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Google Accessibility Petition: Feedback Sought for Second Draft of Accompanying Cover Letter

February 4, 2006 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

We are now asking for feedback on the second draft of the cover letter accompanying the Google Word Verification Accessibility Petition when it is sent to Dr. Eric Schmidt and Google’s Board of Directors. Please review the letter below, then send all constructive criticisms and suggestions to editor (at) blindaccessjournal.com. We look forward to your participation in this critical endeavor.

Over the past two decades, the Internet in general, and the World Wide Web in particular, have changed the lives of blind and visually impaired people for
the better. Many blind people around the world, through the use of synthesized speech and/or Braille output assistive technology, can now access
vast amounts of text-based and auditory information independently, like never before. Google’s main search engine page, with it’s rather accessible and
straight forward layout, is a primary gateway for many blind people to
effectively sift through, and thereby gain access to, the wealth of
information brought forth by this new empowering technological age. We in the blind community of Internet users, wholeheartedly thank Google for this; however, there is a considerable barrier looming in our midst, implemented
in a variety of Google’s newer services, which effectively denies independent access to the very information, resources, and online services that Google
has the potential to offer, to both blind and sighted users alike.

We all know that there are aspects of the Internet that impede its usefulness, including spam and the robots that seek to propagate it. The blind community
detests spam, too, and sympathizes with the need to do something about it. However, the graphical verification system introduced on some of
Google’s sites, which requires a user to visually read and correctly
interpret a picture, and to then enter the string of graphical
characters into a separate edit box, has, inadvertently, shut out
blind and visually impaired people from many Google services. As this is inconsistent with Google’s mission, I am certain you will want to deal with this problem
expeditiously.
I am writing to let you know that thousands of blind and sighted Internet users have signed the enclosed Google Word Verification Accessibility online petition.
We are kindly asking you to please follow Google’s mission statement, to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful,”
by adding an accessible alternative to the visual word verification, also known as CAPTCHA, which is currently implemented on the web pages of Blogger,
GMail, and almost all other Google provided services.
Many of us in the blind community stand willing, ready, and able to assist your talented developers in devising and testing a workable solution, such as
those access alternatives already adopted and implemented by Pay Pal, Hotmail, Microsoft Passport, PR Web, and an increasing number of other prominent
services.

Not only can Google have the opportunity to expand its user-base by
making it’s websites fully accessible for blind and visually impaired
users, but doing so would also help Google further expand its
leadership in the search and advertising markets, as well as serving
as a catalyst to encourage more sites to open their market to this
often overlooked customer-base. Since Google is an acknowledged leader in providing an increasing number of services, adopting a solution to the access problem may be very useful
in gaining positive publicity for Google, and could serve as an outstanding example to the public, and to a wide audience of website owners and designers,
to bring increased awareness of this accessibility problem.
We, in the blind and the sighted communities alike, sincerely Thank you for your genuine consideration of this urgent matter, and we look forward to a prompt
affirmative response from you in the very near future.

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