Believing in Accessibility for All
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The Value and Importance of Accessible Websites in the Utilities Sector

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.

Utility accessible website

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:

Recite Me utility clients

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.

supporting disabilities online

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.

Ross quote utility companies

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

Recite Me toolbar

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.