image of Dr. Bruce Rosenthal

Dr. Bruce Rosenthal of Lighthouse International

Dr. Bruce Rosenthal is my low vision specialist. He runs a low vision center at Lighthouse International in New York and is a well-known authority on low vision. So I was thrilled to learn that he was going to be on a live podcast produced by the Computer Center for Visually Impaired People (CCVIP). The Center uses blog talk radio.com as its podcast platform. The site has been around for quite a while and allows anyone to host an Internet radio show. I know several people who use the service to great effect.

blog talk image

Blog Talk Radio Logo

I went to the service because CCVIP was doing a live podcast titled, “I‘m not blind, I just can’t see”. Blog talk Radio required me to register before I could listen to the program. The site wanted my email address and a password. Standard stuff. No problem. But it kept rejecting my registration. I know I was putting in the correct password and reconfirming it. Then, I realized there was a CAPTCHA code box. For those not familiar with CAPTCHA codes, it’s that little box with oddly angled or weird typeface letters and numbers that you have to enter. The reason for this is to make sure that a human is registering and not some spambot.

Here’s the problem. For the blind, people with low vision or people who have trouble differentiating certain colors or contrasts, the code can’t be read. I have no clue as to why many websites that use CAPTCHA code overlook the simple ability to make it usable for visitors with visual issues.

There has been a very simple solution for this problem that the people who sell or  give away the software already know about. On the official CAPTCHA page in the guideline section, very high up is a section on accessibility. It states clearly why accessibility is important and also mentions that in the US, it may be in violation of federal statute if the site isn’t accessible. The software has an option that will allow you to get audio cues for what’s in the box and you can simply repeat or type it in and the registration is done. It should be no big deal for developers and designers to just install the option for audio feedback in order for people with vision issues to use this function.

I complained directly to blog talk radio and they manually created an account for me. I also mentioned to the fine folks at CCVIP that I’d had problems. A few days later I got a notification about the next CCVIP blog radio event. It gave the time in the URL but in this note, it is stressed that there was a CAPTCHA code at the end of the registration process and you had to “navigate the CAPTCHA box”. I did a fake registration and the audio cue option was now on the site. I’m willing to confess that it was always there and I just missed it or it was retrofitted. Whichever the case I’m glad it’s there now.

I now realize that for years, I passed up websites and services because I couldn’t read the CAPTCHA codes. And frankly, I was in denial that my vision was getting that bad. Developers and website designers need to understand that in the view of some of their users, “[developers and designers] can see, but they are blind”.