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How a Dyslexic Student Grew a Global Web Accessibility Business

For Ross Linnett, the prospect of reading aloud would send shivers down his spine. “For me,” he says, “it was the equivalent of jumping off a 100ft cliff.”

Growing up in the mid-80s in Stanley, County Durham, Ross and his parents had never heard of dyslexia, nor had the majority of his teachers. Knowledge of dyslexia and other common learning disorders as we know them today still had a long way to go. Today, most people have heard of dyslexia, and children are now commonly diagnosed when in school, but the road to Ross discovering his own dyslexia was a long and frustrating one.

Although he excelled at reading from an early age, by the age of 5, Ross was already in a special reading class. At this point, it was clear that Ross needed extra assistance in the classroom. Ross adds, “This was a less pressured environment, so I didn’t feel like I was getting into trouble. If a teacher really took their time with me, I could excel. It was obvious then that I needed an adjustment.”

However, even with specialised classes, support from Ross’ school was still minimal. In fact, Ross still remembers the day a teacher flat-out denied he had dyslexia, calling Ross ‘stupid’, and looking at his school essay and telling him he didn’t have the condition.

Despite this difficulty, Ross found himself thriving at sports outside of the classroom, crediting the outdoor activities for building his confidence despite struggling with reading and writing. Ross quips, “You never really get bullied at school if you’re good at sport, and it does give you a lot of confidence.” Though, as we already know, it’s still not nearly enough confidence to speak in front of a classroom of judgemental school children.

Ross eventually progressed through school, earning a place at Northumbria University to study Engineering (which, Ross adds, “didn’t have much English involved”) and even became President of the Students’ Union, which finally gave him the chance to acknowledge his dyslexia head-on. Given the public position of a Student Union President, with many appearances, meetings and speeches to be made, it was during one of these routine presentations where Ross had a lightbulb moment. “I was presenting at the Students Union when someone pointed out that their father specialised in dyslexia,” Ross says, “They suggested I get tested for it. I got myself tested at university, and they confirmed I had dyslexia.”

What followed was a period of enlightenment for Ross. As Ross would soon learn, dyslexia is one of the most common learning disabilities in the world. The condition affects areas of the brain that process language, which leads to difficulty reading and writing, particularly with school-aged children. Although there is currently no cure for the condition, assessment and tutoring can help, along with emotional support from friends and family.

The need for portable, cloud-based software that could allow someone with dyslexia to properly access information in an accessible, digestible way was suddenly born. It was from Ross’ diagnosis that Recite Me was created. Ross soon learned that although every organisation under the Disability Discrimination Act in the UK had the responsibility to cater to people with dyslexia or visual impairments in the same way that buildings had to install accommodations for people with physical disabilities, no organisation was doing it due to the lack of technology at the time.

Recite Me’s comprehensive, all-in-one solution has now improved the web experience for millions of customers around the world, making online content accessible at the click of a button. With tailor-made solutions such as translation, font and colour changes, screen masks and rulers, and audio narration, Recite Me’s suite of solutions can make a drastic improvement to web-users who need them the most.

With offices in the UK and the US, Recite Me is now at the forefront of providing web accessibility needs to a variety of international clients including Amnesty International, Thomson Reuters, Fujitsu, and the Metropolitan Police. Our mission remains the same from day one: to break down the everyday barriers of dyslexia and ensure that web content is accessible to everyone of all abilities. As Internet usage continues to rise globally, the importance of web accessibility is absolutely crucial moving forward.

Accessibility and public opinion has come a long way since the 1980s. We now know that dyslexia is not the be-all-and-end-all that it once had the reputation of being. In fact, dyslexic brains are actually known to thrive even better than non-dyslexic brains in certain areas, particularly with regards to creativity and problem-solving. Moving forward, it’s imperative that employers and business owners understand the value that different abilities can bring to every organisation. Many of the world’s greatest minds and successful entrepreneurs such as Albert Einstein, John Lennon and Richard Branson were known to have some form of dyslexia. And for Ross Linnett, that isn’t such bad company to keep.

Recite Me is a cloud-based web accessibility solution which allows your visitors to customise your site the way they need it to work for them. Easy to use, their award-winning software includes text to speech functionality, dyslexia software, an interactive dictionary, a translation tool with over 100 languages and many other features.

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