Google representatives have told us in the past that they did not prioritize the accessibility of their products and services due to an apparent lack of user feedback. Unfortunately, Google is receiving feedback, but has thus far decided to completely ignore our concerns, bullishly sticking to their ongoing policy of barring the blind and visually impaired from participation in many of their services. At this point, the only responses we in the blind community have received from Google have amounted to broken promises and words that have not resulted in any positive changes for the better. In contrast to Google’s lack of response, read the words of real blind people who have, indeed, provided Google with plenty of feedback concerning their accessibility issues.
I have also contacted accounts-support at google several months ago, and like you, received a brief, polite, and ineffective response.
You may not want to overlook legal options. I don’t think the question of whether the internet is covered by the ADA has been fully answered by the courts.
The most famous case as you probably know involved Southwest Airlines, but from what I have heard, the court really did not decide in that case that the
ADA did not apply to internet sites. An attorney you may want to contact is Laney Finegold in northern California. I know she regularly speaks at CSUN
and other conferences. I like the 4 other ideas you mention in your podcast as well, and I would be pleased to help you wherever I can.
Finally it may be worth trying to see if either NFB or ACB could champion the issue, but I don’t know how much a priority this would be for them and how
aggressively they would go after it. Finally, another aspect of Google that is very inaccessible is Gmail, the basic html option does not allow you to configure many of the settings.
Google did recently hold focus groups in northern California with users who are blind, and I will talk to one person that went to one of these to see if these issues were discussed.
Also I am part of The Association Of Blind Citizens
Mika also wrote a letter to Google on June 5 asking for accessibility.
I’m communicating with some contacts within Google regarding your Oct. 19 podcast. I fully agree, as I’m partially sighted, but it usually takes me several tries to get the damned words in correctly, complicated by other form mistakes. Often I give up, as I recently did with a PayPal donation. There’s got to be a better way. My contact claims, yes, their usability engineers, some blind, are working hard on the problem. But Google obviously lacks an accessibility evangelist who
can speak outside the organization to people like you and others in the blind community. Putting aside the Eric Schmidt campaign, do you have an acceptable list of solutions, technical and/or social, to bypass the word verification method? Are there any good websites, examples, models that are acceptable? I’m not trying to take the pressure off Google, but just to learn. Why wouldn’t it work to have a spoken word, repeated, difficult for a computer speech recognizer but reasonable for a hearing-enabled human who probably has TTS. Personally,
I’m for beheading spammers, but that’s a more difficult and bloody solution. I think I’ll hear again next week from my Google contact when she returns to her office. I’m not trying to block you from contacting her but she’s not really the person you need to talk to, but I think she can get to those people. I’ll let you know.
Thanks, everyone, for your excellent feedback on this important issue. Please keep it coming. We all know that actions speak much louder than words. It is absolutely critical that we ultimately get resolution of this lock out from Google, and that we proceed to use that resolution as a springboard for further action on similar issues caused by other companies doing business on the Internet. The current accepted state of the art in the provision of accessibility for visual verification is to provide a link that plays an audio version of the displayed characters. Web sites such as Spam Arrest and Live Journal provide this form of accessibility to their visual verification. This solution is not perfect, as it still excludes the deaf-blind. We would consider the audio solution, along with a method of contacting a customer service representative for prompt action, as reasonable accomodations for insuring the accessibility of visual CAPTCHA implementations given the current state of technology, investigating more inclusive ways to protect everyone from fraud, spam and other abuse while making certain that technology products and services are accessible to everyone.