Joe Clark: Accessibility · Design · Writing

Inaccessible content at and

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Testing shows two major sites are inaccessible

I examined two Web sites, and, for the first five days of competition (2010.02.13 through 2010.02.17).

Some things were handled well

In the 2000 Sydney human-rights complaint, a major bone of contention was the presentation of results. The tables used to list who won which competitions were coded so badly they couldn’t be used with a screen reader. Tables at the two Vancouver Olympic sites use good, if verbose, HTML and should be completely accessible to screen-reader users (if they can actually reach them on the page – see below).

There are some questionable uses of foreground and background colours for text and table cells, but only testing with human subjects could determine if those amount to barriers.

Some things were handled so badly that disabled people are shut out

The following problems are so serious they make the sites inaccessible and unusable by people in different disability groups.

For blind people (i.e., totally or almost totally blind users)

Result: Nearly all content that isn’t actual text is inaccessible to blind people.

For blind people and people with physical disabilities (e.g., people who can’t use a mouse)

Result: Even when blind people can read the available information, they will probably not be able to get to it. Most physically disabled people who can’t use a mouse also can’t use either site without resorting to extreme countermeasures.

For deaf people

Videos aren’t captioned. From what I can tell, not a single video on either site has captioning for deaf and hard-of-hearing people. As with audio description, prerecorded and near-live videos could be presented with captioning.

Live streaming video could also be captioned, at little cost. There are any number of ways to include captioning with streaming video, but didn’t have to bother. As all its TV coverage is captioned, the site could simply offer a separate feed that decodes and displays the TV closed captioning in the online stream. (Your browser wouldn’t display the captions; they’d be burned into the picture. You’d just select the captioned stream vs. the uncaptioned one.)

This option produces results at least as good – or as bad – as what TV viewers will see. And it’s cheap: I worked on a similar project about ten years ago whose total hardware cost was $600.

The CTV site would still inevitably show some live video without captioning, because there’s more live video on the Web site than on TV. But there’s no excuse to provide no captioning.

The Vancouver 2010 official Web site merely links to different national broadcasters and doesn’t offer live streaming video (that I could find).

Result: There’s never been more online video available at an Olympic event. If you can’t hear, you can’t understand any of it.

For people with cognitive impairments like dyslexia

This topic is much less clear-cut than others. People with cognitive impairments have a vast range of requirements, some them conflicting. It may just be impossible to present as much information as an event like the Olympics generates without causing inaccessibility for some people who cannot read that much information all at once.

Nonetheless, one very basic mistake could have been avoided. The news spinner should not run automatically. In fact, nothing should automatically move, animate, or blink on a Web page; that also means videos should not autoplay. (Content that moves attracts your attention. Many people with cognitive disabilities can’t afford to have their attention distracted.) Both sites make the mistake of autoplaying moving content on their pages.

Other issues


Posted: 2010.02.22

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