Thursday, March 27, 2008

Petition for better accessibility of Yahoo!

Blind and visually impaired people are petitioning Yahoo! to add audio to its sign-up CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing test to Tell Computers and Humans Apart), those squiggly words that you have to type in to buy some things online or to get a Yahoo! email account.

For people who use screen-reading software, CAPTCHA is actually an image and can't be read by that software. Web accessibility gurus W3C reported back in 2005 the accessibility problems with CAPTCHA: "This type of visual and textual verification comes at a huge price to users who are blind, visually impaired or dyslexic. Naturally, this image has no text equivalent accompanying it, as that would make it a giveaway to computerized systems. In many cases, these systems make it impossible for users with certain disabilities to create accounts, write comments, or make purchases on these sites, that is, CAPTCHAs fail to properly recognize users with disabilities as human."

Here's what the petition to Yahoo! says: "As a blind user, who accesses the Internet via screen reading programs, I found it difficult to create my Yahoo! account, and ended up asking a sighted person for help, simply because there is no real support against that security image that the individuals who would like an e-mail have to go through. The page says that, if you are visually impaired, you have to leave a phone number, and be contacted. But my petition is that this system changes, and an audio file representing the characters on the image be placed along with the image itself, giving more accessibility for everyone!"

Supporters can sign the petition here.