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Anti-Spam Webforms Leave Out The Blind 757

Posted by timothy
from the turning-a-deaf-eye dept.
geekee writes "An article on CNET claims that a technique whereby a user enters a code word displayed in an image in order to register for a service such as an e-mail account discriminates against the blind. Advocacy groups for the blind are even hinting at lawsuits against companies using this practice. A proposed audio workaround for the blind still has problems since it has to be garbled to the point where most people can't understand it to prevent a computer from recognizing the letters. Brings up some interesting issues surrounding the Turing test."
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Anti-Spam Webforms Leave Out The Blind

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  • Monitors. (Score:2, Troll)

    by mgs1000 (583340)
    Monitors discriminate against the blind. They should be banned.
    • There are braille displays from what I have seen.

      Check google. Why is that so insightful moderators?
      • Re:Monitors. (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mgs1000 (583340)
        Just as braille displays are an alternative to "regular" monitors, I am sure there are plenty of alternative email providers that don't do this. A free market has a way of providing alternatives when there is a need.
        • Re:Monitors. (Score:2, Insightful)

          by martyn s (444964)
          Fuck that. That's such bullshit. We should make an active effort not to exclude people, especially ones who are so unfortunate as it is. This doesn't have to do with "providing alternatives" this is just common courtesy for people who CAN'T SEE. (You're not supposed to figure your morals with a calculator.)
          • Re:Monitors. (Score:4, Insightful)

            by michrech (468134) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @05:24PM (#6353308)
            Right. I second this. We, therefore, should also make cars so that blind people can drive without worry in normal traffic. Why don't all the damned buildings shout what they are for blind people? This is outrageous. Why, even my pens can't be used by the blind people. How are they going to know what colour they are? Or know that they are ball point pens instead of felt pens, without getting ink on themselv's?! Oh, the horror! Yes. Planes. Those aren't brail friendly to fly either. All of earth needs to shout what it is and where it is so that blind people can fly, too. Geez.. How can we have been so inhumane about this? Won't *someone* think of the blind people?!

            For those with no sense of humor (I'm fully expecting this to get modded down in record time...), you need to stop and take a look at yourself for a second. A reality-check, as it were. No matter a person's condition, there are some things that they simply cannot do. If a group of people want to work on a way to fix whatever is perceived to be wrong, fine. Don't force it on everyone. This is way out of hand. For Pete sakes.. Is it such a problem with email that it is impossible to get an account that can't be used? Has *every* provider gone and made it impossible for the blind to use email? Short answer: NO. If some service doesn't work for you, find another. My local phone company didn't work for me. Did I force them, via lawsuits, to bring all sorts of new equipment to my lil' town of 1400 (or so) people just so I could have high speed internet? No. I went with someone else (satellite - not that I use it anymore). If every company on earth were to try to set themselv's up for blind access, nearly all of them would go bankrupt.

            Get over yourselv's. So you've got a handicap. Deal with it like adults. You are not going to have everything handed to you all of your life. This is such a non-issue, it's not even funny...
            • Re:Monitors. (Score:4, Insightful)

              by orangesquid (79734) <orangesquid.yahoo@com> on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @06:03PM (#6353708) Homepage Journal
              But you don't need vision to use most web services. Using vision to drive a car is common sense. Using vision to communicate through email (it's friggin TEXT) is... uhh....

              What you would think if passing your calculus class required turning you to pass an advanced spelling test? If getting hired for a programming job meant you had to learn to pick your nose and fling it? If UPS required your mother to be drug-tested so you could send a package? Or if an e-mail service made you decrypt some visual obfuscation in order to use their system?

              It's not about having things handed to you. Duh. A grown-up blind person will realize he/she is not going to be able to drive a car. But to tell someone that, because they can't see, they can't use e-mail? Sure, you could always go to another service, but what happens when all of the free services are doing this, and all of the services which don't do this vision exam require you to pay? That's discrimination. How about if I charge you more to eat dinner, just because of your gender, or your hair color?

              Plus, the problem with these obfuscated letters and stuff is that it makes using robots to sign up for online services more difficult, since you have to write more code to decypher these images, but neural networks can be good at filtering out noise. (Shhh!)
    • by silentbozo (542534) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @05:06PM (#6353144) Journal
      Anti-spam webforms not only leave out the blind, but anyone who uses a non-graphical browser (like Lynx.) Similar issues abound regarding alt tags and graphics.

      There are other challenge response systems that can be used in place of graphics. I think the only reason that graphics are being used is because the designers haven't given any real thought to users who don't use graphics. This is the same kind of mental blind spot that has people using javascript and flash on major sites.

      I guess the blind community finally had enough - a lot of major sites apparently are not following the recommended accessibility guidelines [w3.org] set down by the W3. This is their version of the stick, to convince companies (and lazy designers/programmers) that ignoring them is a bad idea.
  • Turing Test? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CommieBozo (617132) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @04:45PM (#6352874) Journal
    What are the "interesting issues surrounding the Turing test?" I don't think generating a poor quality recording of some random word has anything to do with useful artificial intelligence.
    • *perk*? Well, consider it doesn't even require artificial intelligence. Its just a mater of recognizing a pattern, and responding to that pattern in a pre-programmed way. You could consider making it a bit more difficult, like having a sound file with a person saying "In the box bellow, please enter the sum of three plus five". Something to that effect. But eventually a pattern could be programmed to work around that even. I hate to say this.. but this almost makes for a good example where "Centralized
    • Re:Turing Test? (Score:3, Informative)

      by Elwood P Dowd (16933)
      No one seems to be answering your question.

      The Turing Test is a method for distinguishing between humans and machines. These poor quality recordings and distorted images are good ways to prove that a human is involved, because they are hard problems for machines to solve.

      They are cheap, automated Turing Tests. When we have better AI, these will no longer work to sort humans from scripts.
  • by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @04:45PM (#6352876) Homepage Journal
    Why do these things have to be so massively obfuscated? Is there some blazingly fast, free, accurate OCR software floating around that people have been using to cheat wet forms? Is speech recognition so good now that sound would have to be played back from inside a '73 Pinto at the bottom of a swimming pool to keep a computer from parsing it?

    Seriously. What problem are these methods hoping to solve?

    • I know a lot of Domain Name Registrars use these methods on their web-based whois forms, to prevent spammers from harvesting email addresses and domains via automated scripts.
      • I understand that part, but why can't the image be in a nice anti-aliased Times New Roman? If someone is so determined to scrape the information, then they'll pay someone to sit and type numbers that flash across their screen - in other words, they'll hire a human OCR to do it. This does nothing but make it harder than necessary for everybody else without actually solving anything.
    • by phritz (623753) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @05:00PM (#6353063)
      They are trying really hard to obfuscate these words.

      I was attempting to buy some concert tickets from a large, evil corporation recently. The letters were so contorted that I simply COULD NOT read it ... I got several friends' guesses on what the word was, and each opinion was different. If the problem is really so bad as to necessitate these word games, it might be time to try a different tactic.

      For instance, couldn't you simply direct the user to perform a few simple tasks? (e.g. select the bubble with the picture of the fish next to it, then type the last name of the president of the united states in the second box from the left) I doubt AI would be able to cope with as system like this, especially if you had varying combinations of tests. If you had a variety of these tests, you could also make some that accomodated the disabled, too.

    • They don't have to be "massively obfuscated" to be difficult for blind people to use.

      Do you think that there are OCRs in modern webbrowsers for the blind? Besides, OCRs today are made to work with a much higher DPI than is present in those little images usually, and encoding things in jpeg, as these images do, screws up OCRs even worse.

      Also, it's to hard for the browser to figure out where there might be some text it could read, and where there is just plain picture.

      It's a lot easier for the distributor
    • by SuperBanana (662181) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @05:08PM (#6353163)

      Is speech recognition so good now that sound would have to be played back from inside a '73 Pinto at the bottom of a swimming pool to keep a computer from parsing it?

      Years ago, I told my Powermac 660AV "Computer, open window", and it shut down instead.

      Granted, it was the only computer on the market that could do speech recognition thanks to a builtin DSP, and the integration with the Macintosh environment was superb- but it still would do the most amusing things.

      • Heh. When Speakable Items came back in Mac OS 9, I was working at Apple. I ran into a training lab and yelled "COMPUTER! SHUT DOWN!" from the back of the room several times and managed to utterly ruin a training session.

        But boy, was that funny. ;) It worked a LOT better than I had expected it to!
  • Turing test (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Lane.exe (672783)
    The Turing test should hold true on audio. Anyone ever tried using voice recognition software/speech-to-text software? Even if it was a computer listening in with this software, there's a good chance that the computer is going to get it wrong anyway.
    • Hmmm, I wonder what would happen if you setup a look where you'd take a sentence and use a text to speech convert to make an audio file, then you turned around and used a voice to text converter to generate a text file that you then fed back into the text to speech converter.

      I asked a buddy of mine who's working on text to speech and voice recognition and he said that after about the 5th iteration you'd get all kinds of high pitched howling...
  • by Ophidian P. Jones (466787) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @04:47PM (#6352893)
    No matter what you do to improve conditions for a large group of people, some much smaller group will still be inconvenienced or have their level of inconvenience slightly raised. In this case, we have a very important tool used to fight spammers in their quest to sign up for email accounts automatically. Billions of pieces of spam float around the 'net every day. How many blind people are there?

    This reminds me of new 25-cent public bathrooms tested by New York City awhile back. You paid 25 cents to go use it, and it cleaned itself and smelled great and so on. Then people in wheelchairs complained they couldn't use them (because they were too small), and were being discriminated against. So, the company made a larger version. Except now, you had bums popping in a quarter, and having a free room for the night. More lawsuits ensued.

    When will it stop?
  • It seems like all you would need to do is have an option that has a voice clearly enunciate the text, and you'd be good. Record all the possible letters, combine 'em on the fly, and play them for the user.

    Of course, voice recognition could be used by bots... but I expect OCR to start thwarting the visual trick as well.
  • Turing test (Score:2, Informative)

    by BiteMeFanboy (680905)
    My ass. This is the opposite of the Turning Test, and has so little to do with it that it shouldn't have even been mentioned. Just some dumb ass reporter trying to appear erudite.
  • Hotmail (Score:5, Informative)

    by eadz (412417) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @04:48PM (#6352905) Homepage
    Hotmail's one has a link "click here if you can't see the image" which then proceeds to read you the letters via an audio file which you can then type in.

    Although or blind and deaf, you're still out of luck.
    • Interesting. But automatic recognition of spoken letters is pretty easy, which kind of defeats the purpose.
      • Ah, yes but what do you then do with those recognised letters?

        I was thinking of something like this:
        Computer says: "Please say the word that the following letters form: C...A...T"
        User says: "cat".

        Sure, an automated system could 'hear' the original question, but we are a hell of a long ways away from a computer being able to correctly say "cat" based on that prompt.
        • Re:Hotmail (Score:3, Insightful)

          by athakur999 (44340)
          But then you're discriminating against people who can't read.

          Err, of course, they'd probably have a hard time on your web page to begin with.

    • BTW... If you hadn't noticed the link off the sign up page [passport.net]... Send's you to this page [passport.net]

      WHERE YOU MUST TYPE IN THE CHARACTERS FROM THE SIGN UP PAGE

      Kinda like Step 2) goto step #2...

      I dunno... I just found that intresting...

    • by weston (16146)
      Although or blind and deaf, you're still out of luck.

      Which brings up a point... what're the only other senses left? Well, touch, taste, and smell. Taste and smell are probably not well suited to the interpretation of data... but we already know that touch can be. Braille and raised lettering on important signs is generally considered one mark of an accessible building. There's braille terminals even, as anyone who'se seen the movie Sneakers knows.

      So... why isn't there a tactile "braille" image renderer
    • Re:Hotmail (Score:5, Funny)

      by ryanvm (247662) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @06:08PM (#6353755)
      Although if you're blind and deaf, you're still out of luck.

      You ain't shittin'.
    • Re:Hotmail (Score:4, Insightful)

      by gmhowell (26755) <gmhowell@gmail.com> on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @06:32PM (#6353928) Homepage Journal
      Although or blind and deaf, you're still out of luck.

      No shit. Read my journal for more info. Suffice to say that my wife is SOL. Straight text (or html-ized text) is the only legitimate output that she can read. Anything else doesn't meet ADA requirements. Will we sue? No. We'll find other sites.

  • network solutions has begun using this system just for whois queries. the place they want you to get the code is graphic.
  • by Lord_Slepnir (585350) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @04:48PM (#6352914) Journal
    ...In a few years, gun manufacturors will have to have audible scopes on their rifles because optical scopes discriminate against the blind.

    Wall....Wall....Intruder's leg....Intruders stomache....Intruder's head
    *BANG*

  • Case in point: (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dewie (685736) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (yllucsbd)> on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @04:49PM (#6352918)
    It's probably worth pointing out that the /. account signup employs just such a technique.

    And yes, I can see how this can be viewed as discriminatory, but the problem of devising an alternative is far from trivial.
    • discriminatory? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by robi2106 (464558) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @05:07PM (#6353151) Homepage Journal
      This is not discriminatory. And speaking of that, why does every group, sect, division, race, gender, species, think that anything that isn't designed with them in mind is discriminatory? There are simply too many types of people, environments, ethics, laws, and other variables for every system to work equally, or even adequately for every person.

      If I were to provide a service (even a paying one) of some sort (for example a dog wash) but then require that any customer that wants to use my service and pay me for it must hop once on their left legg as a way of verifying that they are in fact a biped and not a snake in a human disguise (just go with it). . . this would clearly be discriminatory against people missing their left legg. But that doesn't mean that I am some how liable financially or legally! I just have a clumsy authentication system and need to improve it. If I don't, then the left legged people of my town will go somewhere else to get their dog washed.

      robi
      • Re:discriminatory? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by drdink (77) <smkelly+slashdot@zombie.org> on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @07:50PM (#6354541) Homepage
        This is not discriminatory. And speaking of that, why does every group, sect, division, race, gender, species, think that anything that isn't designed with them in mind is discriminatory?
        While I agree sites do not purposely use this authentication scheme in a way to thwart registration by blind and visually handicapped users, I disagree to your assertion that it is not discrimination. I would call it "passive discrimination," since there is no purposeful discriminatory behavior involved. As a legally blind individual, I must tell you that I find sites like these to be very annoying, especially when the letters are in a very poor contrast color scheme. You ask why every group gets upset when they can't access something? Why did the United States have a civil rights movement? All people want equal rights to everything in this country, no matter what it is and who they are. Native Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans, and blind Americans all wish to have equal rights to the Internet. If you were in a boat that was affected in such a way, I guarentee that you would feel as these groups have felt.
        ...require that any customer that wants to use my service and pay me for it must hop once on their left legg as a way of verifying that they are in fact a biped and not a snake in a human disguise (just go with it). . . this would clearly be discriminatory against people missing their left legg. But that doesn't mean that I am some how liable financially or legally!
        Putting your misspelling of such simple words as "leg" and "somehow" aside, I believe you are incorrect here. Why do stores have handicapped parking? Why do stores have elevators? Why do stores have wheel-chair accessable bathrooms? They are required to. What you present above would be similar to you saying "All my customers have to be white." Not only is it discriminatory, I believe it also violates the ADA. I do not think you would win in court.
    • Re:Case in point: (Score:4, Insightful)

      by micromoog (206608) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @05:27PM (#6353351)
      Here's an alternative: tell the person to call a phone number and give the human operator a code, who will then give them the passcode to continue. Problem solved, with only a small, very rarely used expense on the part of the provider. It wouldn't even need to be live; any employee could give the blind person a call back whenever they have time.
  • by JUSTONEMORELATTE (584508) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @04:49PM (#6352929) Homepage
    And let me just say I'm profoundly sorry about the subject line of this post.

    --
  • *sigh* (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Horny Smurf (590916)
    Why do I get the feeling that when all is said and done, a handful of lawyers will be able to go out and buy yachts, but blind people won't be any better off?
  • solved (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Fux the Pengiun (686240) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @04:51PM (#6352946)
    Huh, I thought this had already been solved? I was reading about this issue on CNN's similar story [cnn.com] last week, and they mentioned the outcry from the blind and mute community over this issue. However, they also said Microsoft had already come up for a solution with regards to hotmail (M$'s free internet based e mail service) by simply not applying the test to the blind. WindowsXP checks to see if a Braille translator [enablemart.com] is hooked up to your computer, and relays this through your .NET passport to Hotmail. If it is, you don't have to go through that mess.

    Sounds like a good solution to me! Besides, if they do this for the blind, and use that audio test thing instead, the deaf will be all over them.
  • by docstrange (161931) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @04:51PM (#6352949) Homepage
    Hello, I am your seeing eye monkey from bonzai buddy, I can help you read the text off of the screen that you need to register for your e-mail account.

    Would you like to.

    1. have the selection recognized with ocr, and read to you.
    2. send your personal information to us, along with the new e-mail account so we can send it to spammers.
    3. Profit!@!@
    (except in soviet russia where the OCR owns us)
  • by Kjella (173770) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @04:51PM (#6352951) Homepage
    If you ever try to turn off images, you'll see that ALT tags are sadly lacking, making many sites impossible for blind to navigate...

    I don't think it's bad will, but rather that seeing is such an integral part of the normal experience they just don't even think about it. I normally wouldn't.

    If not image recognition, they need something to prevent mass registering bots... Hashcash perhaps, that should work even for the blind.

    Kjella
  • Brings up some interesting issues surrounding the Turing test.

    Well, if the word displayed in an image serves a a turing test, and if a blind person is unable to pass said test, it can only mean...

    Blind people are robots!

    As we all know, robots are not protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and thus have no standing in court. I don't think these companies have anything to worry about. Oh yeah, IANAL. In fact, you'd be better off with the Chewbacca defense than this one.
  • A better way... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Qzukk (229616) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @04:51PM (#6352959) Journal
    If we know the target language, then you could produce a challenge based on a sentence. Say something like
    "Thirteen red small dogs went to the zoo."
    What size were they? (to which the answer would be "small")

    You could mix and match questions and adjectives to keep spammers on their toes. The only drawback is that this is only effective for as long as you have a bigger dictionary system than the spammers. Using a larger sentence or paragraph with more complexities should help.

    "[count] [color] [size] [age] object [and [count] [color] [size] [age] [object] ...] verb [location] [time]." ... as long as you've got a big enough dictionary that can fill in the blanks, generating these messages as a challenge should be a cinch. an encrypted string in the Subject (which is fairly dependably returned in the reply) could be used to identify the particular message, and the answer could be looked up

    • Re:A better way... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by omeomi (675045)
      Then you're discriminating against stupid people...not everybody would answer "small".
    • "The secret pass-phrase is "BLUE DOGS"."

      The extra words ("The secret pass-phrase") would be very hard for a computer to deal with, and they would vary slightly from site to site.

    • Re:A better way... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by JahToasted (517101)
      Good idea, but the spammer could just randomly select one of the words from the sentence and send it back. There is a 1 in 8 chance that it would guess "small" from the example you used. Spammers are used to getting 1/100000 chance of replies to the shit they send out, so 1/8 is good odds to them.
  • Using audio, ask the user a question that is hard for a computer to interpret.

    What is the first vowel in your last name? (leave blank for none)

    If you added all the digits in you phone number up what would be their sum?

    I am sure some text to speech software could produce good text, and someone could parse the sentence, but if you randomized the questions enough it should deter most automated attacks.

    Then again these type of questions may offend those who just can't figure out the answers.
  • I have to admit, I hadn't thought about the issue from the perspective of the visually impaired until reading this.

    Has anyone here worked on any alternatives? The report indicates that the Microsoft sound-based alternative was totally non-functional. Is that even a worthwhile path to work on?

    Perhaps some sort of text challenge/response scenario that would require an explicit understanding of the challenge part: "Take the second-to-last letter of each word from the below text, reverse the order and write them capitalized" . With a wide enough range of such challenges, spambots would be out of luck.

  • Sooo.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Peridriga (308995) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @04:58PM (#6353046)
    OK... So I'm blind.. Make the website talk to me so I can find the "code word"

    I'm deaf.... Now what?

    How about that website doesn't get business from those who are handicapped (is that still the kosher PC term?)

    I don't force sites that don't have SSL to use SSL so I can use them... I JUST DON'T USE THEM...

    Everything isn't made to fit everyone..

    My butcher isn't going to start a produce section for vegetarians

    My barber isn't going to start a hair replacement facilty for bald people (not a bad business idea though)?

    and My office isn't gonna start using Linux because I say so (had to throw that one in)

    I don't believe any of these websites are "public services" so if they don't wish to cater to this specific demographic (is that more PC or less?) then they simply don't get their business. If my website sells tools that help those who are disabled use the web you'll damn well bet my website is able to be viewed by their machines. If I'm selling video game systems, I dunno but, probably not....
    • Re:Sooo.... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MobiusKlein (58188)
      You're analogies are flawed.

      "My butcher isn't going to start a produce section for vegetarians"

      1) People are vegetarian by choice, not handicap.
      2) The vegetarian can still buy meat from the butcher, even if they don't want to eat it.
      3) The butcher, by being open to the public, has to serve the general public without practicing racial, religious, sexual, or handicap-based discrimination. (By law)
      4) The butcher has to provide _resonable_ accomadations to the handicapped. (By law.) He doesn't have to perform
  • just ask a question (Score:4, Informative)

    by u19925 (613350) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @04:59PM (#6353054)
    "A proposed audio workaround for the blind still has problems since it has to be garbled to the point where most people can't understand it to prevent a computer from recognizing the letters."

    Can't you just ask a question, like:

    how much is 2 + 2?

    what number comes after 10?

    type in a 4 letter word beginning with "k".

    okay, the problem would be that each website will need to come with its own set of questions. but we can have few templates where you just substitute new parameters each time.

    I am sure, no software is intelligent enough to crack all these questions. by the time, the software becomes intelligent enough to answer these questions, we can come up with something else. it is cat and mouse game except that mouse keeps winning.
  • Wow, there are a lot of foolish comments being modded up early. The idea behind this is that blind people need access to the same service as the non-blind. That doesn't mean you are required to make email addresses readable to the blind, per se, but it does require you to have a method of sending email (or verifying a code or what have you) that the blind can access as well. So, in the case of email, you could provide an email form instead of a mailto link. In the case of paypal's "read this number" to veri
  • by Atario (673917) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @05:01PM (#6353086) Homepage
    I sort of assumed there was such a thing all along. Something like those "pinpression" toys [discovery.com] with all the parallel pins that you can push on and make an imprint of your hand, only driven by actuators. Why wouldn't this work?

    (Hold on...after a little Googling, I found this instance of the exact thing I'm proposing [nist.gov]. Go and buy it, blind people! And not just for anti-spam graphics; as with any new medium, just imagine the pr0n possibilities.)
  • There are a lot of "x discriminates against the blind" posts already, but keep the web is supposed to be universal.
    Imagine being blind, never being able to experience the majority written works, and then discovering the Web: a huge body of knowledge that can instantly be transformed into voice or braille.
    Then imagine discovering that most of that has been obfuscated so thoroughly by shitty authoring tools or lazy developers that it too is useless to you.

    Put yourself in the shoes of your fellow human being
    • "Then imagine discovering that most of that has been obfuscated so thoroughly by shitty authoring tools or lazy developers that it too is useless to you."

      So your organisation represents the blind, and you find services that use visual methods to make sure a human is at the keyboard. Do you:
      a) try and come up with alternative methods to check for a warm body at the keyboard, or
      b) sue.

  • Would this work? Make a database of answers that would be simple for a human to answer but hard for a machine to parse.
    "What day comes after Wednesday?"
    "Will you get wet if you stand in the rain?"
    "How many fingers does the average person have?"
    "What is that hair-like stuff on the top of most people's heads called?"
    "Will you burn yourself if you put your hand in a fire?"
    "Is snow cold?"
    Make thousands of these questions, don't use cultural, historical, geographical, or trivia questions. Make them so easy, all
  • It's bad enough that the blind get all the good parking spaces, but now we can't even fight spam because some blind guy doesn't like the tools used? Time to strike down the Americans with Disabilities Law as the flawed law it is. Perhaps someone needs to admit that a disability is just that, a disability, and however unfortunate the rest of the entire world should not be disabled to accomodate the person with a disability.
  • Porn Sites (Score:3, Funny)

    by Stonent1 (594886) <stonent@NospAm.stonent.pointclark.net> on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @05:06PM (#6353135) Journal
    Oh yeah, porn sites discriminate against the blind too you know! Ever tried to get off on a mouse-over image desc?
  • by hellfire (86129) <deviladv&gmail,com> on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @05:06PM (#6353145) Homepage
    Try seeing things from their angle. This world is built for people who can see perfectly, hear perfectly, walk perfectly, and talk perfectly. This goes double for the technological world. There are more "imperfect" people out there than you think. Small little things which aren't the same in you are me which we take for granted which cause a great amount of difficulty for someone else because no one even thought to ask them about their condition or what they could do to make things easier for them.

    To give you an example, this technical feature also discriminates against the color blind as well, and 10% of Americans are color blind in some fashion. 10% of americans. Not so insignificant any more huh?

    Some great information on accessibility is located here [diveintoac...bility.org], and you can probably find plenty of papers on accessibility on google, but if you need to go looking for them, you obviously aren't disabled enough to be able to look for them yourself.
  • Since registering for an email account is typically a one-time thing (unless you're a spambot, that is), making a toll-free phone number available to register manually (i.e., by talking to someone) might be a solution.

    Costs wouldn't be too bad, as most people who are able to use the image-based form would do so for the convenience, while those who can't would have an alternative interface, and the inconvenience would be minimized by the fact that they only need to call once.
  • by indros13 (531405)
    Just have an audio clip that asks a simple question. For example, what is 1+1?

    The user can then just type in "two" and get access. Even if a bot could successfully translate the audio into text, it won't be answering the question (unless it defaults to "calc" when it translates).

    P.S. I know...this would discriminate against the stupid, but so does everything else in our society. That's why I'm s-m-r-t!

  • CAPTCHA Test (Score:4, Informative)

    by edibleplastic (98111) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @05:11PM (#6353182)
    If anybody is interested in finding out more about these spambot "turing tests", check out http://www.captcha.net/ [captcha.net].

    I seem to remember one of their earlier tests involved determining which word didn't belong in a particular phrase. They would give you something like "The girl went to the mall to buy a giraffe" and the answer would be "giraffe". This sort of test could be given either visually or aurally, and would require a lot of NLP resources to crack (would have to determine part of speech and some amount of the syntactic structure). This kind of system might be the answer.. theoretically it would be accessible to all english speakers, blind or deaf.
  • by Nick of NSTime (597712) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @05:12PM (#6353194)
    I can't believe the number of posts here that insult the blind and visually impaired. Being blind does not make me any less a person than any of you; it just means that I can't see. You should think about how different your world would be if you were to lose your sense of sight.

    That said, I have mixed feelings about this lawsuit. On the one hand, I know where the blind people are coming from: they want an equal opportunity to use popular websites, just as everyone else (with a computer) is able to. On the other hand, being blind means you live under a different set of circumstances, so not everything is possible. It's just a fact of life when you're blind.

    I think a lawsuit is the last thing that should occur; rather, people should focus on developing new technology that assists the blind and allows them to gain equal access to websites. There should be more standards that dictate accessibility, and the browsers should do all they can as well.

    After all, the Internet is a text-based medium at its core.

  • by geekoid (135745)
    "Brings up some interesting issues surrounding the Turing test.""
    no it doesn't.

    You just make a call to a database for each letter, before building the page with the code, then insert that sound into the web page.
    I did this in 1997.
    If anybodu wants to know how to do it, send me an email and I'll quote you my rates.
  • friends? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by 2MuchC0ffeeMan (201987) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @05:20PM (#6353272) Homepage
    as far as i know, a) sites like yahoo are private, much like the boy scouts, they can discriminate. they will get bad press for it, but oh well.

    b) sites like yahoo could make a work around, you could call up for a username and password

    c) the turing test only has to be passed once. i've never had to pass it a second time, once i'm a verified human being i'm verified... so why can't the blind have someone do it for them the first time? it would even be cheaper than hiring a lawyer, exspecially for a case they are going to loose.
    • Re:friends? (Score:3, Informative)

      by jratcliffe (208809)
      a) sites like yahoo are private, much like the boy scouts, they can discriminate. they will get bad press for it, but oh well.

      Wrong. A private organization that constitutes a public accomodation (restaurants, most clubs, stores, sites like Yahoo, etc.) is prohibited (in the US, YMMV in other countries) from discriminating on several bases, including race (various Civil Rights legislation, and the 14th Amendment) and disability (Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA). Racial minorities and the handicap
  • by DMDx86 (17373) <news@for[ ]ndisdsucks.com ['tbe' in gap]> on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @05:31PM (#6353391) Homepage Journal
    but when you are blind, you have to live with you disability..

    While I am for making reasonable accomodations (That is what the Americans with Disabilies Act calls for) for disabled, spam is an incredible problem and I dont think we should give up our best efforts at fighting it just because a few blind people are unable to gain access. The greater good of society is served by removing spam than letting it all flow in to make the blind minority happy.

    Find a way around it.. get a friend who can see to fill out the form for you.. or call up the company that runs the webform and I bet they'd be eager to do it for you too
  • by hrbrmstr (324215) * on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @05:34PM (#6353421) Homepage Journal
    Yahoo. MSN. insert-your-favourite-*free*-webmail-or-IM-service -here. All: FREE.

    For crying out loud. How much money does a site have to spend to offer a FREE service? If someone wants to open up a hearing- or sight-impaired IM or webmail service that prevents spam from being delivered, then *go right ahead*. Why should the services mentioned (OK, most of them probably could afford to do something) be *forced* to do anything when they are offering stuff for free?

    Some posts have stated that the impaired folks can choose to use services that manage to make it easier for them to exist on the Net and perform those types of activites. Why do we have to force anyone to do anything with their content when other folks can make choices of their own?

    Other posts pointed out that some of us folks who are not using Idiotic Exploder are being discriminated aganist by various sights. Hello? Clue-impaired organizations? I *just* *don't* visit them. I chose a bank who'se web site was Mac, BSD and Linux friendly. I visit sites that actually render properly according to standards and I avoid Flash sites like the plague (mentioning Flash, are those sites next on the hit list? Quick everyone hide your Java applets, the Web Content Police are coming!)

    Next thing we'll be told that we need to use only a certain select few color schemes and ensure our sites are spell-checked thoroughly before going live.

    We're doomed, absolutely doomed, as a society.
  • by grantdh (72401) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @05:52PM (#6353600) Homepage Journal
    I was just reading Simson Garfinkel's column in MIT Technology Review's June 2003 edition where he points out that if computers can't figure it out, farm it off to people - they can.

    All these "obfuscated words/sounds" solutions are geared around a pair of concepts:

    1. Spammers use computer automated systems to sign up for accounts.

    2. These solutions are near impossible for computers to figure out.

    It's all for nothing if the spammers set up sweat shop slave labor in countries where someone can be "hired" for US$0.50c per day. Just have them do it.

    One of his best ones was the concept of having a "Free Porn" service where every (x) minutes you have to answer one of the obfuscated word thingos. Of course, it's one that's been generated by HotMail and then forwarded to the porn-viewer. Bang - don't even need a sweat shop - just rely on all the people who want free access to good porn on the 'net...

    Garfinkel raises a really important issue here. All this crap just fails if you consider that there's a cheap human solution. He also notes that it's becoming *really* offensive to many to have to prove that they're a human...

    Food for thought gang - all too often are technological barriers easily thwarted by cheap human solutions (if you've ever worked somewhere where labour is dirt cheap, the last thing you consider/promote is "reducing your head count" when selling computer systems :)
  • by kaltkalt (620110) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @06:35PM (#6353955)
    Sorry. I'm not trying to troll here, although I know I'll be accused of being horribly insensitive. Accomodation can only go so far. It can only be reasonable. If you are blind, I am truly sorry--I really am--but you are going to face some inconveniences in your life. Having to read the picture of the little word to sign up for something online is one of those inconveniences. Ask someone who can see to read the damn word for you. It's not hard, it's really easy, and there's nothing to feel bad about. If there is a tradeoff between autonomy and pride, it is only imaginary. What if the blind person is all alone and there's nobody there to read the word? Pick up the phone and call the next door neighbor or a friend. If ya don't have a neighbor or any friends, you have bigger problems than not being able to sign up for a hotmail account.

    As a side note, if they are going to sue someone, sue the spammers who make this picture-word system necessary.
  • Newspapers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by blunte (183182) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @06:38PM (#6353979)
    I wonder how newspapers get away with being so obviously biased against the blind...

    And radio stations are completely leaving out the deaf audience.

    Nike doesn't make shoes that fit people who have no legs.

    The list goes on.

"There are things that are so serious that you can only joke about them" - Heisenberg

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