Sydney Olympics nailed

A thousand readers have perused our Reader’s Guide to the Sydney Olympics Accessibility Complaint, which explained, in something approaching laypeople’s terms, just why the mighty Sydney Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG) lost a human-rights complaint to Bruce Maguire, who alleged that SOCOG’s inaccessible Web site discriminated against him as a blind person.

SOCOG lost. SOCOG, predictably, refused to put into place the requirements of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, which ordered SOCOG to add ALT tags to images and imagemaps on its Web site,

Though the addition of ALT texts to images is so rudimentary as to equate with dotting a lowercase i when learning cursive handwriting in grade school, the limitless cauldrons of contempt, dismissiveness, and corruption stirred up by the International Olympic Committee and everything it touches guaranteed that SOCOG wouldn’t abide by the order. Why should it? The Olympics are a law unto themselves.

All that is history, and we don’t want to get into a tirade. But guess what? SOCOG did not get away with it and will now have to pay Bruce Maguire $20,000 for its refusal to comply.

All the details, including a thorough excoriation of SOCOG’s entire attitude problem, can be read in the addendum to the Reader’s Guide to the Sydney Olympics Accessibility Complaint.

We have always held that legal requirements, and lawsuits, are the worst possible reasons to produce accessible content. The Sydney Olympics showed us the worst of the worst – the worst possible way to go about the worst possible way of going about accessibility. SOCOG’s model is one that must be studiously avoided by all sensible Web authors of all sizes.

Since this is a Weblog, here are links to two juicy articles on the decision:

  1. Discrimination blast on Games site”: “The audience of Web-accessibility experts laughed and hissed when [an HREOC official] repeated SOCOG’s claim that it would take up to 500 days’ work to add alternative text to images, provide a list of links and make the results table accessible to browsers for the blind.”
  2. SOCOG makes unflattering history”: “ ‘SOCOG throughout this case just took a very intransigent position.’ ”

Posted on 2000-12-12