A roadmap for making a positive impact on Accessibility & Inclusion
The Texthelp Group believes passionately in accessibility. It’s at the heart of our whole organisation and all of our products.
For us, it’s personal. Our core purpose is to help people understand and be understood. Our CEO, Martin McKay started Texthelp after seeing his father struggling to communicate following a severe stroke. That was back in 1996 and we’ve been building on our accessibility experience and offerings to education and the workplace over the last 25 years. Our recent acquisition of the Lingit Group will allow us to achieve more together, as the Texthelp Group, in terms of accessibility and assistive technology.
Today, more essential digital communications and services are moving online than ever before. We know it's important that our information can be understood by everyone.
We have created cross-department accessibility teams and improved our websites and our products. We still have work to do. Accessibility best practice is about continuous improvement. It's about supporting and including all users, regardless of disability, difference or language. We are fully committed to always being better.
This is our ten point plan which outlines all the steps we've taken for Texthelp so far.
It’s also a roadmap of standards and improvements we’re committed to as the whole Texthelp Group grows and evolves into the future.
1. Accessible & inclusive products
Accessibility has always been at the heart of all of our products and it will continue to be so. Accessible technology is fundamental to our purpose of helping everyone to understand and be understood. For example:
ReachDeck, supports organisations to improve the accessibility, readability and reach of their websites and online content.
Read&Write helps more than 30 million people worldwide with accessibility features such as text-to-speech, screen tint and masking. These features particularly benefit users with Dyslexia, Asperger's, Dyspraxia, Autism and ADHD.
EquatIO makes maths more accessible. Students with learning difficulties or visual impairments can hear their maths read aloud to them. They can speak, draw or type problems and equations directly onto their device.
ClaroRead helps people with reading, writing and concentrating difficulties like dyslexia to achieve all they can by providing text-to-speech, screen tinting and study skills tools. It is an easy-to-use and flexible software that can help individuals to read, write, study and increase their confidence.
Lingdys offers multilingual literacy support for dyslexics and others with reading and writing difficulties.
- Global Auto Correct
Global Auto Correct helps level the playing field for individuals who struggle with spelling. It removes distractions and allows users to focus on what they’re writing.
User Focused Product Design - “Nothing for us, without us.”
Accessible design is a crucial part of our product development phase. We understand the importance of putting users at the heart of our product design and development process. We are committed to understanding the needs of all our user groups, including those with disabilities.
Annually, we carry out hundreds of tests, surveys, reviews and conversations with people with disabilities. Throughout our product development process we work with customers, end users and industry experts to get their input on design concepts and test for inclusive user experience.
In 2022, we launched our first Disability and Accessibility Network. The Network will allow us to formalise how we include people with disabilities in our research, in order to build more accessible products.
If you would like to join our Network and take part in user studies including interviews, surveys, focus groups and more, please get in touch.
2. WCAG 2.1 AA compliant website
We launched the main texthelp website (www.texthelp.com) in February 2021. Throughout the development phase, we made sure that it was WCAG 2.1 AA compliant.
- Our website changes a lot and we have many content creators. We are committed to maintaining the WCAG 2.1 AA standard as our website grows. We conduct monthly scans of our website using our own tool, the ReachDeck Auditor. This allows us to find and fix any issues as they arise.
- Complicated writing can be a barrier for many readers with cognitive or reading impairments. We know that the more readable our content is, the more inclusive our website will be. We’re committed to creating all new website content using the ReachDeck Editor. This means, it will be written with readability and plain English in mind right from the start.
3. Accessible social media content
We’ve invested in a new social media management platform - Sprout Social. This platform allows us to add alt text to all the imagery we use. Alt text describes images to visitors who are unable to see them. This includes screen readers as well as browsers that may block images.
- All images used on social media are designed with accessibility in mind. We make sure we have adequate colour contrast between text and backgrounds. We use simple layouts with padding between text and images. This makes our content more accessible for people with colour vision deficiencies, learning difficulties and low vision.
- All social media content is written with readability front of mind and created using the ReachDeck Editor.
- We make sure that we use accessible hashtags and capitalise each word found within a hashtag. This helps to improve readability and make it easy for screen readers to understand the content.
4. Accessible videos, podcasts and webinars
All new videos uploaded to the Texthelp YouTube channel will include a transcript in the description as well as closed captions. We will not use automated YouTube captions. We know that automated captions can be less accurate and exclude users with hearing difficulties. Each video caption is edited by a Texthelper. For longer videos, we use a transcription service.
- For videos without a voiceover, we are committed to providing captions to explain what is happening on screen.
- All of our podcasts include a transcription of the audio file that is embedded within the webpage that hosts it.
- In 2022 we met our goal of moving to a more accessible webinar platform. This platform enables us to provide live captions during our webinars.
5. Focus on readability
The average reading age of many adults across the world is between nine and fourteen years old. It's not always possible to meet this target, depending on target audience and subject matter. However, by reducing long sentences and reducing the amount of jargon words, we can help people better understand what they're reading. We are constantly working to improve the readability of communication across our whole organisation.
- We make the ReachDeck Editor available to all of our staff, going beyond improving the readability of our website and marketing materials. Our aim is that everything we send is easy to read. Including emails, support articles, board reports, product instructions and more.
6. Accessible documents
A corporate brand book has been created to give guidance to all staff on how to create digital content. This covers the creation of accessible assets in terms of:
- Colour Contrast
- Creating accessible PDFs
- Creating accessible presentations
7. Staff training and guidance
We train all of our staff on Accessibility and Readability best practices.
- This training is also made available to any new recruits to the company through our employee onboarding process.
- We’re committed to updating and refreshing this training in line with evolution of guidelines and best practices.
8. Creating an accessible environment for our employees
We’ve been awarded the Bronze Diversity Mark in recognition of our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. This marks an important step in our journey towards growing a more inclusive workplace where all employees can thrive.
- We’re a Disability Confident Employer. Disabilities - whether mental or physical - are common, so it’s important that we say loudly and clearly, ‘We welcome every potential employee here’. We don’t want anyone with any kind of disability to be worried about applying for a job with us. Since we help millions of people with disabilities through our software every day, it’s definitely part of our DNA to be involved in this scheme and to help others in our community recognise its importance.
- Being Disability Confident also helps us to support our existing employees with their needs. Someone who may have been reluctant to previously disclose a disability, now hopefully feels they can reach out for the extra support that they need without feeling singled out. We’re now a proud Disability Confident Employer with our sights set on becoming a Disability Confident Leader in the near future.
- We’re committed to creating a review process for any new technology tools for staff to ensure that they meet our accessibility expectations.
9. Work with partners to create a more accessible world
We're passionate about creating a world where difference, disability and language are no longer barriers.
In fact, Texthelp only exists because of our Founder’s mission to overcome communication barriers. That's why we work with like-minded individuals and organisations to advocate for change from education through to the workplace.
We love to hear from you. Your feedback helps us shape our products, website and services.
- We will continue to prioritise gathering feedback from customers, end users and accessibility experts. This information has and will continue to inform improvements to our website and our products.
- If you have feedback to share or notice any accessibility issues on our website or in our products, please get in touch.