Beijing Olympics Special

Date published: 
19 Aug 2008

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The owners of the Sydney Olympics Game site (SOCOG) were successfully prosecuted by Blind Australian Bruce Maguire in 2000. In this special report we invited disabled web users to test out the Beijing Olympics website.

We found that though basic accessibility principles have been applied they are inconsistent often poorly applied. We've been watching the site in the run up to the games and we were delighted to see that some of the worst errors our users found had been fixed when the games commenced.

However the testing we did on the schedule pages show that many disabled sports fans may find it difficult or impossible to work out when their favourite event is happening. This was one of the key complaints Maguire made about the Sydney site.

The site has lots of video content which is great for an international audience who may not speak the language the website is written in. Rich media content is great for anyone who has a reading difficulty but it needs to be included with accessibility in mind. Our screen reader user had difficulties accessing pages with video clips because the video clip plays when the clip is loaded. this means the audio interferes with the screen reader output and the page becomes impossible to listen to.

By testing with disabled users we uncovered issues that may not be covered under a technical interpretation of accessibility standards (WCAG 1.0) . These include the difficulties our learning disabled user had trying to navigate page content. This user was really confused by the page content, finding information was difficult because pages seemed to be full of irrelevant information.

Our participant with low vision was unable to use the website without using a screen magnifier. Had the site been coded to basic accessibility principles our user would have been able to comfortably surf without the need for an expensive assistive technology. This issue could be a significant issue for a global website which is likely to be accessed via all sorts of devices including older computers and browsers.

Our participant who relies on voice recognition software experiences severe pain in her hands and relies on voice commands to interact with her computer. Failure to use alt text affects voice recognition users as well as screen reader users. Our user couldn't easily use the search because of poor coding. She experienced difficulties because of information architecture at the time of the test the site was full of pop up windows which led to pages with a different menu, this made browsing difficult for her.

Watch video clips from our usability lab

For this special eNation report we invited web users to test the Olympics site for us. We always conduct testing with a diverse range of users, this is the only way to test whether a website will work for a broad range of users. For this test we invited users from the following impairment categories:

  • Blind user (uses JAWS 9.0 screen reading software)
  • Moderate vision impairment (uses ZoomText 9.0 screen magnifier software)
  • Moderate motor impairment (uses Dragon Naturally Speaking 8.0 voice recognition software)
  • Mild Cognitive Impairment

Tests were conducting using Internet Explorer 6.0 on a PC running Windows XP.

Please refer to the report to find out more about the clips.

We currently have clips available in Windows Media Player. We will provide the footage in other formats shortly.

Download Windows Media Player

All of the clips are captioned. Each transcript contains an audio description of the visual aspect of the video clip.

Difficulties with pop-up windows and inconsistent page design

A screen capture from our test - a popup blocker has appeared in the browser, there is a webcam image of the users face as she stares at the screen.In this video clip you can see how much our voice recognition software user really struggled to perform a basic task like select the homepage when a pop-up window with a different page layout had been opened.

You can see from the expression on the users face as she scans the page looking for the home link that changing the navigation and page structure makes web browsing frustrating.

Difficulties with information architecture

A screen capture from our test - the page structure has changed completely, there is a webcam image of the user taken while he's interacting with the site.We asked our participant with a learning disability to find out information about his favourite athlete. This task was very difficult because important information was not given prominence on the page. Difficulties were increased when as he navigated through pages he encountered pop-up windows and changes in page structure.

Low vision user encounters fixed text size

A close up of text overlap - Beijing Olympics websiteOne of our participants has low vision. He can browse the web comfortably without the aid of an expensive screen magnifier if he can adjust the text size. the Beijing Olympics website is coded using a fixed font size which meant he was unable to read the text without a screen magnifier.

Though most newer versions of popular browsers allow the user to magnify the page or increase text size no matter how it's been coded it's still important to consider the needs of users who are browsing the web with older browsers.

Screen reader user encounters pages in Chinese

A screen capture from our test - the webpage is displayed in Chinese, there is a webcam image of the screen reader users face as she listens to the page.In this video our JAWS user has been asked to find information about purchasing tickets. When we conducted our research the page to order tickets was in Chinese even if the user landed on the page from a page in English.

The user is not given any audio cue that the page has changed languages, without this she patiently listens for something that makes sense to her.

State of the eNation reports

AbilityNet is at the forefront of a number of initiatives both at home and abroad to improve website accessibility for disabled people and provide both private and public sector organisations with the expertise they need to ensure that their websites are meeting guideline levels of compliance (such as those recommended by the W3C/WAI).

AbilityNet’s ‘State of the eNation’ reports are designed to draw attention to the issue of accessibility and usability and to help disabled people find the best websites for their needs.

For more information on website accessibility, usability and design, contact AbilityNet on 0800 269545.

Issued by the AbilityNet: 0800 269545 or at

Editor’s notes

W3C/WAI These guidelines, first published in May 1999, provide a framework for accessibility. There are over 65 individual W3C checkpoints arranged in three levels of compliance to test for and only about a third can be assessed for conformity by an automated tool such as Watchfire’s Bobby. A comprehensive series of manual and automated tools, including Bobby is employed by AbilityNet in carrying out its surveys.

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