Olympic sites fail to deliver on accessibility & universal design

The winter Olympic games have been an exciting, and sadly tragic, viewing experience for fans around the world.  The developers of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter games and CTV Olympics have built sophisticated websites offering a vast amount of information.  They’ve also opened up new ways to follow the games by providing streaming broadcasts and real-time results readily available to internet viewers.  Unfortunately, those bells and whistles aren’t available to many users with disabilities.

In fact, a thorough review by Joe Clark shows that many people with disabilities have been shut out.  Issues range from a lack of alt attributes for images (44 missing on the home page alone!) to videos without audio descriptions.  Keyboard users also struggle to navigate their way through the sites.

Evertt Zufelt has written a detailed article outlining his attempts to watch a video on the CTV Olympics website as a blind user.  He was eventually able to get the videos to work but the audio started immediately with no way for him to stop it,  a big problem for someone who relies on a screen reader.

It may be too late to completely resolve these accessibility issues but there is certainly time for VANOC and CTV to tweak their sites to make the Paralympic games, opening March 12, a more inclusive experience.