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Anti-Spam Webforms Leave Out The Blind 757

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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  • 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?

  • by RazzleFrog ( 537054 ) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @04:51PM (#6352945)
    So you are saying that blind people are not allowed to vote for the All Star Game (first site to came to mind when I read this). That doesn't seem very fair to me. Baseball is a great example of something that blind people can enjoy almost as much as a sighted person. Your analogy of a car is silly because you wouldn't expect a blind person to drive in the first place. You would expect them to surf the web, listen to baseball, and vote on the All Star game.

    Now I understand that baseball is not life-threatening but it is just an example. I think you would feel differently if you or someone you loved was blind.
  • 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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @04:53PM (#6352980)
    How many of you trolls are there. Blind people don't drive so road signs are moot. Blind people DO surf the web and should be able to do pretty much anything that you can do. The internet is about openness, not bigotry.
  • Except now, you had bums popping in a quarter, and having a free room for the night.

    Free cookies to the first person that sees what's wrong with this sentence.

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

    by omeomi ( 675045 ) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @04:54PM (#6352988) Homepage
    Then you're discriminating against stupid people...not everybody would answer "small".
  • by burgburgburg ( 574866 ) <<splisken06> <at> <email.com>> on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @04:55PM (#6353006)
    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.

  • by donutz ( 195717 ) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @04:57PM (#6353031) Homepage Journal
    WindowsXP checks to see if a Braille translator 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.

    And will be immediately unsolved as soon as a spammer purchases and hooks up a Braille translator to his computer.
  • 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....
  • by sql*kitten ( 1359 ) * on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @04:59PM (#6353058)
    Honestly, I don't see what the big deal is. Some things just aren't meant to be used by the blind. What's next? Will they sue Ford or GM because the speedometer of car isn't audible?

    This isn't anything to do with the blind at all, and never was - it's about lawyers smelling a way to use someone else's misfortune to make themselves a quick buck. So much easier to chase a blind man than an ambulance, see.

    As an aside, if these so-called advocacy groups have a better solution, let's hear it. All they are saying is that they'll block one of the few solutions that does exist, which isn't very constructive. That is further evidence that they're only in it for the money.

    Yeah, I read the article about the audio solution, but the article also says it doesn't work nearly as well, and it wasn't thought up by one of these lawyers anyway, but by their intended victims.
  • 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.

  • by macshune ( 628296 ) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @05:00PM (#6353067) Journal
    The bums didn't have a "free" room 'cause they paid a quarter for it!

    *hungrily waits for cookies*
  • Re:Monitors. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by martyn s ( 444964 ) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @05:02PM (#6353092)
    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.)
  • 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.
  • by hellfire ( 86129 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [vdalived]> 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.
  • by indros13 ( 531405 ) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @05:07PM (#6353153) Homepage Journal
    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!

  • 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 wheany ( 460585 ) <wheany+sd@iki.fi> on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @05:20PM (#6353271) Homepage Journal
    Instead of using an audio file that says "A O P," use a file that says "The first letters of the words apple orange and pear."
  • Re:discriminatory? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dewie ( 685736 ) <dbscullyNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @05:21PM (#6353276)
    I'm not for one moment suggesting that sites like /. that use this techniqe are discriminating deliberately against blind people. However, regardless of your intention, if you set up your service in such a way that a certain group of people are unable to use it, you are discriminating against that group. That's what the word means.

    And yes, perhaps you're not financially or legally responsible. But I think you have a moral obligation to improve your authentication method to prevent this kind of discrimination.
  • Re:Ignorance (Score:3, Insightful)

    by forkboy ( 8644 ) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @05:22PM (#6353282) Homepage
    The difference is, you can make your site work with ALL browsers by taking a little extra time to make sure your web site is HTML compliant.

    The blind are asking companies to basically invent new technologies to appease them, and that's not realistic. We're all very sorry you can't see, but that's why it's called a disability. We already make every reasonable accomodation to suit the blind...maybe they should just find other websites that don't use this verification technique. Or get someone who can see to come over and help them for a minute...you only need to do it once per site.

  • 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:Hotmail (Score:3, Insightful)

    by athakur999 ( 44340 ) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @05:24PM (#6353313) Journal
    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.

  • by chiller2 ( 35804 ) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @05:25PM (#6353321) Homepage
    Why not raise a few lawsuits against car manufacturers and city planners for not having audible instructions for the blind drivers to turn left, right, to brake or accelerate.

    Come on people, nobody is deliberately trying to upset the blind, rather the embedded image schemes are there to stop the lowlife scum that automate the sign-up to free e-mail accounts just to spam from them. It's the same with the attempts to automate PayPal payments, etc. If these undesirables were dealt with, web services wouldn't have to resort to such technology in the first place.

    Yes, it's awfully sad for the blind, but I'm sure on those infrequent occassions where they are subjected to such interfaces they could ask a friend or family member who can see to help, or perhaps they could use the phone, and if not, why not just give that company a miss and find another - "Vote with your wallets" and all that.

    I doubt they've even tried to think up a real workable alternative.. oh no, it's easier to just litigate/screw some money out of honest companies, and what does that achieve? How about all the folk who were happily using service X sue the blind guy who sued service X into bankruptcy? It's pathetic, it really is.

    I've not really thought this out very much, and hopefully someone will reply with a reasoned opposing view (great! let's hear it) rather than modding this a troll and that be it, but I'm just really irked at the way so many things these days are solved by clogging up the courts with needless litigation. I know I'm going off topic here but it's not like it doesn't happen every day on /. Anyway, back to the rant. Here are a few examples.

    e.g. The old 'beer vs women' sexist joke showed up on a company e-mail system, and a company gets sued for millions by some female employee, etc. Sticks and stones? Stop being so pathetic and just send back 'Cucumber vs men' or something.

    Then there's the overweight fool that sues a fast food chain claiming he didn't know the food would make him fat and wins the case. "What do you mean if I consume more calories than I wear off I gain weight??" DUH! Eject that man from the courtroom!

    Another well known one.. "Oh no that coffee you sold me, marked hot on the cup was hot! I spilt it on myself because I'm a dozy clot and burnt my little handypoo.. time to call my lawyer" and said person wins.

    Nngh.. make love, not war (m'kay?). Maybe I should have stayed in bed.
  • 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 IthnkImParanoid ( 410494 ) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @05:29PM (#6353376)
    The problem is there are too many idealists out there, or idealists have too much sway (I feel it's worth the aside to mention that this is not a liberal conservative thing. The problem is universal.)

    What is wrong with maintaining a "good enough" or "this is the best we got" solution while we look for better solutions? The homeless shelter you mention may not have been up to code, but it was better than nothing. Similarly the fuzzy words may prevent blind people from registering, but preventing bots from registering for accounts without that image is non-trivial. Heck, the entire internet right now is not very blind-friendly.

    I'm not saying blind people shouldn't pressure the industry to pursue solutions, but we have to realize these solutions are hard, and won't be ready tomorrow. It's like someone in a wheelchair suing a store for not having ramp access, except we don't know what a ramp is. Or at least I don't.
  • by DMDx86 ( 17373 ) <news@@@fortbendisdsucks...com> 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.
  • Re:A better way... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by JahToasted ( 517101 ) <toastafari@noSpaM.yahoo.com> on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @05:41PM (#6353471) Homepage
    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.
  • by nzyank ( 623627 ) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @05:43PM (#6353487)
    Right off the top of my head have a few wav files like:

    'type in the second letter of the word blind'
    'now type in the third letter of the word 'January'

    What's so friggin hard about that? And no spammer's gonna have the technology to bust that for a few years.

    BTW, I haven't tested it yet, but I bet I could write some pattern recognition code that would crack 90% of those anti-spam bitmaps. Do you think spammers would pay me for that?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @05:49PM (#6353568)
    While I agree whole heartedly that accessability should be a high priority for any business there needs to be a balance. Blind people are just not going to be able to do everything that seeing people can.

    It seems to me that if a feature cannot be made accessable that doesn't mean you should just toss it out. there is no reason why someone's handicap should hold back the whole world. However, that doesn't seem to be the case here.
    An audio work around seems entirely plausable, and easily as effective, as a garbled image. The other thing is here that a lot of these image challenge systems are there so that people can remain anonymous. So say if your yahoo and you want to let people be anonymous then your gonna get shady automated scripts. that's just the price of the feature. So IMNSHO there is no reaon why a company that has an image challange should lock out blind people. they should either drop the image challange or add an audio one.

    Oh yeah, one more thing just for you: enough with javascript/flash trolling. just because you people dont like the way they CAN be used doesn't mean they are bad and you know it.
  • 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 :)
  • Let's see here... We have tons of spam (a minor inconvenience, if anything) versus discriminating against a group of people. You are in favor of discrimination, which is extremely selfish and egotistic. What the hell makes you better than a person in a wheelchair, anyway?

    I would really find it amusing if you got permanently paralyzed and had to ride around in a wheelchair. Or lost your vision. I think you would change your tune pretty damn fast.

    Also, I don't see why the hell Slashdotters are so upset about spam. It's really not much of a problem for most people, given that we now have fairly nice filters that manage to virtually eliminate it. Please don't tell me it costs anything extra for the ISP to receive more e-mail. If it did, running a mailing list would be prohibitively expensive.

    Also, I would want to see a spammer that uses OCR or speech recognition to mass-register accounts. After all, you don't need thousands of accounts and you can simply sit a human down and have them type the text on the images (or listen to the audio). You could easily register a few hundred accounts that way. Besides, most spam is now sent through hijacked servers, not free email services.
  • 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!)
  • Re:Monitors. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by martyn s ( 444964 ) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @06:04PM (#6353715)
    You're totally missing the point. They should just come up with a better system. I'm not saying they should make stereos that work for deaf people too, since, fundamentally, like blind people and cars, they don't go together.

    But here with this thing the article was talking about, it's such a minor thing, they need a better system thats all. It just seems so shitty that blind people should be totally locked out because of such a minor thing. I understand what you're saying, but I don't think the analogy is fair. This is something that blind people SHOULD be able to participate in, but can't because of some minor thing, as opposed to something that blind people fundamentally can't do, like driving.

    And you're right, the example you gave with the housing is just stupid bureacratic shit that shouldn't happen. And a lot of these lawsuits make me sick too. But this seems a lot more legitimate. Okay, maybe a lawsuit isn't legitimate since maybe websites shouldn't be FORCED to do anything. But don't you feel bad for blind people in this kind of situation? I mean, imagine you were blind and you just couldn't sign up for all these websites, just because of some technicality. No way around it.

    Most blind people are lonely and cut off as it is. Where's your compassion? I don't think it's so much for the sites to come up with workarounds for the blind.
  • all laws should be fair to all people, and enforced appropriately... (emphasis added)

    Pick two.

    Seriously, the only way you have the situation you describe is to have extremely few laws, or extremely complex ones. Like, it's only grand theft auto if you didn't need the car (with a full definition of what consitutes need), AND you didn't look around to ask permission of the owner (for x minutes, in which you talked to y people trying to find the owner). - And that's a law that would be pretty clear-cut!

    We're getting into this situation already. It's to the point where you can't do anything without checking with a lawyer first, to see if it's legal.

    Yes, it's a good idea to have laws that are good and fair to everyone. But in this day and age, that's too idealistic; it's not going to happen.
  • 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.

  • 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.
  • by Tink2000 ( 524407 ) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @06:55PM (#6354129) Homepage Journal
    For a good many visually impaired people, the whole point is that they can survive on their own as well as their visually active counterparts.
  • by silentbozo ( 542534 ) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @07:00PM (#6354174) Journal
    Anybody who cannot see a garbled word graphic also cannot see a banner ad. For one of the sites I'm working on, that's enough to make them persona non grata on that site...

    That's kind of silly. Consider a vision-impaired user with a screen reader to render text (blind doesn't necessarily mean completely inable to see - they might use one of those screen utilities to blow a 64x64 chunk of the screen to fill a 20" monitor). Normal users might glance at a banner ad, and mostly ignore it. A person relying on a reader would have to sit through a text version of the ad being read. Which version of the ad is going to make a bigger impact? The one that's being ignored, or the one that is being read and listened to?
  • 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:discriminatory? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Croaker ( 10633 ) on Thursday July 03, 2003 @07:18AM (#6357089)

    If I offer a service or a product, why am I obligated to make it so that EVERYBODY can use/buy my product/service?

    Because, once upon a time, we had a country (here in the US anyhow) where many stores had signs that said "NO BLACKS ALLOWED" on them. Was that fair? "Hey, if I don't wanna serve them darkies, why should I? It's my right, ain't it?" Should we roll back the clock and say "screw it, discriminate all you want" just because some Slashdot nerds are offended that they might have to think about someone other than themselves for a few seconds? No, we as a society decided that if you offer a service to the public, you have to offer it to everyone. Otherwise, we would fall back into segregation.

    I mean, by your argument I could say that even though I'm not attractive enough to be a model, I should be able to sue a modeling agency because they're descriminating against people who aren't the most attractive people in the world

    Um, no, because there the actual job requirement is for you to be physicially attractive, in this case, which is entirely subjective anyhow. There are classifications under the ADA as to what constitutes "disabled." Ugly ain't one of them. Also the ADA doesn;t require things like having a certain number of baseball umpires be blind or musicians be deaf.

    The anti-discrimination clause works both ways. How would you feel if you were fired from your job as an IT professional because they found someone who was better looking? Would that be fair? No, because looks have nothing to do with IT (lord ain't that the truth!). It's part of the law in this country that we cannot use arbitrary measures for deciding who to employ or who not to. IT people need to be judged on how well they do IT, and how good of an employee they are. Looks shouldn't enter into that.

    I feel your pain....but if everybody keeps being so selfish, NO progress will be made because someone will ALWAYS be left out.

    Um, remarkable use of the word "selfish" there. People are whining that companies are actually *gasp* forced to think about people who aren't exactly like everyone else when designing a service. Darn those selfish cripples! And, if you'd just bother take a few seconds and Google for information about the Americans with Disabilities Act before you sound off, you'd learn about the key phrase "reasonable accomodations." Jesus, people, they aren't asking for the world to be reconstructed from the ground up to accomodate them. All it means is that where possible, you take into account the needs of the blind, deaf, and handicapped.

    In the case in question, how hard is it to find a workaround? Not very. Have an alternative means for the blind to prove they are human. Like, say, audio. Sounds like a reasonable accomodation to me.

"So why don't you make like a tree, and get outta here." -- Biff in "Back to the Future"