In December last year I was asked to speak at the BBC about the accessibility work we did on the BBC Sport Olympics website. Here’s the 10 minute presentation that I gave to a non-technical audience in which I set some context about web accessibility and how we approached it on the project. I’ve also provide a transcript of the presentation:
Hi, my name is Alistair Duggin. I was the lead front-end developer on the Sport Olympic Website. The website was pretty massive, a lot of content, lots of interactive features. It had a page for every country, athlete, venue, sport and medal winning event. We also had the medal table which proved to be really successful with over a million hits and was favourited by over 10,000 people. We had a lot of interactive components set amongst our pages for news, facts, schedules, results, medals, favourites, a twitter module and a top-trumps style head to head module.
As a developer, when you work on this stuff you normally get given designs and it’s your job to make them look and work how the designers and product owners want them to. A big priority that we all had during the Olympics was to make it accessible to everybody. We’ve already talked about the effort we made to make it available on the TV, mobile and tablet, but we also needed to make sure it was available to everyone that was using a desktop computer.
Users have a range of capabilities, assistive devices and settings. People who have poor vision may increase the font size or they may be using a screen reader that reads out the content of the website. People with auditory difficulties cannot rely on sound necessarily. There are people with motor disabilities, such as arthritis, missing limbs or Parkinson’s, where it is hard to use a mouse so you are potentially forced to use a keyboard or voice recognition software. You also have people with cognitive issues, such as dyslexia, who may choose to change the settings of the browser so they are seeing a font and a different background making it easier to read.
The number of people who don’t access the web in a default way is much higher than most people realise. There are over 10 million people who are registered as disabled; there are over 2 million with sight problems; one in twelve men are colour blind; 12 million people are over the age of 60 and, as we all know, with age we start to lose mobility and sometimes sight.
Kate already covered some of the statistics; we had a massive amount of users and we had no accessibly complaints, which proves that we did a pretty good job.
In terms of benefit to the BBC in the future, I think we have set a new benchmark in how accessible you can make a website and also that accessibility doesn’t have to compromise the design or functionality of a website. Sometimes, as soon as you mention accessibility, people assume you will have to compromise, I think that we have proved that you don’t. I think that we also proved that by building in accessibility you actually provide everyone with a better user experience. I guess one of the next big steps is to spread the knowledge and approach that we had to other teams to help improve other products around the BBC.