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A Cautionary Tale of Inaccessibility:
Sydney Olympics Website

Resources for Developing a Web Accessibility Business Case for Your Organization provides case studies showing the positive business benefits of accessibility. This page is an example of negative consequences of not making your website accessible.

“I am comfortably satisfied that his [the plaintiff] limited access to the web site caused him considerable feelings of hurt, humiliation and rejection. One cannot overstate the consequential effect upon him of his having to cope with the persistent need to counter what he saw as a negative, unhelpful and dismissive attitude on the part of an organization charged with the presentation of the most notable sporting event in the history of this country.”

(William Carter QC, Inquiry Commissioner - Human Rights & Equal Opportunities Commission4)

About the business

The Sydney Olympic Games official website provided a back-catalogue of records, highlights and Olympic history, as well as venue, scheduling and ticketing information.2

The site was owned by The Sydney Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG), a statutory corporation established under legislation of the New South Wales parliament to stage the Games of the 27th Olympiad in the year 2000.

Site visitor numbers

Unknown.

What happened?

Complaint made: by Bruce Lindsay Maguire, a web user who has been blind from birth, who accesses the web by means of a refreshable braille display1, in July 1999
Hearing: July 20001

The plaintiff's case put to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission (HREOC) was that SOCOG's website was inaccessible with regards to the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth DDA), with specific request that:

The respondent's position on these was that:

The HREOC's findings after referring to the W3C Content Accessibility Guidelines 1999 (WCAG 1.0) were:

In addition the HREOC ruled that the potential benefit of compliance with the Cth DDA would be of extreme benefit to the plaintiff, the hardship incurred by the respondent moderate, and if the matter had been taken into account from the beginning, negligible.1

Results

The HREOC's ruling set a precedent that creating a website intended for use by and to inform the general public, where such a website is more accessible to a sighted user than the same intent and information is not available for a user who is blind by virtue of disability. They are therefore being discriminated against by lack of provision, and the creator of the website is in breach of the Cth DDA.1

The HREOC ruled that the respondent pay damages of $20,000 AUD to the plaintiff.4

References

  1. Sloan M, 2001. Web Accessibility and the DDA - 4.1 Maguire Vs. SOCOG (www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/law/elj/jilt/2001_2/sloan/#a4.1).
  2. SOCOG, 1999. Olympics 2000 Website (pandora.nla.gov.au/parchive/2000/S2000-Jan-11/www.olympics.com/eng/about_our_site/home.html)
  3. Worthington T, 2001. Olympic Failure: A Case for Making the Web Accessible (www.tomw.net.au/2001/bat2001f.html)
  4. Carter W, 2000. Bruce Lindsay Maguire v. Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (Respondent) (www.humanrights.gov.au/disability_rights/decisions/comdec/2000/DD000200.htm)
  5. Seventh Ministerial meeting of the Online Council - Media Release, 2000. (www.dbcde.gov.au/Article/0,,0_4-2_4008-4_15092,00.html)