Hi everyone, this week I am chatting to Ross Linnett from Recite Me.
Ross has dyslexia and has developed an accessibility and language toolbar, that helps people to adapt websites to their needs. We have it integrated into our website, and it is incredible.
I’m chatting to Ross about why he decided to develop this software and how important it is for businesses to think about these things. We talk about what it is like when you are dyslexic and how when you are faced with insurance documentation, you sometimes avoid getting the insurances so that you don’t have to deal with the paperwork.
The 3 key takeaways:
- How providing accessible websites and services, is a legal requirement for UK businesses.
- Statistics show that businesses are losing out on 25% of their customers, through a lack of accessibility, estimated to be worth £7billion.
- ReciteMe only requires a couple of lines of coding, to be integrated into your website, to improve your customer outreach.
Next week I will be chatting with Alison Esson from AIG. We are going to be talking about the different services that are available with the Smart Health support that they offer and their new critical illness offering.
Kathryn: Hi everybody, today I have Ross Linett with me from Recite Me. Hi Ross!
Ross: Hello, hi Kathryn, how are you doing?
Kathryn: I’m good thank you, how are you?
Ross: Yeah good, it’s Monday morning and I feel pretty awake.
Ross: There’s sunshine.
Kathryn: That’s very good – oh, it’s raining here, so when the sunshine does – anyway, so Ross is going to be joining me about talking about accessing insurance amongst some other things. So Ross created Recite Me as a way to help himself and others that are living with dyslexia and are having other possible communication barriers just to try and build this accessibility and language software that you use – this toolbar that can be integrated into a website and really, really can do some really incredible things. I do play about with it. I think it’s absolutely fantastic so this is the Practical Protection podcast.
So Ross, how are you doing? What’s the latest with you? I know – obviously you’ve said you’ve got lovely sunshine today which is incredible, but how are things?
Ross: Yeah really good. The latest with me is I’m one of those classic people in lockdown that I just – I’ve moved house because of lockdown. I bought near the coast, you know, because –
Kathryn: Ah lovely.
Ross: During lockdown when you couldn’t visit like internally – like you couldn’t go inside anywhere, I was always going to the sea so – and I’m a surfer, you can probably tell the kind of – I’ve got the cliché look, you know. I used to live in California by the way.
Kathryn: Ah right, nice.
Ross: So the latest thing with me is I’ve moved house and I was not prepared for all the work you have to do when you move in.
Kathryn: It’s incredible isn’t it, the amount of work? We live by the coast as well, it’s just wonderful to be able to just go for a quick walk to the beach, it is lovely. But yeah, it’s been a long time since I moved house now. We moved into our home, I think it was seven years ago and yeah, it is incredible the amount of things that you have to coordinate and I really hats off to anybody who’s doing it in lockdown as well because I imagine that’s kind of a logistical nightmare as well trying to get everything moved and especially if you’re moving a good distance as well, trying to get it all, you know, sorted with everybody and distancing and stuff.
Ross: It’s a logistical nightmare and because of like the greyness of what kind of lockdown tiers actually mean in practicality, it’s like, you know, workmen can come in your house but a friend can’t really come in your house for socialising but if this friend was assessing your house and giving you recommendations on how you develop the house –
Kathryn: Interior designer, yeah.
Ross: Yeah, interior designer who’s a friend who I grew up with –
Ross: And I am – how does that work? Is that a no?
Ross: It’s interesting times right, very interesting times.
Kathryn: It is. I was going to say, I do apologise if there’s any noise. I’ll try and edit it out if it happens but I’m actually having a loft conversion done at the moment so I do have three builders here at the moment who are currently installing stairs.
Ross: I’ll have to refrain from asking you loft questions. The friend I’m talking about in particular as well, interior designer and a friend who converted his loft who has a house almost identical to mine and he’s moved the truss – so keep on accessibility Ross.
Kathryn: Okay. We’ll do that afterwards, quick chat afterwards. All I’ll say is, don’t do it in rain season which I know is very tricky to try and target in England, yes.
Ross: The last time it wasn’t rainy season was 1979, yeah.
Kathryn: Absolutely, yeah, exactly. I’ve never lived without rain. It feels like it’s the start of a film or something that kind of line. Anyway, so each week we do have a truth or lie feature on the podcast and last time I was speaking with Simoney Kyriacou from the Financial Adviser and she had said that her childhood crush – celebrity crush was Mark Owen from Take That and I said that mine was Johnny Depp. So we’re going to say, who do you think was telling the truth?
Ross: I am going to say yours was Johnny Depp.
Kathryn: It was Johnny Depp. I don’t think Simoney actually had anybody to tell the truth I could think of but yeah, mine was well and truly Johnny Depp and I have to say, I think we had peak Johnny Depp at Pirates of the Caribbean, I have to say. But anyway, a lot of our listeners are going to be working within the insurance industry and I have to say, something that kind of like really stands out for me is – and I have been doing like a little bit of research on this as well, is about – we talk a lot about insurance, about access to insurance so people in a sense getting insurance, you know, somebody’s who’s living with HIV, someone who’s had a heart attack, that kind of a situation. But it kind of feels like we’ve completely bypassed and jumped past that very initial aspect of the communication which is just even getting to the stage where somebody can even come and talk about the insurance, can even understand what we’re trying to talk about. So can you tell me a bit more about you and Recite Me and how it all started?
Ross: How it all started, well I was one of those people that – I slipped through the net. I’m known as what is a highly compensating dyslexic or some people will call it mild so it’s kind of harder to catch with me and I didn’t get diagnosed until I was 22 –
Ross: And I’d actually graduated from university at the time which is like – I could have had a free laptop every year.
Ross: That’s what I’m most disappointed about. Forget the fact that I could have had better grades, I could have had – and I think because I was diagnosed at an older age, you kind of – I think you question the world more as you get older, you know, you don’t just take what’s given in front of you.
Ross: And I was in like a strangely unique situation where I was president of the Student Union when I was diagnosed so I had graduated but I was still within the university environment and we were working with the government centrally at the time on the Disability Discrimination Act when it first came out and the whole ethos of the Disability Discrimination Act was that the shift in onus and responsibility was away from the person and onto the organisation across all disabilities. So, you know, if you had a restaurant, you know, it would become your legal requirement to allow the person to get into your restaurant if the person was in a wheelchair or had physical disabilities to be unable to do it. And the government put out a lot of money so the shift in ethos at the time was to that, so like, “As an organisation you have to make the adjustments. Don’t rely on the person to have specialist equipment or things like that.”
Ross: And when I was diagnosed, I got software installed on my computer and that read the website out aloud, it changed the background colour which is two things that really affect how much I read and how long I’ll read for which is I think an important thing for insurance –
Ross: And it changed my world and I didn’t realise how much I was kind of held back by dyslexia until I got something that changed that but then I went to work and I was back to square one because the software was installed on a computer back home. When I went to a library where you’ve got no ability to install any software, particularly you didn’t at the time, I don’t know if technology’s changed but those computers would never be accessible for me and that’s when I realised that all these functions that I should have on a website, you know, the source of the information as in the website owners, should be providing these functions within the website. So if I go to an insurance website, I should be able to select the colours. I should be able to have the website speak to us and it does kind of fit in with – it doesn’t kind of – it does – it is exactly what the legislation is dictating. So that’s how I was diagnosed and that’s how I came up with the idea and that’s how I started off the technology.
Kathryn: Brilliant. I was going to say, it’s interesting and I think a lot of people listening probably wouldn’t realise ‘cos obviously we know about things like the Disability Discrimination Act and different things but we don’t all know the absolute ins and outs of it. We know it’s there, we know that it’s helping people but I don’t think we necessarily understand fully how much that onus is upon us as organisations and as, you know, people who are just – there’s so many people trying to do the right thing and I think sometimes we just don’t know in a sense what we can do to do that next right thing and, you know, it really sounds like there is that complete onus on people if they do have a website that it is up to them to make sure that they have that kind of facility in there to make it accessible to people and I think we do kind of assume sometimes that people would have software like this. So maybe somebody who doesn’t use of their arms or something or is dyslexic or maybe English isn’t their first language, that they would have something already because, you know, they’re bound to be facing this barrier everywhere so surely they must have found something themselves to stop this barrier and obviously not everyone can and not everyone can even possibly afford this kind of software that they would maybe need and – not saying specifically Recite Me obviously but, you know, to do with maybe personal options. I don’t even know what personal options are out there to be honest. Is there – are there kind of personal options that people can have?
Ross: Yeah, you can buy software that you can install on your computer and a lot of them are good but I don’t know about you but when I’m carrying a bag around it’s heavy because I’ve got my tablet. I’ve got my PC, I’ve got my phone in, you know, and that means you’ve often got to buy separate bits of software for each one of those devices. Sometimes it’s not the same company so it’s piecemeal so one thing will work great on one machine but then the feature won’t travel to an Android device.
Ross: So that’s why I think dyslexia in particular is called like the hidden disability because nobody knows – nobody kind of like thinks about it in the same way and if we were just to change the conversation and most people suspect that somebody with dyslexia will buy the software themselves to allow them to access what a company’s providing but imagine if we were still thinking like that for wheelchair users?
Ross: Like, “Ah they’ll buy some sort of specialist chair that will allow them to get up the steps,” you know, and it’s just sees how the comparison’s different with this type of disability compared to something that’s more visual.
Kathryn: Absolutely, yeah. No, I completely appreciate that. I mean, you won’t know this about me, some of our listeners will, I have hidden health conditions as well so – not in the same way as dyslexia but I have things which can physically make things more difficult for me and, you know, it does really affect you as well, you know, you kind of, you know, it kind of gets to you on the inside, you know, it really gets to your core if you do try and go somewhere and you try and engage an organisation and they are doing something which, you know, maybe does present a kind of a barrier and immediately you kind of just sort of like set yourself up for life don’t you? To just go, “Well I’m never using your services or products because if you can’t care about – enough about me to just make this tiny little adaptation, to make it easier for me then why on earth would I ever give you my custom?” And I think it’s really important that people think about that as well, as – I think it’s – I do think it’s hard sometimes for people if they’ve not had somebody close to them themselves or somebody close to them, it’s really hard to understand just how much it can really affect you if you do have that barrier.
Ross: Do you know what, the saddest statistic I heard with regards to dyslexia in particular was, you know, I’m – we cover a lot of different things. I just need to put out there, as well as me being dyslexic there’s a genetic eye condition in my family called LORDs and if you have the gene variant, you go blind roughly round about 60, 65 historically so I’m coming at it from both ends of being like dyslexic and like an eye condition that will eventually lead to blindness. But the saddest statistic that I’d seen is – with dyslexia is that they went to a prison population and tested how many of the prison inmates were dyslexic and it was a staggering 85% of people –
Kathryn: Oh wow.
Ross: In the prison was dyslexic because at a young age the system’s rejected them, right? You know, they haven’t been able to study properly, you know, like they’re intelligent but they can’t do the exams so they, you know, there’s an intelligent person in there but they’ve kind of been made to feel like not intelligent and that rebelling against the system continues into their life where they rebel against all of the system and eventually they’ll take the wrong path. However, that is depressing, it does affect people in positive ways.
Ross: Richard Branson – who like changes the system, you know, and Alan Sugar who will do something and hopefully me.
Kathryn: Yeah, absolutely.
Ross: We’re trying to change the system by what we’re doing.
Kathryn: I think that’s incredible, yeah, that statistic’s actually really, really hard-hitting, that it’s 85%. That’s incredible and I had absolutely no idea of that at all. Well if we chat about it sort of like in insurance terms now. I was mentioning just before about how, when it comes to insurance as I say, we talk about – I work very specifically in the area of access to insurance so I’m helping people with health conditions and other kinds of things to get insurance when they’ve been told that they can’t or they’ve been facing a lot of difficulties. And we did do some research a little while ago about what insurers were doing in regards to – so as an example we were looking at it from the – kind of the mindset of, you know, if somebody was blind or somebody was deaf. What would kind of be available? And it was actually really, really shocking to see the differences across insurers. I think there was one insurer that stood out for me that kind of, you know, sort of like when they were asked, they were kind of prepared to do anything and everything, you know, they were just like, “Right, we’ll get this kind of thing in place, we’ll make sure that there’s, you know, this kind of documentation available, we’ll make sure that if need be we can potentially get some kind of interpreters involved,” and were really, really going full-hog at saying, “We will do in a sense whatever we can.” We then got a lot of insurers who were kind of mid-range in a sense. So it was a case of, “Well we can maybe this, the documentation we think works with screen readers and, you know, we think that, you know, if this was happening then maybe we could try and build a system to try and accommodate something.” And then we did have sort of like the odd one or two where they basically just said kind of like, “We’ve not even really looked at this, you know, and we have no idea if anything is actually set up for this way.”
Which – it really surprised me actually how there was such a disparity ‘cos you kind of thought – well we kind of expected some people to be kind of mid-range and then they would be at a certain level and then to have some that would really stand out but we saw like a complete range of really absolute exceptional kind of responses to then really kind of like, “Okay, so this just hasn’t even really been thought about.” And with insurance, as with anything, we have a lot of jargon and technical documents so when we are arranging an insurance policy, say –
Ross: I hear you.
Kathryn: Yeah, probably the easiest one would be life insurance in a sense which is probably going to have the most minimal amount of documentation out of all of them and probably the least amount of jargon because it kind of just does what it says, you know, life insurance is going to cover you if you die and the rest of the insurances have a lot more technicalities, what if this happens, what if that happens and will you be covered in this instance and you won’t be covered in this instance. And, you know, you’re probably talking, you know, quite easily, you know, at least – depending upon the insurance and the insurer, probably about 10 to 20 pages of – even though it’s quite simple what’s being, you know, sort of like described and everything, and that would maybe be one document. So that would be what’s known as the key features document and then you would have the policy terms and conditions document as well and then you’re going to have the policy document itself and then if you use an adviser you’re going to then have what would be known as a demands and needs letter from the adviser which will detail the recommendation.
Now again, depending upon the level of, you know, the complexity of the insurance that’s being arranged, the amount of insurance that’s being arranged and who for, that could be anywhere from something like six pages if the adviser’s able to really kind of make it all nice and concise and not too technically minded or you could get ones that are running into 20 pages. I mean, just the thought of that – I mean, what is it like for you in a sense to be potentially faced with all of that documentation, even to just get the simplest insurance policy that can be arranged?
Ross: In short, absolute nightmare for somebody like me ‘cos I’ll read four or five times slower and my ability to kind of absorb information the longer I read diminishes. So then I’ll get bored. The best analogy I can give is, you know, it’s like riding a bike, you know, I love to cycle but being dyslexic is like – like reading is like riding a bike, you know, you get on your, you know, you can cycle for so long. Most of the time it’s pleasurable and you eventually get tired of reading. But most of the time it’s pleasurable. That’s somebody who’s non-dyslexic whereas for me, it feels like I’m riding a bike uphill all the time. You get tired very quickly, you lose interest, you know, you just want to finish whatever you’re doing and the reason I use the analogy is because I live in a town called Stanley which is basically hills and I love to cycle and I cycle a lot but I never cycle in my home town because it’s hill everywhere you look.
Ross: It’s the same sort – it’s the same sort of thing for somebody like me. I’m in control of quite a large amount of spend. We have 30 staff and, you know, we do insurance – like for our staff we do medical insurance, we do, you know, we do cash plans and one of the reasons that we went with how we went was the amount of assistance we got with the fact that I didn’t have to read so it was a good – in that sense it was a good insurance broker. But if you – who I actually knew because his daughter was based in our office for quite a bit –
Kathryn: Oh right.
Ross: And trusted him very much –
Ross: But if you look into the statistics, the spending power of somebody with – in this country, this is the UK with accessibility needs, is around about £24 billion. So that is a massive amount of spending power, right? I’ll pose a question back. Have a guess, right. How much of that £24 billion is spent elsewhere because the information on the website wasn’t accessible and they went to somewhere that was accessible for them?
Kathryn: Right, I imagine –
Ross: £24 billion. It’s in the billions obviously.
Kathryn: Yeah, I imagine probably – I imagine you’re going to get probably a mix of people who’ve gone elsewhere to accessible and then unfortunately I’d imagine you’d get the people who just go, “Oh well stuff it, I’m not going to do anything now.” I’m going to go with – maybe I’ll get it completely wrong but I’ll say £22 billion or something.
Ross: It’s actually £17 billion.
Kathryn: £17 billion.
Ross: 86% so, you know, a lot of people see accessibility as, “We should do this because it’s the right thing to do,” which is correct but they don’t see the statistics that they’re losing potentially up to 25% of the audience because if you take dyslexic, visual impairments and English as a second language, that’s 25% of your audience that potentially will spend elsewhere because you’re not putting this effort in.
Ross: And it’s hidden. You know I was saying before, it’s a hidden disability, nobody has a concept until these – this was an independent study by the National Commission – by the National car rental firm in the UK. Nobody has a concept of, “We didn’t get that £200 of insurance this month because the person went elsewhere because they had disability needs that wasn’t met by our website or our information.”
Kathryn: Absolutely. I think it’s a huge business. I do quite a bit with the charity Purple and so they’ve got like Purple Tuesday coming up and again they always talk about the Purple Pound and again into the billions how much people and businesses are missing out on this. And there is just – it is that kind of thing, you know, you sort of like say, “Well there isn’t just the thing of it’s the right thing to do,” or if you’re kind of thinking, “Well it may be the right thing to do but it’s going to cost me a bit to get the software,” it’s like, “Well it may do but you’re also missing out on tapping in to how much, you know, just how much are you’re missing out on?” There is a huge business sense for doing something like this as well.
Ross: That survey was called the Click-Away, the Click-Away Pound.
Kathryn: Ah okay.
Ross: You’ll find it on our website, it’s not done by us, it’s done by, you know, an international car rental company who is quite forward thinking in disabilities.
Kathryn: Absolutely. I just – I think I always find it really baffling that people don’t think about stuff like this as well and, you know, that it’s just kind of – I don’t know, and as well because I think, again, going back to sort of like that initial thing I was saying about people who are maybe – I think deafness and blindness is something that people are really kind of aware of – well I say really aware of and I probably am sure that there’ll be lots of people who maybe are deaf or blind accessing this podcast who are probably shouting at me saying, “No, it’s really not that aware of in a sense.”
But I don’t think people can, you know, in sense like we said dyslexia is quite hidden and I think deafness and blindness isn’t something that is particularly hidden. I think it’s something that we kind of would very quickly kind of understand and I think, you know, everything like with the Recite Me toolbar, you know, the fact that the website can be read to you, that documents can be read to you as well, that you can change the way that things look. So, you know, if somebody does have a bit of a partial, you know, obviously visual impairment they can change things. It just feels like, again, I kind of feel like a lot of people are just kind of – we’ve kind of jumped past it – jumped, you know, I always feel – from a young age I was made very aware that some people are deaf, some people are blind, not necessarily that people – some people are dyslexic, I don’t think I necessarily knew that as a child but as a young child I was aware of these other situations. I don’t know, it just feels like we’ve not even – I mean that would probably have been about, what, probably about 30 years ago now and it just feels like we’ve not really made any significant – I don’t understand why even 30 years down the line we’re still seeing such barriers when there’s so many things like your software that would be able to address it for many people in such a – quite an easy way?
Ross: Yeah, I mean when we first invented the software – it’s a strange one and one thing I’ve realised – I’ve worked within organisations where you’ve got to instigate a culture change and the organisation I worked in 20 years ago was – had 200 staff and it took such a long time to change the culture and the way of thinking of 200 people. Now when you’re trying to change the culture of the whole country, it takes much longer. It’s like a big oil tanker, it takes half a mile to even slightly turn and it is surprising and sometimes disappointing because when we first built the software, which is going on seven or eight years ago – I mean, this is an industry now that is worldwide. We’ve got a lot of competitors in America but a lot of them – a lot of the stuff is based on technology and based on concepts that we pioneered many years ago. But even in the early days, most people were saying, “This seems so simple, why hasn’t it been done? I thought this would have been invented like 10 years previous.” And I was like, “I know. It’s a simple concept. Everybody should be doing it. Will you buy it?” “Ah, I don’t know if I’ve got a budget for it.”
Ross: But even when people understood it, because nobody else was doing it, there’s a very slow sort of adoption.
Ross: But now I mean it’s – now it’s – I mean we’ve got brands like – I’m not here to try and promote us but there is people like British Gas and Tesco, you know, we’re getting big brands taking this seriously now which is –
Ross: It’s great to see. I mean, on an altruistic level, it’s great to see.
Kathryn: Yeah, absolutely and obviously Cura, you know.
Kathryn: Obviously Cura as well, our company.
Kathryn: It’s alright.
Ross: There’s interesting – statistics like somebody who uses the Recite toolbar spends on average more time than what somebody who doesn’t on a website so it’s having an interesting effect and I really want to get in and start interviewing dyslexics on a mass scale to see how they’re using it because it’s interesting that if somebody with a disability like visual impairment and dyslexia which traditionally would spend less time on a website than somebody who didn’t have those disabilities, with the tool is actually spending more time than the average person on the website. I find stuff like that really interesting.
Kathryn: It is.
Ross: I’m a bit of a statistics geek at the minute I’ve got to admit, for dyslexia and visual impairments.
Kathryn: Well I was going to say I think, you know, I’m completely opposite, I prefer stories rather than statistics but the statistics that you’re giving out there – as I say, they are hard-hitting, you know, and it’s something that I think is really important for people to be aware of.
Ross: Can I give you some more statistics?
Kathryn: Oh go on. Go on. I was going to ask you the next question but you go with your statistics. You tell me them. Yeah.
Ross: I get excited about this stuff. This is how sad I am. So just got like a stats update, so there was 9.6 million pages made accessible by Recite in the last month.
Ross: So that’s 9.6 million websites that for me on an emotional, altruistic side, somebody’s not sitting there going, “I can’t understand this thing, you know, my brain will not work.” But from an organisational point of view, it’s 9.6 million pages where, you know, the ultimate aim for somebody in insurance is to get somebody to buy the insurance. You’ve got a much more likely chance of doing that if the person is staying on your website and not going elsewhere. And 200,000 unique individuals so it just shows you how many pages they’re actually going on.
Ross: So I’m really proud of that actually. I’m really proud of the team –
Kathryn: It’s incredible.
Ross: The impact that we’re having.
Kathryn: I think that’s absolutely incredible and I think something that stands out for me as well again going to like the business side of things ‘cos I appreciate a lot of people listening are fellow people in the business like me, is that our industry is really, really heavily regulated, you know, we are absolutely, you know, if anything we do is a little bit wrong or anything we can just be absolutely – we’ll be stormed upon kind of thing. And a massive thing is that we can’t arrange insurance policies for people if they don’t understand what they are signing up for. They must be able to understand every single aspect of it. So that includes documentation that the insurers provide and that includes our own recommendations so even though, you know, so like with my team we are telephone based so, you know, we’ll be providing advice to people usually obviously by the telephone and we’ll be chatting through it. We’ll chat through our recommendations, we’ll chat through everything. We still then have to produce documentation as well for the person to be able to have as a record and also for us to be able to show a record of our work and why we’ve recommended the things they way that they are.
And I think a massive thing for me is that, in a sense for our industry, is where do we stand in a sense if we’re not making those documents obviously understandable straightaway and making sure that they are available in formats, you know, available in such a way that they can, if need be, be downloaded in a sense – is it an MP3 or an MP4 format that Recite Me do? I can’t remember.
Ross: MP3 is sound, MP4 is video as well.
Kathryn: Ah right okay, so MP3 format.
Ross: That’s just like the coding – that’s just like the compression algorithm.
Ross: I’m showing my geekiness again, I run a tech company.
Kathryn: It’s alright. No, no, no it’s fine. It’s good for me to know. I imagine my husband there just going, “Oh seriously Kay, of course it’s that.” And I’ll just be – but no, so being able to do that in an MP3 format, you know, for people who, you know, like you say, who maybe can’t read and it takes them a longer time to process things and to really kind of internalise the information, that’s kind of I feel almost a bit like a duty that needs to happen in many ways because these documents are for people who don’t have dyslexia, for people who are, you know, even potentially quite academic, you know, in different situations. They are hefty-going documents, you know, they’re not the lightest of reads.
Ross: Massive. I’ve still got some insurances I should dig out and particularly when you have a company you should personally do a lot of insurances with regard to what happens –
Ross: Where does it go? You know, what assets are transferred to your family, you know? I haven’t done it and the reason I haven’t done it is I can’t be bothered. This is a dyslexic speaking. I can’t be bothered with all of the reading and absorbing of information that I have to do. So if we have seven, six or seven million people in the country like me, how many people are making that decision not to – just not to bother? “It’s something I’ll do tomorrow.”
Ross: You know?
Kathryn: That was actually going to be sort of like one of my next questions, was so for people who are living with dyslexia, would they choose to in a sense apply for something and maybe not really understand it or just think, “Oh well, it’s – I’ve been told roughly what it is, it’s fine, I’ll just go with it,” and then maybe they’re not understanding exactly what they’re covered for. So the insurance is possibly – either it could be that they think the insurance is going to cover them for something which it doesn’t which means they’re going to be obviously significantly disappointed if something happens and they try to make a claim or maybe it offers something that could really be helping them and is like a bit of an extra on top of just the money at the end – some of them offer services throughout and maybe they’re not able to access those services because they just don’t even know that they’re there because they’ve been so put off by the documentation. And obviously whether or not they’d maybe do that or just go, “Oh stuff it, I’m not going to do it,” but I think your answer, what you just said there is kind of like the perfect summary of that, you know, you’ve got insurances, you know, you need to do and you’re just thinking, “Nope, not going to do that.”
Ross: I just don’t do it and, you know, it’s – this is insurances that I should have done five years ago, right? So you’ve five years’ worth of premiums probably missed because, you know, I haven’t done it ‘cos it’s a choice, I can choose not to do it. With insurance I realise – ‘cos starting this business has been a discovery of how I am and why I’m doing certain things because of dyslexia. When you’ve done them all your life you just think that’s normal but you take a step back and think – and particularly with car insurance, we’ve got – two different things with me with car insurance, I like to drive abroad so you’ve got to make sure that you’ve got the right type of insurances and, you know, there’s so many days and there’s the third party and the likes of that and when I get the documentation sent through, I always phone up. So I don’t elect to read it because it’s too much and I phone up and I try and be as friendly as I can ‘cos I understand I’m probably not wasting time but doing something that I could have done by reading and just – I just blast them with questions, you know, “Can I go to Europe? Can I, you know, is it third party or is it fully comprehensive? Is there a limit on how many times I do that?” So I’m finding a way around the system.
Kathryn: Yeah, of course.
Ross: But that’s only because I have to do it, right?
Ross: If car insurance was optional there’s a good chance, as terrible as it sounds, I would probably not do car insurance because it’s too much hassle. It’s a strange concept to get to people but the uphill struggle of absorbing information when you’re dyslexic is – it makes you want to put things off.
Kathryn: I think – yeah – again, I think that’s a really powerful way of saying it because just as well I think sometimes, you know, because people – when you sometimes answer the phone or sometimes, you know, you could have just had a really – as someone within the organisation receiving your phone call, I can imagine sometimes the people, you know, I imagine some people are lovely but I imagine sometimes people are maybe a little bit abrupt or a little bit – you may hear the odd sigh when you ask them a question –
Kathryn: Different things like that because they’re probably not thinking about the fact that actually there’s this person who can’t read this documentation and they need me to strip out these main bits to make this easier for them which neither of you should have to do that. You shouldn’t have to ring up and ask those questions. In a sense they shouldn’t need to have to answer the questions ‘cos it should just be accessible in the first place and I imagine that’s not a nice situation for you as well when you are having to then actively make that choice to ring and sort of like go, “Right, okay I’m possibly going to be faced with someone who’s, let’s face it, going to be a little bit arsey maybe with me for asking these questions. I don’t want to have to remind myself that I am dyslexic and that I have to, you know, I have to have a change to someone else in regards to accessing these documents.” I think there’s so many aspects to it that we just don’t necessarily think of straight away and I think – I think that’s really important to kind of take on board sometimes.
Ross: But that’s why I said I always – like I said at the start, I make the person laugh or I have a – so it’s almost like I’ve got to cheer the person up to ask the questions that are probably below their paygrade. There’s this weird sort of thing that you reminded me, you know you’re asking questions that you probably don’t need – the average person wouldn’t ask so therefore I’ve got to make sure that the experience from the other person on the phone is as pleasant so I will try and use my personality before I feel like I’m wasting their time to a certain extent and joke about the weather or – do you know what I mean? Like, “Don’t worry about it if you don’t understand us because I’ve got a Geordie accent, you know, my girlfriend can’t understand us half the time.” And it’s something – but it’s a strange thing. It’s like a compensatory move because I’m doing something because I’m dyslexic that somebody non-dyslexic probably wouldn’t do.
Kathryn: Absolutely and I suppose as well in some ways, possibly even more so than somebody with a very clear physical disability because people who – not over the phone obviously but if you are in a situation where, I don’t know – I don’t know if you were in the bank or something, you were speaking with somebody one on one and you’re going through things, you know, if someone’s got a physical disability they will be very clearly a need there to support the person, to make sure everything’s adapted to help them whereas for yourself it’s that – again, that’s that kind of going in and that thing of, “Right, I’m going to have to probably make this obvious that I’m not going to be able to go through all these documents and do it word for word myself and I really want them to go through it with me.” So even more so, there’s probably more of a need to be really – I want to say in touch but I don’t mean in touch but sort of like really aware of the fact that there can be these different sort of like situations where the ability to retain the information may not be very obvious to us as to why somebody may need to be having that extra support but that we should give it anyway and just make sure that we take that kind of time to just go, “Okay,” maybe internally go, “Okay, this person needs a bit more support and it’s the right thing to do to make sure that I offer that.”
Ross: Yeah, and the thing to say as well is that the interesting thing about dyslexia is it’s a different way of thinking. So the brain’s built differently so there’s things that – there’s a lot of things that a dyslexic will naturally be better at than somebody who’s non-dyslexic and one of the – the two best analogies I’ve had is that if somebody’s an army officer and they’re in the middle of a battlefield and they’ve got to talk on the radio, they’ve got to see where the troops are and they’ve got to manage where the aeroplanes are flying and they’ve also got to see where like the enemy is. All those streams of information a dyslexic will be able to process very, very easy.
So it’s very important from a dyslexic campaigning point of view is not to always kind of paint it as something that’s bad or sort of deficient. It’s just different and in our own sort of environment in certain situations a dyslexic strongly outperforms somebody who’s non-dyslexic and one of the interesting things that we – I’d done a talk and I didn’t realise that somebody in the audience was one of the earliest Apple members so Apple in the early days when Steve Jobs was there and when they were doing focus groups, they had to ask and test for dyslexics because they couldn’t have dyslexics in the focus group because the dyslexic was figuring out what was happening and it was corrupting the fact that the dyslexic couldn’t give an honest answer because he’d figured out what the person was trying to measure so there’s an interesting balance of where, you know, you’ve got to make these adjustments because, you know, we can’t read as well but there’s definite definitive advantages to being dyslexic and there’s definitive advantages to being autistic as well. In certain environments, a person with autism will way outperform somebody like myself or somebody who’s non-dyslexic, particularly in like thinly focused areas. So it’s a very interesting space that I think will develop in the next 10 to 15 years I think.
Kathryn: Absolutely. I think that’s incredible and obviously I’m sure that my team are absolutely fine with me sharing and we’ve spoken about it openly before – we do have a couple of people working with us who are dyslexic. One of them – he is an absolute genius when it comes to computer coding. He finds reading things isn’t particularly something he enjoys, you know, and it’s something he has, you know, not found easy but code – computer coding he can just do it. He will just sit there and code all day every day and he is absolutely brilliant. Another member of my team, Lindsay, who – she’s the one that often does like all the marketing for us, she’s a graphic designer, you know, it works perfectly for her to go into graphic design. Again, kind of the computer side of things, the art side of things and she is absolutely incredible and she’s been – over the last few months – she joined our company and she’s been learning how to do like create websites, how to do podcast editing, everything like that and again it’s a lot to do with coding and setting things up and again, absolutely brilliant at it and took it up incredibly quickly, you know, there was kind of like a bit of training. I did some training with her and then sort of like she was writing down in her way how it all works and then that was it. There was only just one training session and she’s gone off and just took it all over and it’s just like, “Well good on you. That’s brilliant, I’ll just leave it all to you now,” which was just absolutely fantastic.
So one thing I wanted to talk about very briefly was just options for people for insurance when they do have things like dyslexia or deafness, blindness and autism and I think, you know, there’s sort of like a number of different things that, you know, the main thing is getting access to even just be able to chat to somebody about these things, you know, if someone knows that they’re going to find the documentation difficult and it does put them off, you know, maybe choose a route where you are going to be able to speak to someone and you’re going to be able to get that support. They’ll be able to talk you through all the main bits and they’ll be able to help you.
Dyslexia in itself probably in many insurances doesn’t necessarily – in the protection side of things, so this is where we’re talking life insurance, critical illness cover and income protection, dyslexia doesn’t necessarily really come up as a question. If it was something where someone was having like lots of interventions, like seeing the GP regularly or seeing somebody like in a professional capacity regularly to talk about adjustments and different things like that, it may be something that comes up in a sense of, “Oh have you seen a GP quite regularly or had to have reviews with somebody?” But the majority of the time it’s not going to probably be anything that even comes up in the questions at all.
When it comes to things like maybe deafness – and I’m covering these very specifically because obviously with the things that the Recite Me toolbar can really help with – is the reason I’m covering these but with deafness, the main things the insurers would probably be asking about that is if it’s kind of got any kind of relation to things like – something like an acoustic neuroma, if someone’s had something like that and it’s caused deafness or if it’s maybe been tinnitus that’s led on to full deafness or other situations. It’s just mainly kind of establishing why the deafness is there but again the majority of the time, unless there’s been something like where there’s maybe been a tumour or something that has kind of impacted upon that – the hearing side of things, the majority of the time, having deafness isn’t going to have any kind of a significant impact.
The only thing that I would say is – and it kind of seems like a bit of a silly thing, but on something like income protection insurance, there would be a deafness exclusion to the income protection insurance which – it kind of seems a little bit daft that it’s there in some ways and, you know, because if they’re working – if they’re deaf and they’re working then surely the deafness isn’t going to stop them from working because they’re already working with that adaptation to not being able to hear. But it is one of those things from an insurance technicality wise that someone may see so again I think that that’s a – it’s one of those things that I don’t think we can get around in a sense. Sorry, you were going to say something.
Ross: It’s an interesting thing because obviously, you know, insurance is based entirely on risk, you know, so you’re assessing risk and somehow somebody who’s done the calculations has assessed that deafness is associated with a higher amount of risk. We’re not a litigation culture however there’s a potential that there will be a need to – there will probably be a need to understand on some level that, you know, there is legislation that says you can’t have different options for people who are – because of their disabilities.
Kathryn: Of course.
Ross: It’s interesting how, you know, that would play out in a court of law. It’s playing out a lot in America at the minute ‘cos since the new Disability Act in America came out, you know, America kind of has a very, very, very active legal system let’s just say.
Kathryn: Yes, yeah.
Ross: A lot of that is, you know, the definition of whether that’s right or not is fought out in the courts.
Ross: And it’s given people a definitive guide of, “Yeah, you can do this but you can’t do that.” In the UK, we don’t really do that which is great ‘cos it, you know, we’re not as much of a litigation culture but we haven’t got the same sort of guidance and that say so it’s kind of like picking – it’s up to individual organisations to pick what they feel is right.
Kathryn: I think, yeah, with that – I don’t know if I’ve – maybe I’ve not explained myself fully with that one so I’ll try and explain it again in a kind of way. So what the insurer would say is, that if you are already deaf, then in a sense they wouldn’t cover deafness from stopping you being able to work in your current job because you are already working obviously so it is kind of the thing with these insurances so it depends – well it depends upon the insurance.
Life insurance, you don’t tend to get exclusions on. The others you can do but say like, as an example, if I went for income protection insurance, I have hypermobility syndrome which means that I am – it’s not happened for a long while touch wood but I am more likely to have breaks and sprains than somebody who’s not got hypermobility syndrome ‘cos my body is – every single part in my body is inherently more bendy than someone else. So what they would say to me is, “Right, because you are – because you already have this condition, if you have this insurance – you can potentially have this insurance but we’re not going to cover you if you have a claim relating to your existing condition.”
So I know that there’s – obviously there’s a big discussion about like the Equalities Act and different things like that as to what is and isn’t okay to say when it comes to insurances but I know for say like – when it comes to a lot of the insurances, especially at the moment, that that would be – for some insurances especially – so say like especially income protection, it is kind of more normal that if you have a health condition that you would see –
Ross: Yes, it does make sense to me, yes.
Kathryn: It’s going to be excluded. So, it would be the same – sorry, go on.
Ross: I know many years ago, maybe four or five, there was a question and one of them was, “Do you have any undeclared disabilities?” or something like that. I can’t remember what insurance it was for.
Ross: I don’t think I went with that insurance because they asked that question because – not out of like, “I can’t believe they’ve asked that question,” it seems sensible but by law you technically don’t have to reveal your disability. So if you’re going to an interview and you don’t reveal you’re dyslexic, it can’t be used as something against you later down the line –
Ross: As a way of getting – I was like, “Well I know the law says I don’t have to reveal that I’m dyslexic –”
Kathryn: But is that going to cause me an issue? Yeah.
Ross: But I don’t want filling this in to cause me an issue in a different sense under Contract Law or anything like that. So I didn’t go with their insurance.
Kathryn: No, I can really imagine. They don’t tend to ask questions so specifically like that now so with insurance now they have to ask specific questions and if they don’t ask the question then it’s not your job to tell them something that they haven’t asked about and the applications and that that we see from all the main insurers especially, they wouldn’t say, “Do you have any undisclosed disabilities?” Not for the ones that are generally available in the market now. So that’s good. So basically you’re not going to be sort of like – no one’s going to say to you specifically directly, “Do you have dyslexia?” and then, you know, kind of go on from there about it and different things like that. That’s not what happens.
But similarly with the blindness side of things, so if somebody was to – wanted to have certain insurances, you know, again they’re not going to – also a good example here for this one and I should have used it as well for the deafness one as well, so say like critical illness cover. So becoming blind is something that is covered on a critical illness policy which means that if you have the critical illness policy, so say like if I take it out – a critical illness policy and I become blind in three years’ time say, I will get a great big whammy chunk out payment for being – having become blind. So, with a critical illness policy what would happen is, if someone is blind there would be a blindness exclusion on there because what they’re doing is – is they’re sort of like saying – the insurer’s saying, “Well you can’t take out the policy. You’re already blind so you can’t take out the policy today and then claim for blindness tomorrow.”
Ross: No, that makes logical sense doesn’t it?
Kathryn: That’s kind of what they’re saying as well for the income protection side of things that I was saying, you know, there are certain situations unfortunately where people will have, you know, sort of like the – potentially an exclusion.
Ross: Yeah, on the other side of that you could get people, you know, that would take it out and then are automatically the getting pay-outs, you know?
Kathryn: Exactly. So that’s the reason that they have them there.
Ross: There has been cases as well – was it British Basketball? Where –
Kathryn: Not sure.
Ross: A lot of them were getting – I think a lot of the basketball – disabled Paralympic basketball team – and don’t quote me on this so –
Ross: But I’m not going to say – a certain sports team, I don’t know which one it was.
Ross: It was a prominent sports team that played for Great Britain and they were allowed to get a lot of things without VAT like cars ‘cos when you have a physical disability you don’t pay VAT on cars.
Ross: And then they were selling them on at a profit.
Kathryn: No! Oh no!
Ross: And then the story broke and you’d probably find it in the news.
Kathryn: I’ll be looking for that and, yeah, I’ll keep the lookout for that.
Ross: On one side it’s quite entrepreneurial but maybe the wrong side of entrepreneurial there.
Kathryn: It was working smart in some ways. So there’s that but then obviously we’ve mentioned autism as well. So autism is something that would often probably come up in sort of like the insurance applications and I think what the important thing is, is to make sure that when people go for the applications, that they speak to someone that they confident with, that’s supporting them. So I’ve been speaking to somebody a little while ago and they’re on the autistic spectrum and they retain information much more easily from speaking. So what I’m doing is, you know, instead of sort of – whereas usually we kind of do, you know, if you can with people, we all try and give them email updates and obviously yes we speak to people. I’m trying to obviously personally avoid sending lots of email because I want to make sure that I’m speaking so that it’s easier for them to be able to retain the information that I’m saying.
But there used to be a thing sometimes with autism which I didn’t like where sometimes it would come up and this again goes back to the things that you were saying as well, is that sometimes they would say – oh, you know, you’ve maybe put this forward, this was many years ago, and they’d say, “Oh I’ve got somebody and yes there’s a disclosure that they’re autistic,” and the question would be, “Okay, so what’s their IQ?” And that used to really get to me because I would think, “Probably a lot higher than yours in all fairness,” you know, the IQ is going to be – well it’s sort of, “Well where do you want the IQ for? Do you want it for their particular area where they are absolutely, you know, probably almost like a savant or do you want it in the areas like traditionally, like maths or science, like traditional routes?”
It’s very difficult because at the end of the day, insurance-wise, we work off an insurable interest so if somebody is autistic and they have a mortgage, they have a family and they want to protect them, then that’s no different to someone else who’s in that exact same situation who isn’t autistic. You know, and if they’re, you know, there’s lots of things that come into it as well but I am pleased to say that the insurance industry is becoming – and it has been for many years, much more open to the fact that, you know, there are health conditions that doesn’t stop people from living, it doesn’t stop them having families, mortgages, working and there is a lot more openness, you know, to people in all kinds of situations. So I’m really pleased to be able to say that and I hope that anybody listening possibly from your side of things hopefully takes that on board and doesn’t feel that they need to put it off for too long to chat to people.
Ross: Yeah, it’s all about understanding and education you see and if somebody who is autistic or dyslexic or visually impaired has somebody to speak to who understands what that means, you know, because it means very different things. That is kind of like the – that’s where kind of the – that’s the – is it the hacienda? I don’t know what the right word is, like the paradise of like, you know, if organisations are trained to the point where they understand what it means, you know, so it’s not, “Oh this person has a disability,” it’s like, “Right, this person is dyslexic, I’ll have to probably adjust the information in this way and if somebody’s autistic, we’ll have to adjust the conversation in that way.”
I mean like, incidentally, we’re probably going to put a job advert out and specifically look for somebody probably in the next – it’s not going to be immediate, probably in the next year, year and a half of somebody who is autistic or somebody who is on the spectrum because the inherent advantages that they give a person. It would be pointless employing – well not pointless but I’m going to use that word for effect but it would be pointless employing someone who isn’t on the spectrum.
Ross: Does that make sense?
Kathryn: Yeah, of course.
Ross: And that’s where we need to switch the conversation, it’s like, “They can’t do this but they can do this much better.”
Ross: They’re much more stronger in other areas.
Ross: Picking up on your point where you made about IQ, so even the IQ tests are built predominantly for people who are not autistic. So there’s a scale – on one side there’s autism and then it slides along and then you get people – the vast majority of the people in the population is this area which is not considered either and then you get the other side which is dyslexic and the person on this side who is autistic or on the spectrum will probably have a propensity to process one bit – like one stream of information. That’s why a lot of people who are on the autism scale don’t like – can’t be outside because it’s too much streams of information. The sight information, the sound information, it overloads the brain. However, put that person on something that requires concentration on one thing, that person outperforms everybody.
Ross: The centre we don’t have to talk about because that’s the average person but if you go into the right hand side, dyslexics tend to process about four or five things at the same time so ladies, you’re not the only people that can multitask – it’s also dyslexic men.
Ross: Put that little joke in there but so, you know, there’s a scale right?
Ross: And somewhere on the scale there’s going to be a job task that is best for –
Kathryn: Every person.
Ross: A person – it’s either here or it’s either here. It’s really hard but my finger gets like –
Kathryn: I know.
Ross: On the IQ test for example, I was bored, I was about 20, you know, I think was still trying to figure out, you know, like why – I mean I’d done well in my GCSEs but why I really excel in some things and then all of a sudden I can’t do exams? So I was like trying to figure out what my intelligence was. Most people that met us felt that I was intelligent but that wasn’t really translating into exams. I’d done a test by Mensa –
Kathryn: Oh yeah.
Ross: So it’s for the top 1%?
Ross: And I’d done that test and it was an online test and I passed to the point where I should be able to join Mensa if I did that test.
Kathryn: Ooh nice.
Ross: And I did another test, right and I was like the 48th percentile which, let’s just say it’s very, very low and so on. It was based on the fact that it was the type of questions that they ask and some of the questions that were very English-based and some of them were even around like rearranging words and spellings, like what you’d get on a Countdown conundrum.
Ross: I would be considered very, very unintelligent but if they’d left them things out I’d be to the point where I could apply for Mensa if I wanted to if I’d done it in an official way.
Ross: So it just shows, like even the measurement of intelligence is not really fit for purpose when you consider all people on the scale.
Kathryn: Absolutely, no I think you’re completely right with that and that’s some brilliant examples there, thank you. So it’s the time now for you to just kind of tell everybody now about Recite Me, what it is that it does. I know you’ve already provided some stats and everything but just tell everybody in a sense what it can do on the websites and how it can help people.
Ross: So the main aim for Recite is to make websites and information as inclusive as possible. So if a person that is dyslexic, visually impaired, English as a second language or simply just doesn’t really like reading, you know, it – we allow the website to be customised on the website to that person. So it’s all about content customisation, so for somebody like me who’s dyslexic, I have – I will read more if the website is read out to us, spoken to me. I will also read more if I change the background colour to yellow and the text blue. Now sometimes not the best to look at if you have a hangover but it does make me stay on the website more often and the key is, the website does this, right? The information provider, in sort of like the spirit of the Disability Discrimination Act, is making the adjustment to allow somebody like myself who normally can’t really access the information in the way that’s right for me to do it. So it’s all about individualisation and content customisation and making that website accessible. It’s done with a couple of lines of code and it pulls our software in. Installation time is like five or 10 minutes.
Kathryn: I was going to say, it was really quick on our website wasn’t it?
Ross: Yeah, it’s really, really quick and then all of a sudden right, your website’s open to this untapped audience that potentially is spending £17.1 billion somewhere else. There’s certain things that we don’t cover like full blindness, you know, you still need software on your computer and, you know, the website needs to be built towards WCAG accessibility standards. We always promote that. We never say, “Don’t build your website to a certain standard.” We always say, “Build your website to the best standard,” you know, and accessibility which is often referred to as a WCAG standard of coding that allows computer software to interact with it plus content customisation like ours makes your website inclusive.
Ross: And it’s the right thing to do for – it sounds like a sales pitch. I need to point out, I ain’t a salesman, I started a company but it’s the right thing to do but it’s also financially – it’s like crazy not to. It’s like 25% of your audience can’t access your information. An independent study has already said 86% of people are spending elsewhere, you know, £17 billion. It’s insane.
Ross: So it took a long time for people to – everybody understood the concept but now it’s becoming very popular with massive brands like Tesco and British Gas and it’s good to see that, you know, we’re probably heading towards a more inclusive internet.
Ross: You know, and to be fair it’s been pioneered by a British firm. I think that’s important to recognise as well.
Kathryn: Absolutely, yeah, I think that’s a brilliant thing to sort of like end it on as well. So, we’re going to do our truth or lie feature if that’s okay ‘cos we’re coming towards the end. So this week we’re going to be doing – talking about our favourite Halloween films. I’m actually doing at the moment, on Twitter, a world cup of Halloween films quiz and so it’s like every day we’re having a poll as to which one is our favourite film until we get to the final knockout round. But I’m going to say that my favourite Halloween film is Interview With A Vampire. What would yours be, Ross?
Ross: Mine is Beetlejuice.
Ross: Remember that one?
Kathryn: I absolutely love Beetlejuice, yeah, brilliant, brilliant film.
Ross: You see I can’t say anything because people have got to guess whether it’s a truth or lie.
Kathryn: So thank you everybody for listening to me and thank you Joss for – Joss? I just called you Joss didn’t I? Thank you Ross – I’ll start that one again, thank you Ross for joining me.
Ross: It’s been a pleasure.
Kathryn: Thank you. So next time I’m going to be speaking with Alison Esson from AIG and we’re going to be chatting about Smart Health services there which are just sort of like some brilliant things, extra services that are available with some insurances on top of all the – kind of the pay-outs which is what people usually think about when they get these things. And we’re also going to be chatting a little bit about their recent critical illness cover update. If you’d like a reminder of the next episode, please drop me a message on social media or visit the website www.practical-protection.co.uk. And don’t forget that if you’re listening and this is part of your work, you can claim a CPD certificate on the website too. Thank you, Ross.
Ross: Thank you.
Ross: Bye bye.