I’ve now listened to a couple of podcasts from the Blind Access Journal. In one the author spoke about problems with captchas — those little graphics showing distorted text which some people (including me) use or have used as a way to prove that it’s a human being trying to make a comment on a blog or otherwise communicate with a website owner.
I’ve always had some concern about the accessibility implications of a captcha for a blind person, but when I used it I couldn’t really come up with a viable alternative. After listening to the podcast though I did realise that for small, non-commercial websites, such as this, it would make sense to put the captcha ahead of any form fields and followed by an alternate means of contact so that a visitor unable to complete the captcha at least wouldn’t waste time and energy on filling out a form before finding out they couldn’t send it.
Today I note that the W3C is addressing the issue of captchas:
Note: Inaccessibility of CAPTCHA: 2005-11-23: The WAI Protocols and Formats Working Group has released Inaccessibility of CAPTCHA: Alternatives to Visual Turing Tests on the Web as a Working Group Note. Requests for visual verification of a bitmapped image pose problems for those who are blind, have low vision or have a learning disability such as dyslexia. The note examines ways for systems to test for human users while preserving access for users with disabilities. [Via World Wide Web Consortium.]