The Homeseeker Plus Partnership is a group of councils and housing providers within the Gloucestershire & West Oxfordshire region.
To help make their online information more accessible to everyone, they added the ReachDeck Toolbar to their website. Read their customer story to learn how it made a difference.
The Homeseeker Plus Partnership is a group of councils and housing providers within the Gloucestershire & West Oxfordshire region. Together they provide affordable homes for people to rent. Working with local community, voluntary and statutory groups they offer financial advice to help users maintain their mortgage or tenancy.
The partnership offers a wide array of quality council and social housing to over 19,000 registered applicants.
Like most other local authorities, the partnership relied more heavily than ever on its website during the recent COVID crisis. It has become the main channel for communicating with citizens and sharing essential information.
To help make their online information more accessible to everyone, they added the ReachDeck Toolbar to their website.
HomeseekerPlus Partnership is dedicated to fully supporting members of the community with all abilities and from all backgrounds.
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HomeseekerPlus Coordinator Luke Shervey said:
“As a partnership we aim to ensure that those who have the greatest need for housing have the greatest opportunity to secure it. Therefore equality is at the heart of what we do.”
The need to provide robust support to all online users is now more important than ever. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to people using the internet more often and for more reasons. It has also sped up the need for public services to be primarily online, or 'digital by default'.
Like many others, the HomeseekerPlus team pivoted towards a digital-first approach. This increased the need for inclusion. Luke added:
“The closing of face to face support services has driven a need for a clear and concise online presence. We must be able to maintain the same level of service for vulnerable users or those with disabilities, who are at risk of being left out and may struggle with self-serving.”
Digital inclusion isn’t just the right thing to do. It is also required by law. Legislation such as the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations means that there is now a legal requirement for public sector websites to meet clear accessibility standards.
In addition to these requirements, the organisation is also obliged to ensure that it operates in accordance with its duties under the Equalities Act 2010.
“With the supply and demand issues of social housing, it was important that we ensure that we complied with all parts of the Equality Act and are taking an active role in tackling discrimination.”
The ReachDeck Toolbar is helping HomeseekerPlus to go above and beyond. As well as working to create and maintain an accessible website, they’re offering assistive technology to those that need it. The ReachDeck Toolbar provides speech, reading and translation support to every site visitor. It supports people with disabilities, as well as those with situational or temporary access needs.
HomeseekerPlus turned to Texthelp, who recommended ReachDeck. In particular the team were interested in implementing the ReachDeck Toolbar, a solution which supports non-native speakers and people with hidden disabilities, visual impairments, low literacy, low digital skills and dyslexia.
The toolbar adds text-to-speech, reading and translation support to your website. It helps to reduce barriers between digital content and diverse online audiences.
Now more than ever, Texthelp tools are helping people to access digital content. In fact, usage of the ReachDeck Toolbar increased by 400% over the COVID period.
The HomeseekerPlus team was impressed by the usability of ReachDeck and its many features. The toolbar can translate web content into 99 different languages. It can also read the content aloud in 40 of the most commonly spoken languages in the world. Luke is already noticing benefits leading from the “increased accessibility to applicants with English as a second language.”
ReachDeck is already having an impact on the number of users self-serving and interacting with the organisation online. Luke explained:
“ReachDeck is a helpful addition to services that can be offered both in person and online. It is allowing for applicants to be more self-sufficient and is reducing the number of support phone calls we receive.”
The addition of the ReachDeck Toolbar has made it much easier for website visitors to access the information they need. It has allowed HomeseekerPlus to better serve their diverse audience, especially those who are often excluded online.
ReachDeck has enabled us to maintain our legal and moral obligations around equality, access to services and contribute towards tackling discrimination in social housing. The translation tool especially has been imperative during Covid lockdowns when face to face services were unable to continue. The implementation was easy and making any changes are simple via the online portal. When we had questions the customer service response was quick and helpful.
Breaks down communication barriers. Improve the accessibility, readability and reach of your online content.