Olympic Failure: A Case for Making the Web Accessible

Tom Worthington FACS

Director, Tomw Communications Pty Ltd, Canberra

For INET 2001: Internet Society Conference, 8 June 2001, Stockholm.


Free preview sponsored by RNIB on Friday 1 June, 3pm-5pm, Portland Room, International Students House, 229 Great Portland Street, London W1, UK. Register with Julie Howell.

See also books: Web Accessibility; Sydney 2000 Olympics

Abstract:

The issue of disabled access to the web is examined using the case of the 2000 Olympic web site. Wider use of accessibility guidelines for small screen and wireless web devices is discussed.

In August 2000 the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games was found to have engaged in unlawful conduct by providing a web site which was to a significant extent inaccessible to the blind. The Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission ordered the web site be made accessible by the start of the Sydney Olympics. The details of the case and its global implications for government policy and commercial practice on the Internet is examined by one of the expert witnesses who gave evidence to the commission. The possible benefits for wireless and TV based web access from use of accessibility guidelines is looked at.

Contents

  1. Abstract
  2. Introduction
  3. A Case for Making the Web Accessible
  4. Olympic Web Case: Maguire V SOCOG
  5. Implications
  6. References

Introduction

The Roman writer Cicero termed what we would call the cultural landscape a second nature (alteram naturam). This was a landscape of bridges, roads, harbours, fields - in short, all the elements which men and women introduce into the physical world to make it more habitable, to make it serve their purposes. (Hunt 1992)

Web design is a new discipline, but one which needs to build on-line systems for the community which was not only technically efficient but civilized places to be. Early discussion of the "Information Superhighway" considered social issues (ACS 1994). In the last two years we have seen a virtual gold rush, with short term greed staking out as much of the Internet's common land for short term speculative development. Much of this investment has been wasted, due to a lack of thought as to what people might actually be able to use. Now that web-chaos has subsided, we can start building a long term, sustainable public infrastructure, which will be socially useful, affordable and perhaps even profitable. One aspect of that is to make web technology which is accessible to the broader community.

A Case for Making the Web Accessible

Web accessibility guidelines have been developed to assist designers to make web sites which are available to the greatest range of users of the Internet. The most respected guidelines are those from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C 1999):

For those unfamiliar with accessibility issues pertaining to Web page design, consider that many users may be operating in contexts very different from your own:

Content developers must consider these different situations during page design. While there are several situations to consider, each accessible design choice generally benefits several disability groups at once and the Web community as a whole. For example, by using style sheets to control font styles and eliminating the FONT element, HTML authors will have more control over their pages, make those pages more accessible to people with low vision, and by sharing the style sheets, will often shorten page download times for all users. (W3C 1999)

Information professionals have an obligation to use their skills for the benefit of the whole community. Researchers will find interesting intellectual challenges in addressing accessibility issues, insights for better application interfaces and more efficient application designs. Commercial web developers will find a larger market by designing for more of the community and possibly lower hardware and network costs through more efficient design. In particular accessibility features can make hand-held wireless web devices more practical. If not convinced by these arguments, web developers need to consider the risk of charges of unethical conduct and possible legal action for discrimination.

Common misconceptions with accessibility and the web

There are many misconceptions about accessibility and the web. Many of these are common amongst IT researchers and professionals. This is holding up work on building better web applications for everyone, not just the disabled:

Why Worry About a Few Blind People?

There is a common misconception that web accessibility issues are exclusively to do with the blind. Blindness is only one disability which can be addressed. In a study of web sites the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission pointed out that that a group with accessibility problems is the aged (HREOC 2000b). This is a group which we all hope to join one day, which is growing in size and in political and economic power.

Isn't the Web Inherently a Visual Medium?

The Internet and the web were (and mostly still are) based on printable text, a format relatively friendly to many with disabilities. Those with some vision can use large fonts to read text on screen. Synthetic voice software can be used to read out the text on the screen. For braille readers a refreshable Braille display, which converts the text to a row of raised dots on a electromechanical device, can be used.

Isn't It Too Late to Add Accessibility Features to the Web?

There are already accessibility features built into the web. The simplest example is alternative text for images. The HTML image command (IMG) includes an optional alternate text (ALT) tag. This allows a text caption to be entered, which is displayed when the image can not be. This option is available in just about every web authoring tool and is supported by just about every web browser. Web authors just need to type in the captions when adding images.

Won't it Cost A lot?

Accessibility may limit some web design options and add some extra work. But if planned as part of a design time a visually appealing and accessible design can be achieved. Also an accessible design may save on hardware and network costs.

Why Do Extra Work?

IT professionals who design user interfaces have built up a body of experience in how to make an application easy to use. Much of that experience has been forgotten by, or is unknown to, those now designing web sites. While making accessible web sites we can also relearn the lessons of good application design for all users.

Hasn't XML Fixed All This?

The Extensible Markup Language (XML) from the World Wide Web Consortium is a meta-language - a language for describing languages. One example of one use of XML is for XHTML, which provides a more carefully formatted implementation of HTML using the XML syntax (Worthington 2000c). XHTML is designed to allow a bridge between the existing web and new features. However XHTML's features are of little use if not supported by web authoring tools or if web authors don't bother to use them.

There is no law against it!

In Australia, and many other countries, it is unlawful to discriminate against disabled people. In August 2000 the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG) was found to have engaged in unlawful conduct by providing a web site which was to a significant extent inaccessible to the blind (HREOC 2000). This was not the first time that discrimination involving information technology had been considered. In 1995 a member of the Australian Deaf community launched a successful case against an Australian telecommunications company. The company unfairly discriminated against him by refusing to supply a teletypewriter (TTY) on the same basis that the corporation supplied a standard telephone to able-bodied persons (Bourk 2000).

Olympic Web Case: Maguire V SOCOG

On 7 June 1999 a complaint was made to HREOC, by a blind person that he was unlawfully discriminated against by SOCOG in three respects: the failure to provide braille copies of the information required to place orders for Olympic Games tickets; the failure to provide braille copies of the Olympic Games souvenir programme; and the failure to provide a web site which was accessible to the complainant. The Ticket Book component of the complaint was dealt with on 30 September 1999 and Souvenir programme, 27 March 2000.

The complainant requested that the HREOC make the following orders or declarations:

  1. That SOCOG include ALT text on all images and image map links on the website;

  2. That SOCOG ensure access from the Schedule page to the Index of Sports; and

  3. That SOCOG ensure access to the Results Tables on the web site during the Olympic Games. (HREOC 2000)

A decision on the web accessibility was delivered 24 August 2000 (HREOC 2000), with SOCOG found to have engaged in unlawful conduct by providing a web site which was to a significant extent inaccessible to the blind. The web site ordered to be made accessible by the start of the Sydney Olympics. On 6 November 2000 (after the Sydney Olympics) the web site was found to only be partly complaint and $20,000 damages were awarded (HREOC 2000c).

Assessing the Accessibility of the Olympic Web Site

At the request of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, two expert witnesses prepared reports for the complainant on the accessibility of the Sydney Organising Committee of the Olympic Games Website at http://www.olympics.com (“SOCOG’s website”). This was done by the author (a Visiting Fellow in the Department of Computer Science at the Australian National University and independent electronic business consultant) and by Jutta Treviranus, manager of the Adaptive Technology Resource Centre, University of Toronto and chair of the W3C Authoring Tool Guidelines Working Group.

The witness statement by the author to the Commission is available online, (Worthington 2000a) and will be examined below in detail. A demonstration showing two options for implementing accessibility features on one of the pages was prepared later (Worthington 2000b).

As well as providing an analysis of the particular web site the statement provided a tutorial as to what the web is and what are the accessibility issues are.

Extrapolating from the Existing Site

During the case, SOCOG did not supply technical details about the web site requested by the complainant's experts claiming the information was “highly commercially sensitive information within the knowledge of SOCOG and its contractor” (HREOC 2000). It should be noted that the contractor who built the web site for SOCOG was IBM. At one stage in the case SOCOG argued that responsibility for any problems with the site were IBM's. However, this was not accepted and no complaint was made against IBM.

Details requested were:

As this information was not supplied, it was necessary to examine the information which was available on the then current web site to evaluate the design and estimate the cost and time needed to make the site accessible.

Website accessibility guidelines

Guidelines have been developed to assist website designers to make websites which are accessible to the greatest range of users of the internet. These give recommendations as to which options are easiest for readers to use. The following were used to asses the SOCOG Website:

  1. W3C Recommendation Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0, 5-May-1999 at (http://www.w3.org/TR/1999/WAI-WEBCONTENT-19990505 ).

  2. AusInfo Guidelines at http://www.dofa.gov.au/ausinfo/
    guidelines/4.1%5F%2D%5F4.2.2.html
    .

  3. IBM's Web Accessibility Guidelines and Checklist at http://www-3.ibm.com/able/accessweb.html.

(Worthington 2000a)

The "Bobby" web-based tool was used to test selected web pages. Bobby analyses web pages implementation of web usability guidelines, as well as to formal web syntax. Bobby was created by the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST). It allows a quick and easy test, but detailed analysis still has to be carried out manually and judgement is needed to assess the results of the tests. One erroneous result found is detailed below.

There is a high level of consistency between the guidelines used. Bobby, AusInfo and IBM make similar points in differing levels of detail and all reference the W3C guidelines.

Inspection of the SOCOG Website

On 27 April 2000 the following pages were inspected (these pages may have changed since this inspection was carried out):

The web pages were displayed using Internet Explorer (Version 5.0 for Windows 95), with image display switched off (to simulate use by a blind person). The display of the web pages was inspected for usability and then an examination of the HTML source code made. It should be noted that a more detailed analysis would be required to more formally rate the site, but this was not required, nor was it feasible.

Problems found using the “Bobby” usability test tool

26. When the main frame “home.html” was submitted separately to Bobby it failed due to three images with no ALT text and a request for tables to be checked for tables headers for the table rows and columns... (Worthington 2000a)

Use of the Bobby tool proved difficult, due to the extensive use of frames on the site, requiring each frame to be submitted separately. The issue of "ALT" text was an issue which proved to be relatively easy to explain to the commissioner.

29. The "Sports home page" http://www.olympics.com/eng/sports/home.html includes a confusing menu system, with "a choose a sport" button and a list of sports which are on the bottom of the screen in one large image map (where they would only be seen by scrolling down). This could be supplemented (or replaced) by a simple text list. (Worthington 2000a)

The design of the "Sports home page" menu while technically relatively simple proved a very difficult issue to explain. Use of diagrams or a working example may have been of use. The menu used javascript to implement a pull down menu, which contained one client side image map. The image map contained no ALT text.

A demonstration showing two options for implementing accessibility features for the menu was prepared later (Worthington 2000b):

Option 1: ALT Text on the existing image map

In this implementation, a ALT tag with the name of the sport is added to each rectangular region of the existing image map. As an example, alt="Archery" is added to the first area:

< AREA shape="rect" coords="1,1,80,12" href=http://www.olympics.com/eng/sports/ AR/home.html" alt="Archery">

There is no change in the appearance of the menu for most users. However, the effect of including the ALT tags is that a browser can display the text labels in place of the graphics, if required.

Option 2: Simple text menu supplementing or replacing the existing image map

Simple hypertext links are used for the name of each sport:

<A HREF="http://www.olympics.com/eng/about/programs/
index.html?/eng/sports/AR/home.html"> Archery </A>

These instructions could be used in a simple list of sports, or in a table as show below. The list has been changed to run alphabetically across the columns, rather than down, to aid braille readers (which read one line of horizontal text at a time). The colour of the table background and text can be changed to match that of the current graphic. However, those colours may be difficult for some people to read:

Archery

Athletics

Badminton

Baseball

Basketball

Boxing

Canoe/Kayak Slalom

Canoe/Kayak Sprint

Cycling: Mountain Bike

Cycling: Road

Cycling: Track

Diving

Equestrian

Fencing

Football

Gymnastics: Artistic

Gymnastics: Rhythmic

Gymnastics: Trampoline

Handball

Hockey

Judo

Modern Pentathlon

Rowing

Sailing

Shooting

Softball

Swimming

Synchronized Swimming

Table Tennis

Taekwondo

Tennis

Triathlon

Beach Volleyball

Volleyball Indoor

Water Polo

Weightlifting

Wrestling

However, some disabilities, such as Aphasia involve reading problems and graphics can improve access (CDARU 2001). A simple way to achieve this for the Olympic Games would be to use the standard sports pictograms, along with text in the sports menu. The pictograms were already used on the sports web pages linked from the menu. Thus:

Archery Archery

Based on the inspection the conclusion was that the SOCOG Web Site was inaccessible to the blind:

  1. ALT text is not included on small number images of the web site. As an example the graphic at the top of the page which links to “home” and the button bar (with “feedback”, “about” and “privacy”) have no text captions. The visually impaired user would be unable to discern what these items were for, due to the lack of a readable label.

  2. Tables are not laid out so as to be read a linear way. Tables contain multiple lines of wrapped text, which are read across the rows, as for example by a Braille reader, and so are not intelligible. As an example the table in the "What's on - December 1999" page http://www.olympics.com/eng/
    schedule/Event_1299.html
    has three columns of text. The first column has the dates broken across three lines: "4 Dec to 5 Dec". This would be read by a Braille reader as three separate items starting three lines of the table, not as one phrase.

  3. The "Sports home page" http://www.olympics.com/eng/sports/home.html has a list of sports in one large image map, which is unreadable by non-text readers.

Problems found and compliance with Web Accessibility Guidelines were summarised as:

i. W3C Recommendation Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0, 5-May-1999 at (http://www.w3.org/TR/1999/WAI-WEBCONTENT-19990505 ).

From: Guideline 1. Provide equivalent alternatives to auditory and visual content. Checkpoints ( http://www.w3.org/TR/1999/WAI-WEBCONTENT-19990505/#gl-provide-equivalents ):

“1.1 Provide a text equivalent for every non-text element (e.g., via “alt”, “longdesc”, or in element content). This includes: images, graphical representations of text (including symbols), image map regions, animations (e.g., animated GIFs), applets and programmatic objects, ascii art, frames, scripts, images used as list bullets, spacers, graphical buttons, sounds (played with or without user interaction), stand-alone audio files, audio tracks of video, and video. [Priority 1]”

Guideline 5. Create tables that transform gracefully. ( http://www.w3.org/TR/1999/WAI-WEBCONTENT-19990505/#gl-table-markup )

“5.1 For data tables, identify row and column headers. [Priority 1] For example, in HTML, use TD to identify data cells and TH to identify headers.

5.3 Do not use tables for layout unless the table makes sense when linearized. Otherwise, if the table does not make sense, provide an alternative equivalent (which may be a ). [Priority 2]“

From: Guideline 1. Provide equivalent alternatives to auditory and visual content. Checkpoints ( http://www.w3.org/TR/1999/WAI-WEBCONTENT-19990505/#gl-provide-equivalents ):

Checkpoints:1.1 Provide a text equivalent for every non-text element ...

For image maps, either use the “alt” attribute with AREA, or use the MAP element with A elements (and other text) as content. “

ii. AusInfo Guidelines at http://www.ausinfo.gov.au/guidelines/index.html.

4.2.1.2 Equal access and the web: some issues ( http://www.ausinfo.gov.au/guidelines/
standard01.html#4.2.1.2
)

“Availability of information and services in electronic form via the web has the potential to provide equal access for people with a disability; and to provide access more broadly, more cheaply and more quickly than is otherwise possible using other formats...

Current text readers and Braille output devices are not able to deal with information or links presented only in graphics or photographic format. “

iii. IBM’s Web Accessibility Guidelines and Checklist at http://www-3.ibm.com/able/accessweb.html.

Version 2.1 January 11, 2000 (http://www-3.ibm.com/able/accessweb.html#checklist )

“Checkpoint

1: Images and animations. Use the alt=”text” attribute to provide text equivalents for visuals. Use alt=”” for visuals that do not convey important information or convey redundant information.

2: Image Maps. Use client-side image maps to provide accessible text for image map hot spots. If you use server-side maps, provide equivalent text links.

...

9. Tables. For tabular data, use the CAPTION element and/or the summary attribute. For tables with complex row and column headers, use the headers attribute on cells.”

Changes identified to make the site more accessible were:

  1. Add ALT text to the images where it is not already included. Supply a text based menu as an alternative to image maps.

  2. Lay out tables so as to be readable in a linear way (or provide a linear alternative to tables). Identify headers for the table rows and columns to aid reading.

  3. Supplement (or replace) large image map list of sports on the “Sports home page” http://www.olympics.com/eng/sports/home.html with a simple menu.

Estimating the Cost of Changes to the Web Site

To prepare an estimate of the cost of changing the web site for accessibility, following information was requested:
  1. the number of templates to be used for the SOCOG website.

  2. details of the tools used to generate the pages of the SOCOG website.

As the results tables were not yet on the website (the Olympic Games not having yet commenced) a sample page, in electronic format, of the proposed results table was also requested. The number of different templates (standard designs for pages) for results tables was also requested.

The requested information was not provided and so a number of assumptions, based on the existing site, were made.

Assumptions made to cost the website

  1. Number of templates used on the website: An Alta Vista web search for pages hosted at “www.olympics.com” found 204 web pages. Alta Vista was used as it was the web search engine linked from the Olympic web site and so presumably the one with the most comprehensive set of links. Based on the author's experience of designing web sites, it was assumed that these pages consisted of 10 subsidiary pages for each template, giving an initial estimate of approximately 21 general templates (204 divided by 10 and rounded up).
  2. Tools have usability options: It was assumed that the tools used to design the web site have provision for usability options (such as the inclusion of “ALT”) tags and tools for searching for particular structures (such as tables) which need to be checked. Therefore no additional cost was included for the cost of tools to fix the website.
  3. Number of Sports: The “Organising the Games - Overview of the Sydney 2000 Games” http://www.olympics.com/eng/about/programs/overview.html Fact sheet gives the estimate of “28 sports, will compete in some 300 events”.

Based on these assumptions an estimate was made of the number of templates needed:

Type of template No Templates
general 21
sports pages 28
event result templates 308
Total 357

Estimate of the time required and cost for the website changes

An estimate of approximately 3.1 weeks for one competent web developer to make the changes was calculated. This was based on a 7 hour day and:

Task Description Days
Survey Assess the extent of requirements for changes 4
Design Formulate, document and test changes for each type of template 2
Change Carry out changes for each template
(10 minutes per template x 357 templates)
8.5
Test Test changes to templates 1
Total 15.5

The cost of the changes on the basis of a consultant’s rate per day of $1,900.00 was $29,450.00. This estimate was later increased slightly when SOCOG provided a larger revised figure for the number of sports at the Olympic Games.

The Statutory Provisions

The case was made under section 24 of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA 1992):

24 Goods, services and facilities

(1) It is unlawful for a person who, whether for payment or not, provides goods or services, or makes facilities available, to discriminate against another person on the ground of the other person’s disability or a disability of any of that other person’s associates:

(a) by refusing to provide the other person with those goods or services or to make those facilities available to the other person; or

(b) in the terms or conditions on which the first-mentioned person provides the other person with those goods or services or makes those facilities available to the other person; or

(c) in the manner in which the first-mentioned person provides the other person with those goods or services or makes those facilities available to the other person.

(2) This section does not render it unlawful to discriminate against a person on the ground of the person’s disability if the provision of the goods or services, or making facilities available, would impose unjustifiable hardship on the person who provides the goods or services or makes the facilities available.

Findings

The decision was delivered 24 August 2000, with SOCOG found to have engaged in unlawful conduct by providing a web site which was to a significant extent inaccessible to the blind and the web site ordered to be made accessible by the start of the Sydney Olympics (HREOC 2000):

3.1 Discrimination

In the Commission’s view, the respondent has discriminated against the complainant in breach of section 24 of the DDA in that the web site does not include ALT text on all images and image maps links, the Index to Sports cannot be accessed from the Schedule page and the Results Tables provided during the Games on the web site will remain inaccessible...

3.2 Unjustifiable hardship

In short the respondent claims that the difficulty in providing a separately hosted site, its cost and the risks which would be offered to the existing developed site are such as to impose on the respondent a level of hardship which cannot be justified.

The evidence called for the complainant can be summarised and contrasted with that of the respondent:

In the view of the Commission, the respondent cannot avoid liability for its breach of section 24 of the DDA by its claim of unjustifiable hardship.

A declaration that SOCOG do all that was necessary to render its web site accessible by the commencement of the Olympic Games was also issued. On 6 November 2000 (after the Sydney Olympics) the web site was found to only be partly complaint and $20,000 damages were awarded (HREOC 2000c) which SOCOG paid.

This description of the case is from the point of view of one of the expert witnesses for the complainant. It should be noted that no web designers from IBM or SOCOG gave evidence to the commission as to who, how or why the web site was designed the way it was. The case and reasons for the actions of SOCOG and IBM would be a suitable topic for research. An previous discrimination case concerning telecommunications and the deaf, has been researched in detail (Bourk 2000).

Implications for government policy and commercial practice on the Internet

Obligations to Make the Web Accessible

The Internet Industry Association issued a statement (IIA 2000) warning businesses that the SOGOC decision puts them on notice:

IIA executive director, Peter Coroneos said that the SOCOG decision confirmed the view that the Disability Discrimination Act applied to the online provision of goods, services or facilities to the public in Australia, whether or not for payment. "Disability access is therefore a serious consideration for any Australian business wanting to establish a presence on the Net. Sites which targetted customers overseas might also be liable under equivalent legislation in the US, Canada, the UK and elsewhere, " he said.

However, there is little indication that Australian corporations are taking the threat of legal action seriously.

Australian governments decided to adopt the W3C Guidelines, with the Commonwealth Government requiring all agency web sites to pass accessibility tests by 1 December 2000. However, the policy doe not state what tests are to be complied with, nor the level of compliance required. There are three conformance levels in the W3C guidelines (easiest to hardest): A, AA and AAA.

Opportunities for research

Accessibility of web sites for the disabled is a subset of the more general issue of usability of IT applications. Applying the discipline of disabled access can provide insights into better web and general computer application interfaces for non-disabled users. As an example accessibility features can be used to make hand held wireless web devices more practical, by improving usability of a small screen and lowering bandwidth requirements.

Commercial spinoffs for wireless and hand-held computing

Much current work on developing wireless Internet devices is based on the Wireless Application Protocol (WAP). With this approach specially developed protocols are used to overcome the limited bandwidth and processing capacity of a mobile telephone. An alternative approach is feasible, where existing web and Internet standards are tuned to work within the limitations of a hand held device.

Web accessibility features provide one way to adapt web content for a wireless device. The same advanced features, such as frames, which cause problems for accessibility also cause problems on the small screen of a mobile device. ALT text on images can be used to cope with the limited bandwidth of a wireless connection.

Rather than requiring all web sites to be re-implemented for WAP, hand held devices could use standard web pages which have accessibility features implemented. The same accessible design features which make web pages suitable for the disabled, also make them suitable for small screens and lower speed wireless Internet connection.

A rival technology to WAP, called "I-mode" is widely deployed in Japan. This uses cHTML; a subset of the HTML format used for web pages. cHTML leaves out frames and a number of other web features which limit accessibility.

The draft WAP 2 standard includes XHTML as an option. This raises the possibility of defining a subset of HTML which works acceptably on existing web browsers, is accessible to the disabled, but also functions on wireless devices using WAP and I-mode. The higher processing capacity and larger screen size of hand held devices based on Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) portable computers, rather than mobile telephones, reduces the need for many of the limitations in WAP 1.

Research is also needed on tools which automatically optimize the design of a web site for a range of display devices. These tools could render XML content in the format most suitable for the device and user. In some cases this could be done by the server, by an intermediate gateway or in the client device. It is also be possible to reformat existing web pages, to some extent, to add accessibility features with a gateway. The draft WAP 2 standard incorporates a number of options for gateways which could be adapted to provide both accessibly and mobile efficiency.

Low Bandwidth and Peak Web Use

Accessible web design can also be used to lower equipment and network cost and provide access on low bandwidth links. On most web pages the text provides the essential information, but the images take most of the download time. Many web browsers are designed to display the text of the web page as soon as possible, with images being added as they arrive. If ALT text is available on images and the web page is carefully designed, it will be usable as soon as the text of the web page has arrived. The user need not wait for the images to be downloaded, but can use the text only rendering of the page.

On a low speed link or on a heavily loaded web site, an accessible design can make the difference between something usable or unusable. This may be a lower cost alternative to installing additional server and network capacity to deal with occasional peak demand periods.

As an example, the SOCOG Olympic web site heavily loaded during the Olympic Games. Had the site been designed to implement accessibility guidelines, it would have been possible to arrange to have the text version of the site available while the graphics were still downloading. Instead the user was required to wait for graphics to download before the site was usable. As well as a better experience for the user, this would have allowed the site to cater for a larger volume of users.

As the Internet changes from an academic research tool to a mainstream community communications tool, the reliability and availably of the network needs to be considered. The voice telephone network has proven to be very reliable and is now used for essential, safety critical communications. If the Internet and the web are to be used for such communication, the effects of peak loads on the system need to be considered. One way to deal with such loads is to have the system degrade gracefully. One simple way to do this is to use accessibility features, with high bandwidth features dropped automatically when the system is heavily loaded.

Postscript 5 June 2001

  1. The Olympic movement does not appear to have taken the matter of accessibility seriously. The Official Web Site for the Organising Committee for the Athens 2004 Olympic Games appears to have accessibility problems. This was reported to the Organising Committee and the Hellenic Ministry of Sports on 23 May 2001 with an offer to provide free assistance. No reply has been received to date. As an example of the problems the link to the English version of the web site is an unlabeled image on the default Greek language site. This would make it difficult for an English reader to find the English version of the site.
  2. See a demonstration of how to construct complex web pages from simple ones (using I-mode in this case).

References

Acknowledgements

A previous version of this was presented as a seminar, 20 October 2000, at the Oxford University Computing Laboratory, Oxford, UK. Thanks to Gervase Markham, University College, Oxford for suggestions on XHTML.

The SOCOG Sydney 2000 Olympic Web site appears to have been removed some time after the games and replaced with a redirection to the official sites of the International Olympic Committee at http://www.olympics.com/ . Fortunately the National Library of Australia has copies of the site in its PANDORA Archive, as at 18 May 2000 and and 11 Jan. 2000. Those copies are linked to references to the web site in this document.

About the speaker:

Tom Worthington is a Visiting Fellow in the Department of Computer Science at the Australian National University. He is an independent electronic business consultant and author of the book Net Traveller. Tom is one of the architects of the Commonwealth Government's Internet and web strategy. The first Web Master for the Australian Department of Defence, in 1999 he was elected a Fellow of the Australian Computer Society for his contribution to the development of public Internet policy. Tom is a director and past President of the Australian Computer Society and a voting member of the Association for Computing Machinery.

Further Information:

Note: This material was used in teaching Website Design at the Australian National University. A brief public presentation will be given at the ANU Open Day, 1 September 2001, 2.30 - 3.00 pm, room N101, ground floor of Computer Science and IT Building [108].

This document is Version 2.1 – 4 June 2001: http://www.tomw.net.au/2001/bat2001.html

Copyright Tom Worthington 2001.