Google's Doors Still Shut to Blind

by admin February 18, 2006 at 3:21 am

Accessibility advocates have accused Google and Yahoo of shutting out the blind.

The door is still closed.

Now, an Internet petition is asking Google to provide an accessible alternative to the visual verification scheme that currently locks the blind and visually impaired out of participation in all the company’s services.

“Google’s implementation of word verification currently denies us access to such important features as the ability to create accounts and blogs, change our passwords, and post comments to most blogs that use the Blogger service,” the petition says.

Darrell Shandrow, editor of the Blind Access Journal, which is built on Google’s Blogger platform, calls his effort “open source advocacy.” More than 3,500 people have signed it; the goal is 10,000. Shandrow plans to print a copy and send it via certified mail to Google CEO Eric Schmidt.

Many Web sites use “captchas,” those squiggly letters that users must decipher and type into a box before they register for a service. They’re designed to block automated bots that sign up for e-mail addresses and then use them to send spam.

The problem is they put a barrier in front of blind people, too. Many vision-impaired computer users employ screen readers that convert text and image tags into audio. The speech simulator can read menus and the names or descriptions of navigational elements such as buttons and links. But screen readers are stymied by captchas.

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