Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Towson U professor, students trying to make the Web more accessible for blind people

The Towson University student newspaper, The Towerlight, reported March 31 that computer science professor Jonathan Lazar and several of his students have been working over the past year to develop accessible CATCHAs (Completely Automated Public Turing test to Tell Computers and Humans Apart). I blogged about this accessibility issue last week.

The development came after undergrad student Jon Holman did focus groups with blind and visually impaired Internet users in spring 2007 and found out that CAPTCHAs were one of the biggest Internet accessibility problems they experienced.

Lazar says what they have developed is "an accessible CAPTCHA that is accessible to people with both visual and hearing impairment. It uses a combination of sounds and pictures, in a way that it is usable by both groups...and also is more secure than existing CAPTCHAs."

Towson University doctoral candidate Graig Sauer is also working on the accessible CAPTCHA prototype developed by Holman. The design will benefit not only blind uers, but deaf users as well.

"The program will be available for both blind and deaf users," according to The Towerlight. "Blind people use 'screen readers' to dictate what is on the screen. With an accessible CAPTCHA they will be instructed to identify a sound and type it in the space provided. Deaf users will be able to see images and identify them accordingly."