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Visual Verification: CAPTCHA Prevents Blind Users from Uninstalling Sponsored Version of Messenger Plus Live!

December 29, 2007 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

If you are blind or visually impaired and are contemplating the installation of Messenger Plus Live! to enhance your Windows Live Messenger experience, we recommend strongly that you avoid selecting the ad supported “sponsored mode” during the installation process. If the software is installed in this mode, it is currently impossible for a blind person to remove the software from their computer due to a visual only CAPTCHA that does not provide audio playback or any other reasonable accomodations for our accessibility needs. Installation and removal of the non-sponsored version of the software continues to work well without this CAPTCHA, and this has always been the preferred way for blind or visually impaired people to run this particular application.

The following letter has now been written and posted to the Messenger Plus Live! Help and Support forum.

December 29, 2007

Dear Patchou and all other MsgPlusLive Developers,

I am writing to tell you about a critical concern facing blind and visually impaired people who install Messenger Plus Live and to ask for your help to resolve the issue in an equitable manner.

As blind computer users, we rely on a piece of assistive technology known as a screen reader. An example of this software is Window-Eyes, developed and sold by GW Micro (http://www.gwmicro.com). Most blind people install Messenger Plus Live in unsponsored mode; they have learned from the community that the ads in sponsored mode can interfere with the proper operation of this vital tool. Unfortunately, some blind users have installed the sponsored version of your software, finding that the functionality of their screen reader has been impaired, impacting the ability to use their computers in the process.

As the sponsored mode version of MSG Plus Live is currently written, a visual CAPTCHA is presented during the uninstallation process. Blind people are physically unable to see the picture of characters in a CAPTCHA, thus they are unable to solve such a challenge / response scheme. The result is that those of us who have installed the sponsored version of your software are completely unable to remove it from our computers.

Please consider resolving this critical issue as soon as possible by removing the visual CAPTCHA altogether, by implementing an audio playback CAPTCHA such as the one found at http://recaptcha.net or by using an alternative e-mail confirmation or text based challenge / response system.

Your consideration and time is appreciated, and I anticipate hearing from someone on the Messenger Plus Live development team as soon as possible.

Best regards for a happy New Year,

Darrell Shandrow

Accessibility Evangelist

We ask all of you who read Blind Access Journal, blind and sighted alike, to visit this forum thread and lend your voice to our request to have the visual CAPTCHA made accessible for everyone, including those of us whom happen to be blind.

2 opinions on “Visual Verification: CAPTCHA Prevents Blind Users from Uninstalling Sponsored Version of Messenger Plus Live!

  1. Hello Darrell, I totally agree with that comment and they should change to make Messenger Plus Live more accessible for screen reader users, I use JFW and that would be a problem, I have chosen not to install the sponcer just for that reason.

    Hope you have a wonderful new year

    Timothy Appleby

  2. Hey guys, good news: look like the devs took notice. Here’s Patchou’s reply:

    “I’ll contact CircleDev and ask them about doing something about that. I’m all for accessibility and I always put a lot of time an effort in my programs to make sure everybody can use them up to some extent.

    “Thank you for your report, I’ll try to push it for the next update of the sponsor program (which I’m not in charge of unfortunately, one thing I may do is add an accessibility-only clue in the setup saying that you will need to see the screen for uninstallation so that people who cant see it don’t install the sponsor).”

    I know that in general Windows Live is committed to accessibility… it looks like this was an oversight somewhere in the partnership with CircleDev.

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