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Olympics.com (was: Re: apology on "alt" tags)

From: Sean Lindsay <seanlindsay@disabilitytimes.com>
Date: Thu, 28 Sep 2000 03:39:39 +1100
To: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <LPBBIAACGBELCIBFLDOEKEHOCGAA.seanlindsay@disabilitytimes.com>
There are some misconceptions being perpetuated about the Olympics.com case
that really need to be clarified for this discussion to be meaningful.

In Summary: It is grossly inaccurate to suggest that the inaccessibility of
Olympics.com as simply a design mistake that couldn't be corrected in time.
The Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games were found, under
Australian law, to have acted in an unlawful and discriminatory manner --
not just for not correcting the problems when a complaint was first made,
but for attempting to delay the case until they could claim that compliance
would be an "unjustifiable hardship".

The full text of the HREOC decision in the case explicitly clarifies at
least some of the misconceptions:

The most misquoted aspect is the 1 year / $2 million thing. Here are the
actual references to evidence given by SOCOG, as presented (in summary form)
in HREOC's findings:

"* One person working 8 hour business days would require 368 days to
complete the task properly."

"* $2.2 million of additional infrastructure would be required to separately
host the additional designs necessary to an accessible Table of Results."

So saying "it would take a year", as many in the media have misrepresented,
is totally inaccurate. Based on these numbers, a team of thirty could have
accomplished the task in the 17 days between the decision and the start of
the Olympics. Or, if IBM had mobilised all 2000 of the paid staff they
reportedly have on the project, it would have taken 90 minutes.

The "$2.2 million of additional infrastructure" is less than 5% of the
reported $50 million budget of the project (figures in Australian dollars).
They're clearly not giving this figure as the total cost of making the site
accessible -- it's given as the cost of additional equipment to host the

Note that neither IBM nor SOCOG sent staff to the HREOC hearing to testify
or give supporting evidence for these figures. The figures were presented by
consultants brought in only a few days before the hearing, and who had no
working knowledge of the website or the preparations for it.

Note also that IBM were not respondents in this complaint, only SOCOG
(Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games).

The Honourable William Carter QC goes to great lengths in his findings to
detail the tactics used by SOCOG to delay the case (the original complaint
was lodged with HREOC in June 1999).

Carter also asserts that the efforts required to make the site accessible
would not have been considered "unjustifiable hardship" under the Disability
Discrimination Act when the complaint was first made, and that SOCOG's
attempt to delay the case until it was too late did not make it so. He also
explicitly leaves the complaint open to consider a future damages claim.

I hope this goes some way to clarifying some of the misconceptions regarding
this case.


Sean Lindsay
Received on Wednesday, 27 September 2000 12:39:47 UTC

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