Weblogs: Web Accessibility

Accessible Odeon and National Rail

Sunday, August 10, 2003

The Odeon is an established name within the UK movie circuit. Its the place to premier new movies, and when you see the UK opening day footage for new moves, its normally at the Odeon in Leicester Square, London. The Odeon is the place of the stars. Its a real pity about their website, though.

National Rail is the source of train times, and their departure board is one of the most useful features on their site. The problem with departure boards is that they are stuck inside railway stations, so me being only six minutes walk from the station (when its not stifling hot outside) doesn't know whether I need to be hurried-up or not until I'm actually on the platform. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to access this information on something a bit more mobile than either a platform or a desktop-bound personal computer? So why did they put it in frames?

Unfortunately these are exactly the companies that claim it would take millions of pounds worth of effort to make them accessible. And we have to believe them... right?

Matthew Somerville is a web designer, and someone who knows quite a lot about accessibility and usability. Although, he may not be a millionaire, he's managed in his own time to create accessible and usable versions of both the above multi-million pound websites.

His Accessible Odeon provides the same experience as the main site, but five times quicker. (Well, actually Matthew's site is a far better experience since the Odeon's frontpage has a graphic posing as a warning message about not using their ticket system. Their alt text is "Odeon" so that means any blind people won't know that they should be calling 0870 50 50 07 instead of using the online booking system.)

Matthew's National Rail departure boards website (completed in December 2001) is basically a super quick search form, instead of the hideously complicated station reference of the original. Matthew's interface certainly speeds up the process into one single page.

Excellent work, Matthew.

National Rail's response seems to be constructive at the moment. Lets hope they learn the right lesson - that will benefit National Rail, and all its customers.

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