I had a chance to ask John Furlong, CEO of the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, about the current state of the official Vancouver 2010 Web site.
Morgan Creek Golf and Country Club. Surrey – Business Luncheon with John Furlong, CEO of the 2010 Olympic
and Paralympic games.
I was honoured to be able to attend this event with a group of about 150 others. Not honoured because of the fancy luncheon, Political representatives, Presidents and CEO’s of other companies attending, but because I knew that John Furlong, CEO of the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games was attending. I also knew that there was going to be a short question and answer session after the presentation.
First, a little information about John Furlong. If you have never had the honour of hearing this gentleman speak, you are certainly missing out. He speaks with such conviction and assurance that you have no choice but to believe what he is saying. Not so much like a politician, but more like an athlete who whole heartedly believes that he will perform to the best of his ability.
In summary, his presentation was fantastic. He told us various stories about the 7 years of work involved for putting together the Vancouver Olympic bid, the moments after Vancouver was selected, stories of personal perseverance, what the spirit of the Olympics truly are, and finally sneak previews of some upcoming commercials promoting the Olympic and Paralympic games. I thought that it was appropriate that the commercials ended with an appearance from Andrea Bocelli, the famous visually impaired Italian tenor. It tied into the questions I was going to ask very well.
So, as the Q and A session started, I nervously raised my hand.
My question to Mr. Furlong was (to paraphrase);
"Hello Mr. Furlong. My name is Marco Battilana and I am a Web Standards Consultant. One of my main functions is Accessibility design. As an example of this, say an individual who is accessing your web site is visually impaired and relied on a screen reader to access your content. I assure that standards and best practices of web accessibility are followed and that content is read out in the most logical order possible.
So, because of my background, I had a look at the Vancouver 2010 web site. I noticed that the vision statement on the web site states; To create sustainable legacies for athletes, sports development, our host communities, our Province, our Country, and the global Olympic family by hosting an outstanding Olympic and Paralympic games.
In specifics to the Paralympic games, it’s quoted on the web site that; Canada is a world leader in advancing the interests of athletes with a disability.
In relation to the development of our Country and the Paralympic games, I noticed that the web site needed many improvements in relation to the basic level of Accessibility guidelines.
So, I have a two part question for you. First, Do you feel that the web site, which will be the main focus of Olympic and Paralympic information for the world should meet at least the basic guidelines of accessibility?
And second, If your site did meet these basic requirements, what value would you find in promoting an accessible friendly web site?"
First, Mr. Furlong told me that was a very good question.
Second, (to paraphrase) Mr. Furlong’s assured me that the web site will certainly lead an example to the rest of the world. That once a team is in place to look after the related tasks, that certain guidelines will be followed. The site that you see right now will definitely change as the Olympics draw near.
The one actual quote from Mr. Furlong that had the most impact for me was ‘Never good enough’. Mr. Furlong assured me that this is the motto to be followed. That whatever is being built is continuously improved upon every step of the way. Not just talking about the web site, but the whole Olympic and Paralympic efforts.
I thanked Mr. Furlong for his response. The crowd applauded.
After the Q and A was finished, I ran over to Mr. Furlong before the crowd surrounded him. I thanked him for his answer told him that I didn’t mean to paint him into a corner, but that I am passionate about what I believe in. He assured me that I didn’t paint him in a corner and he had no problem answering my question. I then politely asked if we could have a photo together, to which he agreed. (The photo is on the way.)
In conclusion, I am a believer in the Olympic and Paralympic dream. Like this dream, I am also a believer that an individual, regardless of ability, should have a right to access information.
I will be keeping watch on the Vancouver 2010 web site. When I can see that
there has been some advancement on the accessibility of it’s design, I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that maybe, just maybe, I made a bit of a difference.
(Marco Battilana) (firstname.lastname@example.org)