The University of York in the United Kingdom, along with a consortium of other organizations, is embarking on a project to evaluate the web accessibility needs of people with disabilities. Let’s all visit Amfortas – Test Case Evaluation Framework and provide our expertise and insight to this potentially valuable effort. It appears there may be an opportunity to earn some compensation in exchange for time and energy spent conducting the requested testing. Even better; I’m signing up now!
Once again, we learn that authentication based on sight alone is not the only game in town. A company called PhoneFactor delivers a two-factor authentication scheme in which the second piece of authentication material is literally your telephone. In simple terms, here’s how it works:
- Supply your traditional username and password as prompted.
- Your telephone rings.
- Press the pound sign!
- That’s all there is to it!
The potential of this solution to deliver security while ensuring accessibility for people with disabilities simply can’t be ignored!
I have just discovered that blind and visually impaired people are not permitted to post comments on the PayPal Blog due to an inaccessible CAPTCHA. This is weird, since an audio CAPTCHA is utilized elsewhere within the E-Bay and PayPal sites.
Recently, PayPal began offering account holders the ability to use a Security Key as an additional means of protection. The Security Key is a small piece of hardware that connects to the computer’s USB port and displays a sequence of numbers that change every 30 seconds. Once the key is activated, users must supply these numbers in addition to their typical PayPal username and password in order to be granted access. No accessible version of the PayPal Security Key is offered at this time. Though the Security Key is not required, there are a couple of significant concerns.
At this time, use of the Security Key is not required in order to continue using PayPal. One may decide to avoid purchasing and activating the Security Key, while still retaining access to their account. This may seem to represent a mitigating factor, except for one dirty little truth. The availability of the Security Key to only sighted PayPal customers automatically means that blind and visually impaired customers are not afforded the same degree of security! That’s right. While the sighted may now enjoy two-factor, virtually unbreakable authentication, we blind folks are stuck with the traditional username and password approach. This inherently makes the blind more vulnerable to fraud, identity theft, loss of PayPal funds and all manner of other imaginable nastiness. Alas, that’s not all!
While the Security Key is currently an optional enhancement, we can see the day in the near future when PayPal will begin requiring use of this authentication method for all account holders. At that time, blind and visually impaired people will be completely locked out of their PayPal accounts, unless an accessible version of the Security Key is made available. When that happens, PayPal will be giving its blind customers the boot, showing them the tightly barred and locked door featuring the infamous “No Blind People Allowed” sign.
Multifactor authentication is not new to PayPal. It is rapidly extending to the web sites of many banks and other financial institutions. It is absolutely critical that we, as a blind community, begin to effectively address issues of visual CAPTCHA and multifactor authentication before we find ourselves locked out of online participation and even separated from our money! Let’s act now with respect to PayPal! We urge all of you to ask PayPal for information about their intentions toward blind and visually impaired customers with respect to the Security Key. Please post any responses from PayPal as comments to this article.
Tamas Babinszki reports that he has built a new travel oriented web site that provides information about various points of interest, including hotels, museums and restaurants, from the accessibility perspective of people with disabilities. The CLUEniversal site is organized into a database of clues (Convenient Locations for Universal Enjoyment) contributed directly by users who have firsthand experience visiting the points of interest featured on the site.
Mr. Babinszki writes the following concerning his new project:
I travel quite a bit, and often times I find it very frustrating that when I have a couple of hours between meetings and I plan any activities, I am greatly disappointed, because the sites I visit are not accessible, and I waste the little time I have instead of having done something more interesting. However, you don’t know this until you visit the sites. I could review other sites for user recommendations, but in most of the cases it does not provide enough information for me from the accessibility point of view. For example, a museum can be wonderful, but I would like to know if there is something to touch there or things are behind glass. I would rather pick a less interesting or less famous museum when I know that they have hands-on objects. Also, I’d rather pick a guided tour with many long stops where I have an opportunity to experience the sights, as opposed to a long bus tour where all I have is the tour guide’s explanation, if any.
Therefore, I put together CLUEniversal, a site where people can enter locations, similar to other travel sites. This site, however, is different, because when people enter a new location, they can answer numerous questions about the accessibility of a place. If a restaurant has a Braille menu, if a museum has a guided tour, if the hotel has airport transportation, etc. This way people with disabilities would have a greater chance to find locations which they would enjoy visiting.
This site, however, is not built for people with disabilities only. It is primarily designed for all, this is what I stand for, this is what CLUE’s mean. CLUEniversal: Convenient Locations for Universal Enjoyment.
People can choose which questions they do or do not want to answer. Also, once a location (CLUE) is entered, visitors have an option to provide general, and accessibility related ratings and comments.
This site is totally free. I believe people should have access to such information free of charge. It is, however, optional to register, I would like to provide incentives for people who contribute the most to the database, which requires an e-mail address and a user name, and only the user name is publicly available.
The site is a Beta version. While I have most of the concepts worked out, the database only contains a few items. Also, more categories will be added, together with more questions in order to determine the enjoyment and accessibility level of a location.
As of now, I’m looking for people who are willing to test the site, provide more locations and offer suggestions on how to make this site a more useful experience for them.
This new site is in the early beta stage. It holds tremendous potential to make travel much more enjoyable for those of us whom happen to be blind or visually impaired. Let’s all give him a hand by adding the points of interest we visit on a regular basis.
Released August 18, 2007
Fixed the default EdSharp.ini overwriting the Import and Export sections of
the user's EdSharp.ini configuration file. Fixed commands such as Quote
(Control+Q) producing an error if no text was at the cursor position
(because the document was empty or the cursor was at the end).
Added support for enhanced speech messages when using the System Access
screen reader from
Enhanced Find and Replace commands (Control+F, Control+Shift+F, and
Control+R). The Text you enter in Find or Replace dialogs may now include
tokens that represent nonprinting characters. This syntax is available for
strings in the C programming language and its variations. Common tokens are
a pair of characters consisting of a backslash and letter, such as the
following: \r for carriage return (ASCI 13), \n for line feed (ASCII 10),
\t for tab (ASCII 9), and \f for form feed (ASCII 12). Such tokens allow
you to search for text, say, at the beginning or end of a line (use \n for a
line break in EdSharp).
The trade off for this flexibility is that backslash and quote characters
must be preceded by a backslash when intended literally (not part of a
token), i.e., \\ for backslash and \" for quote. Since this doubling of
characters may be cumbersome with search terms such as a file path, however,
EdSharp supports use of an initial @ character to indicate that the
following characters should be interpreted literally rather than as possible
tokens. For example, if searching for a file in the document, you could
enter the term
rather than c:\\temp\\temp.txt
If you need to search for an interpreted string that begins with the @
character, precede it with a backslash, e.g.,
The Open Other Format command (Control+Shift+O) now shows the command line
attempted by a custom converter if it failed to produce text. Added several
converters distributed with EdSharp. External converters are stored in the
Convert subfolder of the EdSharp program folder, e.g., in (default
Besides the pdf converter mentioned previously, the default EdSharp.ini
configuration file (in the EdSharp program folder) now includes the
following conversions. GetText.exe is configured for importing from Windows
Help (.hlp) and Microsoft Word (.doc) — thereby eliminating the need to
load Word for this purpose. chm2txt imports Compiled HTML Help (.chm).
htm2md.exe imports from HTML and variations (.htm, .html, and .xhtml) to a
text format called Markdown — explained at
md2htm.exe does the reverse, exporting from Markdown to HTML. EdSharp
supports Markdown as an aid to developing web pages.
It looks like the use of Blackberry devices is going to be implemented where Karen works. We would like to hear from anyone, as soon as possible, who has any experience with alternatives available to make this system accessible.
After attempting to subscribe to this blog via e-mail using the FeedBurner widget for this purpose, I have discovered that the supplied audio CAPTCHA appears to be broken. No matter how many times I listen to and enter the numbers, I am unable to complete the subscription process! A message has already been sent to email@example.com concerning this serious problem. I urge all of you to do likewise. Let’s get as much visibility to this issue as possible so the FeedBurner folks will fix it right away!
Update: A FeedBurner support representative tells me that the problem appears with both the audio and visual CAPTCHA. It involves a timeout issue with certain browser and Internet service provider combinations. While it works fine with Internet Explorer 7.0 for one user, it works only with Firefox 2.0 for another. Those encountering this ongoing inability to complete e-mail subscriptions should include their browser version and the name of their Internet service provider in messages to the support team.
Now available at
I hope this utility increases access to information stored in CHM archives.
It is explained below.
August 16, 2007
Copyright 2007 by Jamal Mazrui
Modified GPL License
Running on Windows 98 and above, CHM2TXT (chm2txt.exe) is a command line
utility that converts a file from Compiled HTML format (.chm) to structured
text (.txt). Combining multiple HTML and graphics files, the CHM format is
commonly used for software documentation, e.g., what is displayed by
pressing F1. The usual help viewing program, however, can be challenging to
search globally or to read continuously. A single, structured text file
provides an alternative in such cases. CHM2TXT is a free, open source
program that seeks to fill an observed need of many users. Note that its
present limitations include the fact that topics are ordered alphabetically,
rather than according to the outline view of the CHM file.
The command line syntax of CHM2TXT is as follows:
chm2txt "SourceFile.chm" "TargetFile.txt"
A file name should be fully qualified, that is, include a leading path —
either absolute or relative — if not located in the current directory.
Quotes around a file may be omitted if it does not include a space
character. The target may be omitted to produce one named like the source
except for extension. Status messages are displayed on the console (via
standard output) during the conversion process.
The chm2txt.exe executable may be copied to and run from any directory. The
program creates a workspace in a subdirectory of the user's temporary
directory. Batch files or other applications may invoke CHM2TXT in order to
convert multiple files with a single command, or to provide a graphical user
interface for specifying source and target files. For example, such
capabilities are included in the EdSharp editor available at
The text file produced by CHM2TXT observes a few conventions that facilitate
navigation in editors that implement the "Homer editor interface." Besides
EdSharp, TextPal is another such application, available at
A structured text document is divided into sections separated by a character
sequence consisting of a hard page break and line break (ASCII 12, 13, and
10 codes). The first section is the table of contents, and remaining
sections are the body. Each topic name in the contents is also a section
heading in the body.
Relevant Homer keys for navigation are as follows.
Press Control+PageDown to go to the next section, or Control+PageUp for the
Press F6 to go from a topic in the contents to its corresponding section in
the body. Press Shift+F6 to reverse that, going from a section in the body
to its topic in the contents.
Press Control+F6 to search for a section based on text in its topic name.
Press Alt+F6 to search for the next match.
A structured text document may also be converted to an equivalent HTML
version, with a table of contents linked to section headings. Press
Control+H to convert the current document to HTML format. Press Control+S
to save it to disk. Press F5 to launch it in the default web browser.
I developed CHM2TXT with the Perl Developer Kit 7.0 from
It incorporates Perl 5.8, as well as the libraries Text::CHM,
HTML::Stripper, and File::OldSlurp from the Comprehensive Perl Archive
The distribution archive, chm2txt.zip, contains Perl source code
(chm2txt.pl) and the batch file to compile it (compile.bat). The code is
covered by a modified version of the GNU General Public License (GPL), which
is explained at
Essentially, software that uses the code must be open source, except that I
am willing to relax GPL conditions in a particular case if persuaded that a
greater good would result.
I welcome feedback, which helps CHM2TXT improve over time. When reporting a
problem, the more specifics the better, including steps to reproduce it, if
possible. If you happen to be a programmer, please consider contributing
code that fixes a problem or improves functionality.
The latest version of CHM2TXT is available at the same URL,
Wow! We have been busy beavers! Over the past week, we have switched web hosting providers, added many new features and changed the “look and feel” of Blind Access Journal! Here’s exactly what we have done:
- Switched to DreamHost for web hosting. I recommend this provider for accessibility, reliability and solid technical support. Full disclosure: Clicking this link to sign up with DreamHost provides me with a commission. Please consider supporting the work of Blind Access Journal!
- Added the ability to follow me on Twitter. You may now have a glimpse into the less serious side of my life. Enjoy!
- Changed Blogger hosting to use a Custom Domain to enable all the features available in Blogger.
- Changed the firstname.lastname@example.org e-mail address so that mail is now delivered to both Karen and myself. This site is a huge undertaking. Karen and I are both partners in Blind Access Journal! She will now receive all official correspondence. Please feel free to say “hi” to Karen.
- Upgraded from the classic template to layouts so that new features and page elements can be quickly added. The only downfall is that a blind person is unable to use the drag-and-drop functionality to rearrange the elements. It is possible to use all other features of this template mode, so the benefits should vastly outweigh the drawbacks.
- Added a list of links to favorite blogs and web sites.
- Added links to the most recent articles from Darrell’s Accessibility, Electronic Communications and Technology news – Powered By Bloglines, quickly delivering the latest “interesting” content.
- Added a separate feed enabling subscribers to follow comments made in response to all posts. Thanks to Jeff Bishop for keeping on me about this one. I know he’s a much happier man now!
- Made minor changes to the way blog archives and other elements of the page are displayed.
- Implemented Google AdSense in hopes of recovering some of our costs.
- Made the Skype contact name a live link.
- Modified the visual presentation of the site as a result of the layout changes and addition of the new page elements. These modifications were automatically done by Blogger. Sighted readers, please feel free to comment on our new look.
- Added a poll asking for your vote on all these changes.
As always, your active participation is key. Please post a comment or send e-mail with your feedback on these changes and enhancements.