why information on housing websites must be accessible to all. Who Needs Help Accessing Information About Housing? There is a proven link between inaccessible websites and financial vulnerability. Inequality in access to information leads to an inequality of access to services, causing further financial impacts and an increased feeling of helplessness. By very nature, many who struggle the most to access information about housing online are those who already face barriers in other areas like seeking education, employment, and being able to adequately self-manage their finances without access to in-person service. This includes anyone with: Decreased vision Literacy problems Autism Learning difficulties Attention disorders Physical disabilities Problems speaking and reading in English This list accounts for a significant percentage of our population, meaning there are many people who lack the tools they need to adequately understand or communicate online, and are missing out on the help and services that they so desperately need as a result: Over 14 million people in the UK are affected by disabilities. The UK is home to nearly 12 million residents aged 65 years and over, all of whom are less technologically adept and are more likely to develop age-related physical disabilities and vision deficits. The tenant base is becoming increasingly diverse with more applicants every year who speak English as a second language. How Can Housing Associations Help? The first step is to ensure that your website is as inclusive as possible by adopting a user-friendly design that takes account of accessibility features. Most public sector websites are now expected to meet minimum criteria for accessibility as per the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 accessibility Level AA. The deadline for website accessibility compliance was September 2020, so for housing associations in the public sector this isn’t just something that should be done, it’s something that must be done. Additional guidelines from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) recommend that providers should take the following steps to ensure that vulnerable applicants are not disadvantaged in accessing services because of their information needs: Provide simplified versions of communications Provide large print accessible websites Include audio options for online information Respond to the needs of vulnerable consumers at all stages of the customer journey Website Accessibility Technology Software like the Recite Me assistive toolbar can help housing providers to improve the usability of their websites, and our team is more than happy to advise on accessible web builds and WCAG compliance too. The idea behind our toolbar is that it can be fully customized to account for the preferences of each individual user, making your website not just accessible, but truly inclusive. Users can apply a range of tools to change the way a website looks so they can read and understand the information. This includes being able 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. Access text to speech 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. For people who find traversing the online world complicated, time-consuming, and ultimately frustrating, this is a huge help. It’s all about providing options so people can find information in their preferred way. Whether that be large print, audio options, alternative colour templates, or having access to content in their first language, it’s about choice. How Recite Me is Making a Difference We believe that housing initiatives play a critical role in supporting people by building communities and helping tenants to live healthier and happier lives. We’re proud to work with a number of organisations in the housing sector already, including: Believe housing Beyond housing Luton Community Housing South Tyneside Homes Abertay Housing association Beyond Housing 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. They upgraded their home page with new tools as part of their ‘Believing in Accessibility for all’ strategy. One of their customers, Anda, was happy to weigh in on the difference the Recite Me toolbar has made; “I’m a member of an Eastern European community support group and regularly use the Recite Me toolbar to translate online content. I can access information with various different adjustments, including translation in many languages, some of them even in audio version. I can also change colours, text, and use other on-screen tools.” Believe Housing Believe Housing is one of the largest housing associations in the northeast of England, covering 862 square miles. Adding our accessibility features to their website has removed barriers and allowed the organisation’s tenant base of over 18,000 households to find out key information about their tenancy and the services available to them. "Recite Me was recommended to me by a web developer back in 2015 and we’ve never looked back! There are so many options from one source that aid the overall customer experience. It’s easy to use and gives a whole range of accessibility and language options from the click of a button." Jill Ancrum, Communications Manager, Believe Housing Our Data Based on our 27 clients in the housing sector, our data over a 12 month period shows that: Over 30,000 unique users opened the Recite Me toolbar More than 134,000 web pages were viewed The average number of pages users viewed per session was 4.4. This is way higher than the average of 2.8 pages. Over 183,000 pieces of content read aloud Over 31,500 pieces of on-page content were translated into other languages More than 12,000 individual styling changes were made Home Truths for Housing Organisations Access to affordable housing has undeniable positive impacts on families, and also encourages growth in the local economy. When tenants are able to live within their means, they can spend money on healthcare, education, transport, and other products and services in the local area. Housing assistance has also been proven to boost the health and academic success of children from low- income households, maximising the chances of financial success later in life, while reducing the long-term costs to society. So…Why should these benefits not be open to everyone? By choosing not to make websites accessible, housing organisations are cutting off access to a significant proportion of the very people they aim to help the most. 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 demonstration of our toolbar. Together, we can make a difference and provide everyone with equal opportunities online.
We are delighted to announce a new Partnership with Eploy, a market leader in enterprise cloud-based ATS and e-recruitment software, to support inclusive recruitment. What does our partnership with Eploy mean? The partnership will enable customers to provide their candidates with an inclusive online journey. Eploy and Recite Me connect through the Eploy candidate portal to make recruitment easy and engaging for everyone, and accessible for all. Candidates are able to use the Recite Me toolbar to customise the content of the website in a way that works best for them. Users can read text aloud, translate content into another language, make styling changes to the page and aid reading with a virtual ruler and a magnifying glass. Both Recite Me and Eploy are excited about this partnership. "We are delighted to welcome Recite Me to the Eploy Marketplace as a partner that our customers can utilise to provide a better, more inclusive user experience with their web accessibility software. Eploy is committed to delivering amazing experiences for everyone involved in the recruitment journey and working alongside Recite Me provides greater flexibility to customise the candidate experience in a way that works best for each individual.” Chris Bogh, CTO at Eploy “Recite Me exists to create inclusive experiences online, so it makes perfect sense to partner with Eploy to provide accessible cloud-based ATS and e-recruitment software. Being able to provide an inclusive candidate experience is key to engaging and attracting the very best talent to achieve your business goals.” Ross Linnett, Recite Me CEO and Founder Why is Inclusive recruitment important? A survey of 4,000 people by the Recruitment Industry Disability Initiative (RIDI) found that 75% of disabled jobseekers have been impacted by their condition when job hunting and 54% have faced hurdles at multiple stages in the recruitment process. Research shows that on average disabled people apply for 60% more jobs before securing one. This demonstrates that inaccessible online and digital communications are preventing disabled jobseekers from flourishing in the recruitment process. How have we helped Dunelm through the partnership? The leading home furnishings retailer Dunelm has been using the Eploy candidate portal for some time to provide an inclusive experience to attract, engage and manage candidates. They are able to offer candidates a customised experience so they can perceive and understand content in a way that better suits them. This enables Dunelm to reach a wider talent pool and create equal opportunities. “Consideration to an inclusive recruitment process were delivered through removing barriers to ensure opportunities are fully accessible to all. Recite Me were engaged to provide a completely 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.” Paul Jenkins, Dunelm Over the past 12 months, the Recite Me toolbar has supported 2,449 unique users online to explore and apply for jobs barrier-free. Our data shows that: On average users viewed 4.4 pages on the Dunelm careers website, the average internet journey depth is 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. Learn More If you would like to find out more about the partnership, or if you would like to speak to one of the team about booking a demonstration of our assistive toolbar, please contact us and we will be happy to assist you.
To celebrate Global Accessibility Awareness Day, in this episode of The All-Inclusive Podcast, Ross Linnett is joined by Daniel Fellows, CEO and Founder of Get Optimal, to discuss online accessibility needs and how we can provide an inclusive recruitment process to ensure everyone is able to discover and apply for their next career step barrier-free.
The whole point of having a company website is to showcase your products and services to as broad an audience as possible. So why not make your website accessible and inclusive to everyone? After all, the internet is a daily fixture in most people’s lives. Recent studies show the average Canadian spends over 6 hours online every day. That’s close to 40% of our waking hours spent on the internet! Virtually everything we do requires us to spend time online, whether it’s banking, paying bills, shopping, reading the news, or booking a holiday. Therefore, it is essential that websites are not just accessible, but usable by all. Everyone should have the opportunity to access online content, yet over one billion people globally face barriers when visiting inaccessible websites. “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, Website User Experience Expert Recite Me assistive technology provides your customers with the online tools they need to understand and engage with your products and services. It also allows you to support our ageing population, people who are neurodiverse, those who are visually impaired, and residents who speak English as a second language. Using our software isn’t just the smart thing to do. It’s the right thing to do. Here’s why… 1.5 Million Canadians Consider Themselves Vision Impaired What’s more, an estimated 5.59 million more have an eye disease that could cause sight loss, making close to 8 million people in total. The term ‘visual impairment’ covers various issues, including partial blindness, deafblindness, and colour blindness. For those who struggle with these conditions, accessing information online is difficult. The text size and font used, the layout, and the colour contrasts between the text and the background can all create barriers to reading. Around 20% of the Canadian Population has a Learning Difficulty The most common learning disability in Canada is Dyslexia. It affects at least 15-20% of the population and impacts many levels of comprehension, including reading, writing, and spelling. ADHD is the second most common learning disability, affecting more than 1.1 million Canadians. ADHD is a hyperactivity and attention disorder, and those who have it will typically have problems focusing and can be easily distracted. Other prominent learning difficulties include Hyperlexia and Dyspraxia. Hyperlexics can read words but not necessarily understand their meaning, while Dyspraxics often have language problems and experience difficulty with thought and perception. 24.6% of Canadians Speak English as a Second Language English and French are the official languages of Canada. According to Statistics Canada, the next most spoken languages, all with around half a million native speakers each, are: Mandarin Cantonese Punjabi Tagalog Spanish Arabic While 98% of Canadians say they can conduct a conversation in English, most of us default to our mother tongue to research and communicate online. Even something seemingly simple like finding contact details to email a company or call a customer service or sales helpline can be challenging when navigating a website in a second language. Not to mention more complex tasks like researching financial options, shopping online, using booking sites, or filling in online forms and applications. Nearly 1 in 5 Canadians has a Disability 22%, to be exact. Disabilities come in many forms. The stereotype of a disabled person is someone who is physically impaired or wheelchair-bound, and most companies tend not to think of this affecting online access. But in reality, the term ‘disabled’ covers a range of mobility and cognitive issues that can significantly affect web accessibility. For example, someone with a physical mobility problem may be limited to keyboard navigation. On the other hand, a website visitor with epilepsy may have no problem using a mouse. However, if they cannot strip away the media or graphics that could trigger a seizure, your website remains inaccessible to them. 7 Million Canadian Residents Are Aged 65 and Over The internet is an essential tool in assisting older people in leading independent lives. As the ageing population increases, so does the percentage of the entire population with disabilities and visual impairments. Over 65s currently represent 19% of the Canadian population, but by 2030, it’s estimated they will number over 9.5 million and comprise 23%. Accessible websites are required to reach this part of the community so that the elderly do not become excluded online or miss out on valuable information and services. As Many as 60% of Canadians Have a Hearing Problem Many instances of hearing loss are unperceived, but statistics show that a staggering 6 out of 10 Canadians have either audiometrically tested hearing loss or tinnitus. That means millions of consumers are predominantly reliant on the internet rather than face-to-face or telephone conversations to access information. Couple this with the fact that many who suffer from hearing loss are also older, disabled, speak English as a second language, or have a learning difficulty. This makes the need for more accessible websites even clearer. How Does Recite Me Assistive Technology Cater to All Accessibility Needs? Recite Me assistive technology gives users the ability to fully customize the look of a website for personal ease of use. Our toolbar comprises several accessibility features that can be used individually or combined to make multiple adjustments that account for all access barriers: Personalization of font size, type, spacing, and colour. Options to change the colour contrast between text and background. A screen mask to provide colour tinting and block visual clutter. A “text-only” mode that strips away media and graphics and allows users to reposition text on the screen. Additional reading aids such as an on-screen ruler. A language converter that can translate text into over 100 different on-screen languages. Options to download content as an audio file. Text-to-speech in 35 languages. Text can be read aloud at different speeds with either a male or a female voice. A built-in dictionary and thesaurus to check word definitions. What Have You Got to Lose? A whole lot! Let's count the ways that your organization is limited without an accessible website: The ability to reach a wider audience - 71% of users leave a site that they find hard to use, and 83% of people with access needs limit their shopping to websites that they know are accessible. Increased traffic and sales conversions - 82% of users with access needs would spend more if there were fewer barriers. The online spending power of people with access needs in Canada is $50 billion. An enhanced brand image and reputation – stand out from your competition by demonstrating social responsibility through being inclusive. Fewer legal implications - it is expected by law that businesses and service providers do not treat disabled people less favourably. So really, the question is, why wouldn’t you want to make your website accessible and inclusive, rather than why you would. Want to Know More? To date, we have installed our software on over 3,700 websites across various industry sectors, so we have the knowledge and experience needed to guide you through the process and make your transition towards inclusion a seamless one. Contact our team today for further information and learn more about providing an inclusive and custom experience for your website users. You can also book a live demonstration of our toolbar.
In support of Mental Health Awareness Week, The All-Inclusive Podcast sees Ross Linnett joined by Mark Stephens, CEO & Founding Director of Corpwell UK and Smart Recruit Online and Maylis Djikalou, Programme Director at Create Space, to open up the conversation about mental health, personal experiences, and to highlight the support businesses should be providing for employees.
The American Baseball Coaches Association now provides an inclusive online experience to enable coaches worldwide to access information and services barrier-free. As part of a diversity and inclusion strategy, ABCA website visitors are now able to access a wide range of accessibility and language support tools to customise their digital experience in a way that works best for them. ABCA is the primary professional organisation for baseball coaches at an amateur level, with nearly 13,000 members in all 50 states and 33 countries. To provide enhanced support to its members ABCA is supporting over 20% of the population who may encounter barriers online due to having a disability, learning difficulty, visual impairment or if they speak English as a second language. The Recite Me assistive toolbar on the ABCA’s website includes screen reading functionality, multiple reading aids, customisable styling options and an on-demand live translation feature that boasts over 100 languages including 35 texts to speech and styling options. Jon Litchfield, Deputy Executive Director at ABCA, commented, “The ABCA’s goal is to involve as many baseball coaches from as many backgrounds and communities as possible. After seeing the functionality of the Recite Me assistive toolbar, as well as how simple it was to implement on our website, it was a no-brainer to offer these features to our members. “Having more than 13,000 member coaches and understanding that more than 20% of the general population may benefit from this technology, we are extremely happy to make our website experience better for those who will use the accessibility features.” The internet can be an incredibly intimidating place for those with access barriers, and those lacking the tools they need to adequately understand or communicate are at a significant disadvantage. To explore accessibility and language support tools visit ABCA’s website and click the ‘Accessibility’ link at the top of the website.
Providing accessible information online is vital to be able to support a diverse range of people. Mental Health Awareness Week enables YoungMinds and Recite Me to shine aspotlight on the help that is available to young people with their mental health. Recite Me caught up with YoungMinds to ask a few questions regarding mental health services and the importance of providing accessibility information online… What work do you do at Young Minds and what support do you provide to young people? At YoungMinds, we are leading the movement to sure every young person gets the mental health support they need, when they need it, no matter what. Through reassuring tips, advice and real-life stories on our website and social media channels, we give young people tools to look after their mental health. We also provide training courses, a parent’s helpline and resources to empower adults to be the best support they can be to the young people in their lives. Why was it important to Young Minds to provide an inclusive online experience? We all have mental health, and it’s likely that we will all have times in our life when we struggle with how we are feeling and thinking. We know that when a young person is finding things difficult, the advice and information on our website can help them feel valid and less alone – and it’s important to us that all young people are able to access this. Unfortunately, there can be many barriers for young people to access the support they need from mental health services. We want to do all we can to minimise these barriers, and help a young person feel seen, valued, and comforted at a time they are struggling; that’s why it’s so important to us that we provide an inclusive online experience. What do you hope for the future of mental health services? There is a lot of hard work going on across the NHS to improve access to mental health services and in recent years the Government has made ambitious commitments to increase spending on children and young people’s mental health, following years of underfunding. But even before the coronavirus pandemic, referrals to services were rising and too many young people couldn’t get support when they first needed it. We know that the pandemic has exacerbated this crisis, putting a huge strain on the NHS and leading to many young people not getting support early enough to prevent their mental health from deteriorating. We know how vital early support is, and the earlier a young person gets it, the more effective that support will be. This is why we want early support to be available in communities, and for the Government to invest in early intervention and prevention so that young people get help as soon as they need it.
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.