So, Matthew Somerville has shut his Accessible Odeon site – having received some “strongly worded emails” from the Odeon legal eagles.
Matt Jones has written a polite letter to the Odeon’s marketing director and there are various similarly toned pieces doing the rounds in the IT press.
I think I must be the only one who is happy this site has closed. Ok, perhaps happy is too strong, but from an accessibility perspective I don’t think this site was helping the cause. Sure it meant that those with a high-accessibility-need could book a cinema ticket… but it’s not a site I could ever recommend or wish to use myself.
For a start, Matthew’s website required personal and credit card details to be entered into his site (so he could pass them through to the Odeon site during the transaction). Whilst he maintains that he did not store or intercept any data, and I’m sure he didn’t, it’s still bad practice to request this data from end users (albeit unavoidable if you’re going to develop a piggy-back site).
The average Joe needs protecting from the many many unscrupulous sites on the net that will happily take your credit card number or online bank account details and then rip you off (not everyone is as honest as Matthew). Anything that detracts from the continued “check the url of the site, make sure you only enter personal data into official websites” advice is sending a mixed message and ultimately confusing for the public.
However, my main gripe with this site was that it got Odeon off the hook. Their site isn’t just inaccessible – it’s terrible, even for someone like me who has no accessibility needs at all. Initially Odeon were happy for Matthew’s site to pass that extra business their way (until their legal team decided they had an issue with it).
Users, regardless of their accessibility requirements don’t want to be ghetto-ised by having to use an alternative “accessible” site (regardless of whether that site is official or unofficial). By running this piggyback site, the problem was buried. Any pressure that could have been put upon Odeon to improve their main site for all of us was vastly diminished.
Finally, I would like to point out a potential candidate for the worst cinema website of all – even worse then Odeon’s. MyVue2.com is an ‘alternative’ version of the MyVue.com website (Vue being the new name for Warner Village cinemas, probably because the parent company is looking to consolidate this asset, I guess?). MyVue.com is hardly an accessibility winner, but MyVue2.com’s all-Flash interface is scarier than any slasher-horror-flick I’ve seen in a long time.
You could never book using my site; I never accepted credit card details. I quote from what it used to say: “Booking is not possible on my version – you can get all the way to the final stage but I have disabled the credit card form. This site is not secure, your credit card number would be transferred in the clear, and I can’t do anything with the details anyway, not being able to access the Odeon site securely. Also, I wouldn’t give my credit card number out to some random site just because they made an accessible version (of course I am nice, though other people may not be).” You could register with the Odeon using my site, which did involve entering personal details; I passed them straight through to Odeon, though yes, you only have my word for that. My own fault for being a perfectionist and wanting to implement everything the official site did.
I see your point about letting Odeon off the hook, and did consider it myself. I felt the benefits outweighed this disadvantage (the site was for me as much as anyone else), plus was frustrated by the rebuffs from them over the years, and I can assure you people kept complaining to Odeon whilst my site was up (and nothing changed). I too am strongly against “ghetto-isation” of accessible versions, but obviously could do nothing in this case. 🙂
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