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The missing piece to the 2010 winter Olympics

Date: 
Sunday, August 15, 2010

Six months ago, Canada found itself in the middle of a blaze of glory as it played host to the world through its hosting of the winter Olympic games in Vancouver British Columbia. One can say that in general, this country got a bit more than a passing grade for its efforts but there is one thing that was missing; the failure by the major TV networks to provide coverage in an accessible format.

Of course, CTV and its affiliates did a bang up job when it came to providing up to the minute coverage but alas! It did not provide coverage in an accessible manner to Canada's Blind and vision impaired Canadians. Several letters of complaint were written to CTV but as of now, I have been told that none of the responses have been very satisfactory. As a matter of fact, it appears to me that CTV did not understand what was meant when several persons complained about Blind and vision impaired persons not having been able to access the coverage through the Internet.

I myself phoned the good folks at CTV and had much difficulty in getting anyone to respond to me. In fact, one of my emails to alon marcovici which I sent on March 24 was never responded to. Here is the text of my email to Mr. Alon Marcovici.

Dear Mr Marcovici,

My name is Donna Jodhan and I am the second vice president for the Alliance for equality of Blind Canadians. Our organization recently issued a press release on the inaccessibility of the Olympics websites but unfortunately we have not received any response from your organization.

I would be willing to discuss further with you and I am pasting the press release below.

I shall look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

Many thanks

Donna Jodhan; second vice president Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians

Here is the press release that the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC) issued:

NEWS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Noon February 26, 2010

BLIND CANADIANS OVERLOOKED BY OLYMPIC WEBSITES

"Blind Canadians who rely on adaptive computer equipment lost out on much of the Olympic experience because key websites were not designed to be accessible."

The charge comes from an Ontario expert on website design, Jeffrey Stark. "Olympics websites Vancouver2010.com and ctvolympics.ca/ are both inaccessible to Canadians who are blind or have limited sight. It's a shame, because international guidelines exist on how to develop accessible web sites or applications for everyone, including persons with disabilities," according to Mr. Stark. These guidelines are found at http://www.w3.org/wai.

Stark discovered the shortcomings before the Opening Ceremony in Vancouver. "My 6 year old daughter and I spent an hour trying to get content information on line, but it just wasn't accessible. We contacted CTV via their website to recommend a few simple remedies, but as the final weekend got underway, we had no response."

Donna Jodhan, 2nd Vice President of the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians says, "In 2010, there is no excuse for any organization to operate a website that is not fully accessible and usable by all Canadians. Guidelines and expertise are readily available to help organizations that need to update their sites."
The Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC) is a national organization of Canadians who are Blind, Deaf-blind and partially sighted, that focuses on researching and providing input into public policy issues.
When he first noticed the problem websites Jeffrey Stark contacted AEBC, setting out three examples of shortcomings in the Olympic on-line offerings:
  1. The video player used by the sites for live streaming video does not support keyboard usage. This would cause problems for a host of users of voice recognition, screen reader and alternate input users.
  2. Images lacking alt tags. Probably the easiest correction of all the accessibility requirements is when placing a picture on a page, the site should attach a piece of text to the image (in the code), describing the image.
  3. Meaningful links allow a variety of users to use link-based navigation to navigate a site effectively, so the user knows where he/she is going when selecting the link.

I would like to end my editorial by publishing the text from a response that one of the members of the AEBC, Everett Zufelt received and I am sure that you will see from this response that CTV has clearly missed the boat on this issue; not really understanding what is meant when one says that their coverage was inaccessible to Blind Canadians. May I take this opportunity to gently point out to the good folks at CTV that Blind persons do not need close captioning in order to be able to access Internet videos. Instead, they need audio description. Hopefully this problem will be rectified in time for the next major international sporting event that Canada plays host to.

Canada’s Olympic Broadcast Media Consortium delivered a record 4,800 hours of multiplatform coverage from the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, far surpassing previous commitments by other Canadian broadcasters. All English and French television coverage was Closed Captioned. The Consortium’s websites, CTVOlympics.ca and RDSolympiques.ca, provided an unprecedented amount of content and video, providing consumers with the ability to watch replays, access information about specific sports and athletes, and catch up on moments they may have missed. The Consortium strives to make its websites as accessible as possible and continues to monitor progress being made in the availability of accessibility. As such, key components of CTVOlympics.ca and RDSolympiques.ca were Web Accessibility Initiative compliant during the 2010 Winter Games, including event schedule and results, news, athlete bios, medals information, and contests. We support continued open dialogue with the disability community and it’s our goal to work towards increased Web accessibility.

Regards,
Andrea Goldstein
Andrea Goldstein | Director, Communications
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