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Press release: Rio 2016 Olympics and Paralympics Website Inaccessible for People Living with Disabilities

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Organizers report tickets sales are low; Ottawa firm proves their website excludes millions from buying tickets and offers to donate help to fix

View this press release in Google Docs

Hundreds of millions of people living with disabilities planning to follow or buy tickets to the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro this summer will not be able to do so. The official website, including the ticketing site, (www.rio2016.com) is inaccessible, according to standard international tests for site accessibility performed this month by David Berman Communications in Ottawa.

“The website fails to comply with the lowest level of international standards for accessible websites (W3C’s WCAG 2.0 Level A). This means, for example, that a person who cannot see or a person who cannot use a computer mouse who is trying to buy a ticket to an Olympic event has no chance of success. And yet Rio 2016 claims their site is accessible: we work with so many organizations who work so hard to have the right to proudly make such declarations, that we feel we need to speak up on this one and help them correct it.” says David Berman, eAccessibility and inclusive design expert.

Both the promotional and e-commerce pages of the site fail WCAG 2.0 Level A formal testing as well as informal user testing. Basic accessibility constructs, such as providing meaningful descriptions of photographs, have been ignored… meanwhile, it is impossible to purchase a ticket without using a mouse: whether using assistive technologies or not. For example, someone who cannot see (or cannot read) can use an assistive technology called a screen reader that reads a web page out loud. But key information that gets read out loud on the ticket-buying pages is unintelligible.

Canada is a world leader in online accessibility. Canada’s federal government was the first national government in the world to embrace the WCAG standards, forbidding any public-facing government webpage from not meeting or exceeding the standard. Ontario was the first government in the world to make website accessibility the law not just for government, but for businesses and non-government organizations as well. And now Canada’s new federal government has committed to the passage of a national accessibility act.

“We applied standard tests we use to test websites for accessibility to the rio2016.com site: formal compliance testing (which tests how compliant the website is against industry standards) as well as usability testing where people living with disabilities try to perform specific tasks on the site … the site failed on both mobile and desktop.” said David Berman.

This would mean that the Canadian Minister of Sport and Persons With Disabilities, Hon. Carla Qualtrough, a person living with disabilities who has volunteered with the International Paralympic Committee and previously served as President of the Canadian Paralympic Committee, would not be able to buy tickets to the Rio Olympics or Paralympics unassisted.

The same applies for many Paralympic athletes, as well as millions of people in the world who live with disabilities, points out Dean Mellway, three-time Canadian Paralympic medal winner, who directs Carleton University’s READ initiative, where David chairs the Carleton Access Network.

Brazil’s Minister of Sport, Ricardo Leyser, recently expressed concern that tickets to the 2016 Olympic Games aren’t selling.

The London 2012 Olympic website, in contrast, is often celebrated as an example of excellent accessible design.

Design teams often fear that complying with accessibility regulations will make their site lose its drama or intrigue. However, we’ve developed a library of techniques where we promise compliance with all WCAG 2.0 Level A and Level AA criteria in a way that enhances the user experience for the entire audience,” Berman continues. “We call this “No Trade-offs” Inclusive Design: instead of compromise, we improve the design for all. When we design for the extremes, and we do it well, everyone benefits.

“There’s still time to make the website accessible before the Paralympics,” Berman assures. “We’re eager to bring some Canadian know-how: we’ll donate our services to show them how to fix their sites if that’s what it takes so everyone is welcome to enjoy the Paralympic games, in person and online.”


David Berman Communications is an inclusive design firm based in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada that specializes in testing, coaching, and fixing websites, documents, and apps, to make them work for everyone. The firm works for government and private sector clients from around the world, formally auditing online products against international standards, and then coaching the best tactics to make the products meet or exceed those standards.

David Berman has served as a senior consultant for Canada’s three largest government Web publishers, and has advised governments in Australia, Canada, India, Ireland, Mexico, Norway, Oman, and the USA, as well as the private sector (IBM, banks, automotive, consumer electronics…), higher education (chair of Carleton University’s Carleton Access Network), and municipalities. David has also been appointed a high-level advisor to the United Nations on how accessible Web design can help the Developing World, was named the International Universal Design Champion for the Government of Ireland, is a member of the ISO standards committee for accessible PDF, and named an Invited Expert to the W3C (the publisher of WCAG). His passion for sharing knowledge on how the Web can help improve the world has brought him to over 60 countries, and his book Do Good Design (Pearson) has been published in 7 languages. “This is the first decade that will see the majority of humanity online. We are the first generation that has the power to include everyone…and because we can we must.”

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is an international community where Member organizations, a full-time staff, and the public work together to develop Web standards. Led by Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee and CEO Jeffrey Jaffe, W3C’s mission is to lead the Web to its full potential.

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 covers a wide range of recommendations for making Web content more accessible. Following these guidelines will make content accessible to a wider range of people with disabilities, including blindness and low vision, deafness and hearing loss, learning disabilities, cognitive limitations, limited movement, speech disabilities, photosensitivity and combinations of these. To reach Level A compliance, a product must comply with 25 Level A success criteria. To reach Level AA compliance, a product must comply with the Level A success criteria as well as the 13 Level AA success criteria.


More information about WCAG 2.0: https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/

More information about W3C: https://www.w3.org/Consortium/

The web accessibility audit process: http://davidberman.com/accessibility/accessibility-audit-services/

David introduces you to Web accessibility: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VIRx3RJzbZg&index=1&list=PL6J3hNm0YtpMJr4fGNHyU5vIPd8cZWcEx

More information about David Berman: www.davidberman.com/about

More information about David Berman Communications: http://davidberman.com/accessibility

Press photos of David Berman: http://davidberman.com/courses/for-speakers-bureaus/#photos

Wikipedia article on David Berman: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Berman_(graphic_designer)

Contact Information

David Berman, email: berman@davidberman.com @davidberman, phone: +1-613-728-6777

Tamara Torok, media liaison, email: tamara@davidberman.com, phone: +1-613-728-6777

Dean Mellway, email: dean_mellway@carleton.ca, phone: 613-520-2600 x1144
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Reviewed August 9, 2016


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