CAPTCHA - this is the name for the annoying tests requiring you to enter in an often illegible string of letters and numbers before you can buy something on the web, post online messages, sign up to internet services like Skype and Gmail, subscribe to newsletters and even access online government services or contact elected officials.
They’re frustrating for all internet users, but for me and millions of other people who are blind or vision impaired, CAPTCHA tests prevent us from engaging on the web and accessing online government services, because they can't be read by screen reading software
I have been blind for about seven years and CAPTCHA has fast become one of my most hated aspects of the web.
Adding insult to injury is the fact that even the official standards body, the World Wide Web Consortium, has said CAPTCHA excludes people with disability and suggested several alternatives methods of proving web users are human. One obvious accessible alternative is a simple email activation link.
Audio CAPTCHA was supposed to solve the problem for blind or vision impaired people, but my experience with audio CAPTCHA has been almost as inaccessible as a normal visual CAPTCHA – I must have listened to the Skype audio CAPTCHA 20 times before I gave up and asked my sighted friend to set up my account.
I’m constantly frustrated when trying to book concert tickets online, contribute to online forums and email politicians through the contact forms on their websites – all because CAPTCHA is so inaccessible.
It is time to kill CAPTCHA once and for all.
I hope you will join my organisation, the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) and fellow non-profit disability advocacy groups such as Blind Citizens Australia, Media Access Australia, Able Australia and the Australian Deafblind Council in calling on organisations big and small to phase out the use of CAPTCHA.
I believe the biggest internet companies including Google, Microsoft and Facebook should take a leadership role in eradicating CAPTCHA from their services and, eventually, the rest of the web.
I am talking about CAPTCHA, the illegible string of letters and numbers that web users have to enter into online forms to prove they are human, before they are allowed to transact on e-commerce sites, post on message boards, sign up to online services and conduct many other online activities.
CAPTCHA is used by web companies big and small including Google and Skype, as well as government representatives and agencies and other organisations with an online presence.
People who are blind or vision impaired can spend hours trying to complete an otherwise simple task such as creating a web email account. Even people without disability find them frustrating.
CAPTCHAs fundamentally fail to properly recognise people with disabilities as human, and it is time their use was phased out.
It would be greatly appreciated if you could do what you can to help us achieve this goal and spread the word about the numerous accessible alternatives to CAPTCHA.