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Happy New Year as We Celebrate the Third Anniversary of Blind Access Journal

January 1, 2008 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

On Friday, December 17, 2004, we began Blind Access Journal as a vehicle for accessibility evangelism. Though the first article was a subdued piece covering an accessible wireless security software program, the second article covered accessibility related concerns with the UPS shipping company. From those modest beginnings, we have directly advocated for improved access to technology and transportation, raised awareness of the need for accessibility, stirred up the blind community through vigorous discussion of critical topics and written numerous thought provoking articles on accessibility, blindness and human rights of people with all disabilities. As 2007 has now come to an end, and we have now embarked on a brand new year, we thought it would be interesting to review a sampling of our accomplishments and other memorable moments over the past three years:

  • December 2004 – We began our ongoing campaign for accessible CAPTCHA (visual verification) and multifactor authentication schemes with the article entitled Google’s Inaccessible Account Creation Process highlighting the company’s use of a scheme for protecting web based resources that inherently blocks access for blind people by requiring the use of eye sight without nonvisual alternatives.
  • February 2005 – Published the article entitled Securing Our Future In An Uncertain Brave New World, which spurred some thought provoking discussion in the online blind community.
  • February 2005 – We began our brief advocacy on behalf of Terry Schiavo, a minimally conscious Florida woman who was deliberately removed from her life-saving feeding tube by her husband, resulting in her death, despite the wishes of the rest of her family to keep her alive. Bioethicists like Dr. Peter Singer must be delighted. We are concerned that concepts such as “quality of life” and “undue burden” may, one day in the distant future, could place our very right to exist as people with disabilities in serious jeopardy.
  • April 1, 2005 – Darrell proposes marriage to Karen, she accepts and they are engaged on Jeff Bishop’s The Desert Skies radio show on ACB Radio Interactive. It is possible to download an archive of this special event.
  • June 2005 – Blind Access Journal officially joins the podcasting scene.
  • October 2005 – First significant use of the “No Blind People Allowed Sign” as a means to insist on accessible alternatives to CAPTCHA (visual verification) schemes on web sites.
  • November 2005 – Darrell attends the first Portable Media Expo and Podcasting Conference in Ontario, California; makes new friends and further raises awareness of the need for accessibility.
  • November 2005 – Darrell appears live on Leo Laporte’s This Week in Tech podcast live from the expo. TWiT is heard by hundreds of thousands of technology oriented listeners around the world.
  • November 2005 – Adam Curry publicly pledges in front of a worldwide audience to ensure that the products and services offered by Podshow are accessible; claims accessibility is part of the company’s “core DNA”. We had this nice chat at the podcasting expo. Unfortunately, Mr. Curry has never followed through on any of his promises!
  • November 2005 – A reporter publishes the article Journalist Advocates Better Online Access For Blind shortly after my appearance at the podcasting expo.
  • November 2005 – America Online adds audio playback to its CAPTCHA for the AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) signup process.
  • January 12, 2006 – We initiated the Google Word Verification Accessibility Petition asking that the mission statement to “do no evil” be followed and all the company’s CAPTCHAs be promptly made more accessible to the blind and visually impaired. The petition garners 4,725 signatures and receives widespread coverage on blogs and podcasts as well as several mainstream technology media outlets.
  • January 2006 – PRWeb makes their visual verification scheme accessible in less than one week of the request! We thank Al Castle, the company’s Chief Technology Officer, for his amazing communication and responsiveness.
  • February 2006 – Darrell almost loses his job due to the conversion of his team to the use of inaccessible software. His job is saved and duties reassigned thanks in large part to persistent, effective advocacy.
  • April 2006 – In response to effective advocacy, Google begins the process of rolling out its audio playback CAPTCHA and agrees to hire software engineers in a commitment to become more accessible overall.
  • May 2006 – Google completes roll out of audio CAPTCHA.
  • June 2006 – Darrell and Karen are married in a wonderful ceremony and reception aboard the Odyssey with family and close friends in attendance. You may listen to a recording of the ceremony.
  • June 2006 – In response to a letter from Blind Access Journal, Sirius Satellite Radio adds an audio playback feature to its CAPTCHA, restoring the ability of blind subscribers to listen online.
  • July 2006 – Darrell is quoted in a brief article entitled Google for the Blind in the San Francisco Chronicle.
  • August 4, 2006 – Darrell and Karen make their debut with the Desert Cafe show on ACB Radio Interactive. The show now has a permanent time slot at 22:00 UTC every Monday.
  • October 2006 – Bloglines responds to our report of accessibility challenges after changes made to the web site by taking effective, prompt steps to restore accessibility. We thank Ben Lowery with Bloglines for his fast response.
  • January 2007 – Darrell becomes co-host with Jeff Bishop of Main Menu, a technology oriented talk show from a blindness perspective, on ACB Radio Mainstream.
  • January 14, 2007 – Darrell and Karen appear on the Marlaina program on ACB Radio Mainstream.
  • January 2007 – FeedBurner adds an audio CAPTCHA.
  • February 26, 2007 – Darrell undergoes the first of two surgeries to repair a retinal detachment in his right eye. The first surgery includes a cornea transplant and minor laser work.
  • March 16, 2007 – Darrell undergoes second surgery after second retinal detachment. This one turns out to be much more serious and painful.
  • May 2007 – Skype responds to accessibility concerns from Blind Access Journal and other parties by releasing an update resolving the most critical issues.
  • May 2007 – We get an effective, prompt response from the U.S. Senate concerning an accessibility issue on the senate.gov web site.
  • May 2007 – Blind Access Journal weighs in on the Freedom Scientific v. Serotek lawsuit in defense of Serotek with a petition asking that the parties resolve their differences in a manner that preserves innovation in the assistive technology industry.
  • May 2007 – Darrell publishes the following thought provoking articles, resulting in requests for republication in several blindness organizations’ monthly magazines:
  • June 7, 2007 – Freedom Scientific settles with Serotek in a manner that permits Serotek to continue developing and selling its innovative technology.
  • June 2007 – Darrell publishes the thought provoking article entitled My Thoughts on the Relationship Between Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies, Consumers and the Blindness Assistive Technology Industry as discussions of the state of the blindness assistive technology industry continue at a fever pitch.
  • July 2007 – Blind Access Journal begins promoting the Yahoo! Accessibility Improvement Petition asking the company to make all their CAPTCHAs accessible to the blind and visually impaired. The petition is still ongoing, and is officially endorsed by the American Council of the Blind.
  • July 2007 – Darrell publishes Accessibility Is A Right, Not a Charity, Convenience, Luxury or Privilege in an attempt to further clarify the absolutely critical nature of the need for accessibility to facilitate our civil rights as people who are blind or visually impaired. We believe this article has been republished, with permission, in Dialogue Magazine, as well as several others.
  • July 2007 – After we wrote a letter to Netralia, the developer of the CallBurner Skype call recording software, we received an incredibly quick response in the form of an accessible application! See this article for the full story. We thank Paul Andrews at Netralia for spearheading this effort. CallBurner has become the only application we use for all our Skype call recording needs. It turns out to be quite useful in advocacy situations in combination with the Skype-in or Skype-out services for receiving and placing telephone calls, as well as in recording interviews for eventual replay on radio shows and podcasts. CallBurner is the official Skype telephone call recording program of the Blind Access Journal!
  • August 2007 – Darrell publishes Imagine The Dark Future of CAPTCHA and Multifactor Authentication for the Blind as a wake up call to the blind community.
  • August 2007 – Darrell’s letter to Leo Laporte concerning the need for accessible CAPTCHA is read and discussed in depth on Episode 102 of the Security Now! podcast with Leo Laporte and Steve Gibson.
  • September 2007 – The new blind-access mailing list is created as a core group of interested parties discussing effective approaches to accessibility evangelism. You may join by sending an e-mail to blind-access-request@lists.blindaccessjournal.com with the word subscribe in the subject field.
  • September 2007 – Darrell publishes The Heart of Accessibility Evangelism in response to several disturbing conversations on the subject.
  • October 2007 – We ask Freedom Scientific to take steps to reasonably accomodate its deaf-blind customers by making text transcripts available for all their podcasts and other audio content.
  • November 2007 – Slashdot.org adds an audio playback feature, making their CAPTCHA accessible.
  • November 29, 2007 – Darrell’s sister, Michelle Sinnock, passes away due to lung cancer.
  • December 2007 – Darrell writes letter to the developers of Messenger Plus Live asking for an accessible alternative or removal of the CAPTCHA required to uninstall the sponsored version of their software.

As you all can see, we have accomplished a few things. There is, however, so much more left to be done. Several challenges over the past couple of months have resulted in very little activity here on the journal. One blind couple can’t do everything! The task of keeping the journal running is monumental. We are, thus, asking for your support as our faithful readers. Please consider doing one or more of the following:

  1. Join the blind-access mailing list. Send a blank e-mail to blind-access-request@lists.blindaccessjournal.com with the word subscribe in the subject field. This list serves as a vehicle for informal discussion of accessibility issues and ways in which we might best evangelize their favorable resolution.
  2. Submit your own articles, ideas for articles or any other useful information directly to us by writing to our editor@blindaccessjournal.com e-mail address or by leaving a message on our comment line at 206-350-2621.
  3. Place telephone calls, sign petitions, write letters and take all other actions we request of you from time to time in order to show your support for our right to have the accessibility we must be granted in order to fully participate in society.

2008 is now upon us. We wish all of you happiness in this new year, and invite all of you to join us out here on the front lines of accessibility evangelism!

Categories: accessibility, advocacy

2 opinions on “Happy New Year as We Celebrate the Third Anniversary of Blind Access Journal

  1. Hello Darrell. You certainly have accomplished a lot in 2007, and for that we must be grateful. But as you have said there’s still a lot of work to be done. Happy New Year and may 2008 see even more of your great advocacy efforts. BTW, I have requested a full copy of System Access and the SAM Network for my birthday which is at the end of the month.

  2. Congratulations on your three year B.A.J. birthday! I’m glad you started blogging, and have brought so much attention to challenging issues! Keep up the excellent work, I’m glad I’ve gotten to know you both.

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