The issues with CAPTCHA

Back in 2009, we published a post called "New Logical Captcha Plugins for WordPress". One of those plugins is no longer available. Since 2009 there have been many articles and discussions about using CAPTCHA and new plugins developed for preventing spam. Those maintaining websites need to prevent damage to their sites due to unwanted spam, yet these prevention methods often keep out legitimate site visitors, too.

We collected a list of a few articles and discussions about the issues with CAPTCHA. If you have slapped a CAPTCHA solution onto your site without considering what problems you might be causing legitimate visitors, you really need to take some time to read and learn from these articles. Note that many of them include even more links about the challenges. Kudos to the people working to resolve this long-standing problem with security solutions blocking legitimate visitors. There is still lots of work to do, so please consider sharing your knowledge or experience in the comments.

Articles and Discussions

Plugins

Here is a list of some plugins that claim to be accessible or user-friendly. Based on some of the discussions in the previous list, none of them are perfect solutions. Some claim to avoid issues for one disability, yet they still have issues for other disabilities. For example, do the logic-based tests consider issues with cognitive or learning disabilities? Let us know what you are using these days and why. [Someone once suggested an accessible slider as part of a CAPTCHA solution, but we couldn’t find that link. Please share it in the comments if you know what happened to that project.]

Weekend Gazette – Link Collection for January 23

We present to you a menu of tidbits collected in recent days that are too short for blog posts and sometimes too long for a tweet (when we want to add clarifying comments). Headings provide a light grouping to help you skim the offerings. Bon appétit!

Accessibility Statements

@mgifford started a page about the need for Drupal accessibility statements on the Drupal wiki. Recently, this good article The Importance of an Accessibility Statements was made available. Who wants to try writing a draft or two for a Drupal accessibility statement?

Conferences

After the success of AccessibilityCamp in Washington, D.C., the idea is spreading to other cities. London, Boston, Seattle. Go to Twitter and search for the hashtags #a11yldn (for London), #a11ybos (for Boston), and #a11ysea (for Seattle) to learn more about those events. May 15 is already earmarked for Boston. What about hosting an accessibility unconference in your town?

Two Second Life conferences are coming soon.

  • SL Pro! runs from 23-25 February. It is billed as a conference that will bring together "serious content creators to expand their professional capabilities via two days of high-level seminars, creativity, and critique within the virtual world of Second Life."
  • The focus of Virtual World Best Practices, 12-13 March, is "Imagination Around the World". "From the North, East, West and South corners of the physical world what is evident is the collaborate nature of virtual world participants to share knowledge and experience. This 48 hour conference will indeed provide opportunities for sharing and further understanding virtual world technology."

Security

No one likes spammers and trolls on their websites, so once upon a time someone invented CAPTCHA as a barrier to such critters. CAPTCHA became very popular because it seemed to work quite well. However, it also became a barrier to people with disabilities, who find it hard or impossibile to crack the CAPTCHA code. Some people have started thinking about alternatives to CAPTCHA. Stylemix provides a list of ten alternatives a list of CAPTCHA alternatives. Please share this list with your friends. CAPTCHA is like nails on a blackboard to some people!  Updated

Education

Becoming an eTeacher is an intriguing site made by several post-graduate students taking a Master's course in Applied eLearning. It looks useful to any technical communicator preparing any type of instructional design or learning material. Of course, it's good to see an entire module dedicated to "making your website accessible".

Byron Reeves, Communication professor at Stanford, discusses avatars in the workplace – "why avatars are likely to be as much of a hit on the job as they are at the box office." Is this an adaption of Second Life concepts or is this a direct application of Second Life to work activities?

Another example of virtual worlds melding collaboration and learning comes from ISN Virtual Worlds. They are rolling out their Oasis Foundation Virtual World Project. "The Oasis Foundation is an Italian nonprofit providing medical care and assistance to the elderly and disabled. The hope is that a virtual world, in this case one built on top of the Second Life Grid, will provide them an outlet for community interaction as well as some employment."  Updated

Further along, Virtual reality opens world of possibilities for seniors From Yosemite National Park to a deeply missed home, MIT startup called Rendever is helping seniors with physical limitations travel the world virtually. CBS NEWS September 1, 2016  New

Seniors Try VR For The First Time – HTC Vive, Jan 4, 2018. In 2018, some friends stopped by the studio and tried virtual reality with the #HTCVive for the first time. See what they experienced and what they thought.  New

Storytelling

Articles and videos get their message across quickly when they tell stories. One such article is called I'm blind, but there's no need to talk to my dog.

BBC's Ouch! has a well-done series of videos made by and for people with learning disabilities. Sit back and enjoy these videos. They are audio described and subtitled, too!  Updated

Forms

Forms haunt many technical communicators. That's why it's important to do them well. Especially when they involve democracy! The Usability Professionals' Association has developed LEO Usability Testing Kit for local election officials.

Manipulation with forms is rather scary. UX Magazine asks How Deceptive Is Your Persuasive Design?.

Policies and Procedures

Many technical communicators write policies and procedures full-time. University of Dundee has a Disability Equality Scheme as a part of the strategy on equality and diversity. (See Equality Act 2010.) That sounds like a task for writers of policies and procedures, especially in academic or government workplaces. Why not get inspired by reviewing what the University of Dundee has prepared? This might even be a new career move.

Reading is FUNdamental

That was a slogan when I was learning to read. Reading might be fun, but there are still barriers to reading for all.

In Canada, the National Reading Campaign in [English and French] is a nationwide advocacy initiative to urge Canada's provincial and territorial governments to provide immediate and fair public funding for nationwide accessible library services and protect the right to read of more than 800,000 blind and partially sighted Canadians.  Updated

Other problem areas are ebooks or "electronic book readers", such as the Kindle. Here is an article about using the Kindle in the classroom – "Justice Department Reaches Three Settlements Under the Americans with Disabilities Act Regarding the Use of Electronic Book Readers". These agreements follow the Jan. 11, 2010 agreement between the Justice Department, Arizona State University, the National Federation of the Blind and the American Council of the Blind concerning the use of electronic book readers. Another headline reads "COAT Affiliate ICDRI Calls For Ending E-Book Famine For People with Disabilities." In her speech in Geneva, Switzerland, ICDRI's Cynthia Waddell cited to the Kindle E-book controversy where the text-to-speech (TTS) feature has been turned off. She described this as a growing problem creating 'a book famine' for users with disabilities that must be ended now.

Thom Lohman, from DCMP, recently wrote "Read Across America – a new twist!" about the benefits of captioning for literacy. A technical communication example of this would be captioning the video used as documentation for a product being delivered to many different countries. That way, users who are not fluent in the language spoken in the video could use the captions as a supplement to listening to the intructions.

Social Media and Accessibility

I strongly encourage everyone to listen to Jennison Asuncion talk about social media and accessibility with Dr. Norm Coombs in "EASI: Equal Access To Software & Information". Social media in his talk refers to Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. (Unfortunately, this is no longer available as of 12 May 2014.)

  • Social Media and Accessibility MP3 file. (Unfortunately, this is no longer available as of 12 May 2014.)
  • Social Media and Accessibility transcript. (Unfortunately, this is no longer available as of 12 May 2014.)

There are many good issues brought up during this 30-minute talk. One example is government agencies using Facebook to make themselves more easily available to the general public, yet not providing services to all due to lack of accessibility. Schedule a listen or a read for your next break. It is worth it!

After you listen to or read that talk, it's time to go read Joe Dolson's article about Tips for Accessibility in your Social Media efforts.

Miscellaneous

The Color Theory Quick Reference Poster is a very useful reference with the basic color wheel, passive versus active colors, color types, color relationships, and much more. There are files you can download to hang on your wall, or use as wallpaper on your computer.

Wheelchair dancing fans in the UK can look forward to a new TV competition on the BBC – for wheelchair dancing. They'll call it "Dancing on Wheels". The article includes a brief video clip of wheelchair dancing. All I can say is Wow!

Sad Goodbye

The passing of Jack Pickard (598 Kb .pdf) at way too young an age last week sent a huge shock through the accessibility community. Many, like myself, only knew Jack through his blog and his tweets, yet we felt as though we lost a friend.

All the tributes across the web speak of a kind, funny, witty, and caring man. His post called Accessibility Allies Against A11y brings a special smile to my lips. It reminds me of a discussion with Jack and several other people on Twitter last autumn about the use of "a11y" as a short-hand version of "accessibility". I have followed his blog for several years, and now I plan to go back and read or re-read his many posts about accessibility. Do read and share those articles, too. Let's make the Web accessible and inclusive. It's a lovely tribute. (Fortunately all archived on the WaybackMachine.)

Memorial Tributes

Link Contributors

This post was glued together with links or inspiration from many people. They are listed with their Twitter names.

@AccessForAll
@anikto
@ClearHelper
@cynthiawaddell
@dcmp_tweets
@Disaboom
@ePaul_M
@ezufelt
@Jennison
@joedolson
@kelsmith
@mgifford
@mpaciello
@musingvirtual
@nileshsingit
@RehaDesign
@RhiannonSL
@slewth
@sloandr
@sriniworld
@tbabinszki
@waspinteract
@whitneyq