Captcha Prevents Blind From Signing Petition
June 4, 2013

Captcha Prevents Blind From Signing Federal Petition … For The Blind

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

An online "We The People” White House petition seeking support for an international treaty to help the blind is nearly impossible for blind web users to sign due to the Captcha security requirement on the White House website.

Politico reported this week that the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) has complained about the required use of a Captcha code that is required to register to sign the online petition, which has now received just 8,200 of the 100,000 signatures required for a White House response. For its part, the White House says its website is in compliance with US accessibility standards.

Chris Danielsen of the NFB told Politico he realized there was a problem shortly after the petition was published.

"We had asked people to sign the petition and we're getting these emails saying that people can't," he said. "The constitution allows all of us to petition our government for a redress of grievance. It says nothing about needing to be able to see in order to do so."

A Captcha is a graphic or sound of a random word or number that users must type in to prove that they are human. But the audio code option intended to help the blind complete the Captcha is incomprehensible, Danielsen said.

That same flawed audio code system is in use for people who wish to write the White House an email with suggestions or complaints regarding the "We The People" site. Danielsen said he became aware of the issue when blind people began emailing his organization, complaining that they could not sign the blind treaty petition.

"In fairness, the White House does claim that it complies with the federal standard for Web accessibility, known as Section 508," he told The Huffington Post.

"We can neither confirm nor deny that this is true, but technical compliance does not always equal full accessibility or usability."

Political inactivity and uncertainty over the legislation is due, in part, to lobbying efforts by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), which works to protect copyrights and lobbying efforts by publishers, The Post reported. However, in a joint statement with the NFB, the MPAA strongly affirmed its support for the treaty.

Danielsen said he is now concerned about objections raised by the Intellectual Property Owners Association, which includes companies such as GE, ExxonMobil and Monsanto. He suggested that the White House simply implement a better audio captcha.

"That or a different kind of Captcha, such as one that requires the user to answer a simple mathematical or logic question like ℠3 + 6 =´ or ℠If today is Friday, what day was three days ago?´" he said.