Support for Software with a Vision for the Future

1 January 2011

Former Northumbria University Student Union president Ross Linnett has secured £100,000 to continue development of software that helps dyslexic and visually-impaired web users.

Linnett’s Recite Me software allows users to adapt websites to fit their particular preferences, translating text into more legible fonts, changing the colour contrast and reading out the content on the page. 

Similar services were made available to Linnett when he was first found to be dyslexic after university, but were only available on the computer on which they were downloaded.

Recite Me intercepts the page in a similar way to services such as Google Translate, allowing users to alter sites to their tastes from any computer, tablet of smartphone without installing software.

The development of the product in Gateshead is being aided by a £100,000 investment from Northstar Ventures through the Finance for Business North East Proof of Concept Fund.

Northstar’s Dr Stephen Price said: “This is a very innovative product that is truly a game-changer, and which could make a significant difference to millions of people worldwide.”

Linnett’s own dyslexia was first identified when he was serving as president of the Student Union, and he was given programmes to help him adapt websites into a more digestible form.

He said: “It was great for a couple of days, but then I realised that wasn’t really solving the problem.

“It was the website that needed to be accessible and people were trying to solve the problem with the computer. This development is revolutionary. It means you’re no longer confined to the one computer. Any computer in the world can use this product.”

He developed his idea in double-quick time by signing up for the first Difference Engine accelerator programme in Middlesbrough, working long hours and taking advantage of access to mentors.

He said: “It was a bit like speed dating with important people. We were meeting representatives from places like Google, PayPal and Amazon. We probably moved as far in a few months as we would otherwise have done in a couple of years.”

Linnett, who is also involved with a separate web company UKC Design, is looking to adapt the product to make it compatible with Apple’s iPad in the next few weeks. Recite Me has initially been developed for business markets, allowing groups such as local authorities to use the product to improve their accessibility. While regulations are in place to compel public sector websites to be accessible, Linnett said 82% still do not meet the criteria.

The product, which is currently being trialled at Northumbria University, is also being developed to benefit consumers. The company has moved into offices in the Baltic Business Quarter, and Linnett is planning to make the software available across the globe.