Olympian Anger – Is It So Hard to Remember Accessibility?

Everett Zufelt's open letter to CTV (Canada) regarding the accessibility of CTVOlympics.ca makes me angry.

I had already read Joe Clark's article about the Vancouver Olympics websites being inaccessible to disabled people, as well as the Webaxe article. It was clear from Twitter that the sites were inaccessible.

So why should Everett Zufelt's letter make me angry? Because it was his story.

The previous articles were excellent, but here was the story of a person performing a rather ordinary task. Just another Canadian curious about this huge sports spectacular happening in his own country. Big deal. Only this person couldn't perform this ordinary task. He had the knowledge and desire to get the information, but something was keeping the information out of his grasp.

Was it ignorance? Thoughtlessness? Carelessness? Cheapskate-ness? Why, why, why?

This is 2010, people! Has everyone forgotten what happened with the case of the website for the Sydney Olympics in 2000? Did collective amnesia strike? The Sydney Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG) ignored a complaint and a ruling about the inaccessibility of their website for the 2000 games, and they were fined. You can read the W3 case study about the Sydney Olympics accessibility complaint [included in new article in footnote ¹], or you can read the full case yourself.  Updated An awareness about accessibility has grown since 2000. The Web Accessibility Initiative over at W3C has grown tremendously. We have had the Target lawsuit concerning accessibility.

Oddly enough, when I was searching for links about the Sydney issue, I came across an article called Olympic Lawsuits That Could Have Changed History. It matched my search for the words sydney, olympics, lawsuit, and web. I was impressed that someone wrote how using accessible web practices would have changed history and improved the web experience for all users of screen readers, at least. I read through the article. Nothing. My keywords matched, but the case of Maguire vs. SOCOG was not mentioned anywhere. Wow.

The Alliance for Equality for Blind Canadians published a press release about blind Canadians being overlooked by Olympic websites. They listed three things – three thingsthree really simple things – that could have made a huge difference. The site wouldn't necessarily have been perfect, but the navigation would have been greatly improved.

In ten years, someone couldn't learn three simple things. That's why Everett Zufelt's letter makes me angry.