A TYNESIDE technology firm which enables the visually- impaired and those who are dyslexic to read websites has secured £225,000 to expand its marketing capabilities overseas.
Gateshead-based Recite Me, launched by Ross Linnett two years ago after he discovered he was dyslexic and wanted to help others with the same problem, has landed the sum of money from Newcastle-based Northstar Ventures’ Finance for Business North East Accelerator Fund.
The funding has made it possible for Recite Me to attend a recent UKTI trade mission to New York, following a successful similar trip to Australia earlier in the year.
The firm has also expanded its marketing capabilities and appointed a sales representative in Ireland.
The Irish, Australian and American markets all see website accessibility as vital on a number of fronts. However, the UK is falling behind these countries, with more companies and organisations risking court action rather than ensuring their websites are accessible.
Research has shown that around 15% of the population is excluded from using the internet because of visual impairments, literacy issues or learning difficulties such as dyslexia and the World Health Organisation believes the figure could be even higher due to the silent and often overlooked nature of dyslexia.
Linnett said: “I founded the company as a means of creating a solution to a problem I and others have when using the internet – 86% of websites are not accessible to people with low levels of visual impairment or dyslexia. We have the ability to fix that, instantly, using innovative cloud-based software.
“The potential market is huge. In the UK there are around six million people with dyslexia and in the US there are an estimated 54m.”
Recite Me translates text to speech, can improve colour schemes, adds text magnification, dictionary definitions, and translates into a choice of 52 languages.
The business has started with software which is currently being used by a number of local organisations including Go North East, the University of Northumbria and a municipal council in Australia.
Northstar’s contribution to the round came from its Finance for Business North East Accelerator Fund which is backed by the European Regional Development Fund and the European Investment Bank.
Angel investor Steve Nelson has also joined the board of Recite Me in an advisory role.
Northstar’s Rebecca Crawford said: “In countries such as Australia, legislation is making this kind of accessibility obligatory and across the world more and more people are starting to see it as a moral responsibility.
“In the early days of the internet, companies could rely on the fact that many with these issues downloaded software or bought assistive technology products to help them use computers.
“But times have changed. Brands can no longer take the risk and rely on the hope that people still have and use this kind of legacy technology, especially when it is of no use on many of the devices used to access the internet.
“The main issue companies should consider is that if a customer can’t access your website they will vote with their wallets, buy from an alternative source and likely go to a competitor who offers them a better experience.”