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Code of Ethics

June 5, 2009 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

One of the courses I took last semester was Journalism Ethics and Diversity. Our final assignment involved writing a personal code of ethics accompanied by an explanation of how we arrived at the conclusions in that code. I have decided to share this with all of you, my dedicated readers, in hopes that you may find it helpful in your own lives. As with everything else on this blog, all constructive feedback is appreciated.

Ethical Development Overview

“Living in a way that is transparent. It means allowing light to pass through with little or no interruption or distortion so that objects on the other side can be clearly seen, to be completely open and frank about things.” (Gilligan 236)

Ethical development in my life seems to focus primarily on an evolution from a rights based approach to Carol Gilligan’s ethics of caring theory combined with Sissela Bok’s concept of consulting one’s conscience and engaging in discussion with experts prior to making decisions. Louis Hodges’ circles of intimacy theory on privacy and trust also factor heavily in the way I form and maintain relationships.

Many aspects of my life as a person with a disability have compelled me to focus on protecting my rights to equality of opportunity in endeavors such as education and employment. Staunch accessibility evangelism has, from time to time, caused me to insist on enforcement of existing disability rights laws and to show a willingness to bend established rules in order to reach a desired, fair outcome. In this regard, especially when interacting with unknown individuals or those I deem to be on the wrong side of an issue, I have employed a strictly rights based ethical approach much like that suggested by Lawrence Kohlberg. (Patterson and Wilkins 343) In this way, correct results are my primary aim, there are times when the ends justify the means and making friends is definitely not high on the list of priorities.

When it comes to close friends and relatives, those in my second and third circles of intimacy, (Patterson and Wilkins 154) my approaches are much different. I focus on maintaining strong connections with those closest to me. In many cases, I place their needs and desires above my own when making important decisions. The relationship holds the highest priority over all other considerations. Despite a tough, no-holds-barred public exterior, I am actually a person who craves acceptance and approval, especially from those about whom I care the most.

“We sat watching the candles burn down. Stars spinning in their distant constellations. Maybe love is the revolutionary emotion, the true freedom, because it releases something in ourselves…” (Gilligan 153)

The justice oriented approach has, thus far, served me quite well most of the time in professional and public life. My parents won the right for me to attend public high school in 1987 after winning a settlement in Federal court. I have successfully employed similar approaches in order to retain employment, save my wife’s job and bring accessibility advocacy efforts to a positive conclusion. In the public sphere, the way I have done business has largely equated to Kohlberg’s scenario in which a husband justifies stealing a lifesaving drug from the pharmacist in order to care for his terminally ill wife. My struggle has always been how to merge the caring ways in which I interact with those closest to me with the harsher rights based manner by which I have dealt with the rest of the world.

“A good listener will refrain from judgment, respect the narrator, and be willing to experience some of the terror, grief, and rage.” (Cote & Simpson 234)

In Carol Gilligan’s work leading to the theory of the ethics of caring, women were questioned about Kohlberg’s pharmacist scenario. (Patterson and Wilkins 344) By and large, their answer was to form a connection with the pharmacist in order to make a mutually beneficial arrangement that would enable him to justify handing over the drug. Many in my inner circle have suggested, and I believe they are right, that I ought to place a greater effort in demonstrating my caring nature to the wider world. Combined with the advocacy experience I have already established, they contend the results obtained would be even better. I would not only have accessibility and greater opportunities but I would also have new friends in my corner.

In class, I have learned about an ethical theorist whose model may represent a useful bridge between Kohlberg’s and Gilligan’s theories. Sissela Bok (Patterson and Wilkins 5) suggests a three-step ethics model in which we consult our conscience, seek advice from experts and conduct a public discussion of an issue prior to making an informed ethical decision. This is something I realize I already do on a frequent basis when I informally consult my closest friends and, sometimes, engage in wider discussions on the Internet as I move forward with my advocacy work.

“Principles are not less sacred because their duration cannot be guaranteed.” (Bok 67)

This statement from Bok nicely sums up my personal code of ethics. It is a merging of traditional, old-world Western Judeo-Christian values and new ideas about how we can all be more caring and inclusive of everyone in our decision making. The journalism ethics and diversity course has given me a more systematic understanding of the concepts behind the ethical decisions I make on a daily basis and has acquainted me with new ideas I can apply as I confront future challenges.

Code of Ethics

  • Always demonstrate the greatest loyalty to my closest friends and relatives through actions, feelings and words.
  • Protect the equality of opportunity and self-determination of everyone, regardless of their age, disability, gender, race and any other condition or circumstance outside their control.
  • Treat others as I would like to be treated.
  • Actively seek and tell the truth without omission unless full disclosure would harm an innocent person.
  • Whenever possible, seek advice from experts and close associates before making important decisions. Consult my “personal board of directors.”
  • Equally consider the relationships between all involved parties as well as their rights and obligations when making all decisions.
  • Hold myself and everyone else accountable, as appropriate, for the consequences of actions taken.
  • Respect the religious beliefs and political ideologies of everyone without prejudice.
  • Advocate for accessibility for people with disabilities to participate equally in society to those without disabilities. Accessibility is a right!
  • Always ensure that my life is an expression of traditional values such as caring, dedication, hard work, loyalty and trust.

Works Cited

  • Bok, Sissela. Common Values. University of Missouri Press; Columbia, MO. 1995, 2002
  • Cote, William & Simpson, Roger. Covering Violence: A Guide to Ethical Reporting about Victims & Trauma. Columbia University Press; New York, NY. 2006
  • Gilligan, Carol. Kyra. Random House; New York, NY. 2008
  • Patterson, Philip and Wilkins, Lee. Media Ethics: Issues and Cases. McGraw-Hill; Columbus, Oh. 2008
Categories: Uncategorized

New Solona CAPTCHA Solving Service Gets the Job Done, Implications for Accessibility are Uncertain

June 2, 2009 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

A new approach to solving CAPTCHAs has arrived on the scene for the blind and visually impaired. “Solona is a service that provides CAPTCHA solution assistance for visually impaired Internet users who encounter CAPTCHAS that are difficult or impossible to solve,” says Bernard Maldonado, the site’s creator. This unique service enables blind and visually impaired users to upload a CAPTCHA image and quickly receive the solved CAPTCHA code from a sighted person while safeguarding the users’ privacy and security.

I tested Solona on Twitter’s Create an Account page, where solving a CAPTCHA is required in order to sign up. After signing into Solona and opening the Twitter signup page in a new browser tab, I filled out Twitter’s form and captured the CAPTCHA image by pressing Alt+Print Screen. I then ran MSPaint, pasted the captured image into it and saved the image as a 256-color BMP file. Finally, I switched back to Solona, selected the option to Submit a CAPTCHA, uploaded the captured image file and pressed the Refresh button a couple of times as I awaited the solution. Within approximately 40 seconds, I received a correct answer which enabled me to create another Twitter account!

My experience, and that of many other blind Internet users, shows that Solona is a viable way to solve CAPTCHA images on web sites. I have two concerns with the Solona approach: one is practical and the other is philosophical.

In practical terms, the instructions for using Solona are rather complex, especially for all beginning and many intermediate blind computer users. There are instructions for use on Mac and Windows-based computers. Users are expected to understand concepts including copying and pasting, downloading and uploading files, saving files in a specific location or path and switching among several windows. Since many web sites time out if the CAPTCHA is not solved right away, the usefulness of this approach is likely to increase for beginners only after many unsuccessful practice attempts. Some intermediate and all advanced users should find the instructions easily within their grasp.

As an accessibility evangelist, I have a philosophical
concern about the use of services like Solona, where direct sighted intervention is required in order for the blind person to achieve their desired result. According to the instructions on Solona’s How it Works page, “The process is a two prong approach: The user submits a useable image of the CAPTCHA according to our instructions and a Solona operator processes the image and returns the text solution back to the user in order to proceed with the offending website.” This solution is dependent on the availability of a sighted operator. When noone is available, we can’t use this approach and an inaccessible CAPTCHA will lock us out once again. Web site owners may feel they’re off the hook with respect to ensuring the accessibility of their CAPTCHA schemes. Instead of improving accessibility, they may tell us: “Use Solona. That’s what it’s there for, isn’t it? To help you blind people?” My ultimate worry here is the creation of a separate-but-unequal status for blind people where a form of accessibility exists for us that is vastly inferior to that granted the sighted.

A major advantage of Solona is its complete accessibility for everyone, including the deaf-blind who continue to go completely unserved by web site owners who implement audio playback as their “accessible” CAPTCHA scheme. Unlike automated CAPTCHA solutions such as CAPTCHA Killer and Webvisum, no “cracking” or “hacking” is involved and there are no reasonable concerns that the service may be easily utilized to breach the protection CAPTCHA intends to deliver against spammers and other abusers. Solona is also cross-platform. Any computer and web browser that can be used to capture and upload images can be used with the service.

If stable plug-ins or screen reader scripts are created to make Solona easier to use for beginners, plans to ensure the continuous availability of sighted operators are realized and an organizational structure is established to ensure the ongoing viability of the service into the future, we may ultimately have an accessibility winner on our hands! Will the blind community embrace Solona as an acceptable way to solve CAPTCHA authentication? How will the technology industry respond? Will it raise awareness of the need for better access or will companies just dump us over to Solona without meeting their responsibility to deliver reasonable accommodations? Once a viable organizational structure exists for Solona, who will provide the funds to sustain the project? Would web site owners consider donating to Solona in leu of improving the accessibility of their own CAPTCHA schemes an acceptable accommodation? I invite all of you, my loyal readers, to take a stab at any or all of these questions in your comments. As always, your reading and participation is appreciated.

Categories: CAPTCHA

The Desert Cafe Goes Live Tonight!

June 1, 2009 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker
Hello Everyone,
 
      Come in from the heat and be cool.   Join Darrell and I in the Desert Cafe.  We will  serve up some fun  tunes and  favorite beverages. If you haven’t heard 70’s music in awhile and  want to Celebrate Summer, be here with us.    You don’t need a mood ring or strobe lights.
 
We   will also be  celebrating our third wedding anniversary, which is June 3. You will have a chance to hear the audio from our Ceremony in Boston.
 
In addition to all this fun, Darrell will tell us all about what we can do to advocate for an international copyright exemption treaty that would enable the reproduction and exchange of books that have been converted into accessible formats for the blind and others with print reading disabilities.
 
The show can be heard on ACB Radio Interactive at 02:00 Universal time on Tuesday, that’s Monday evening in the United States at 7:00 Pacific (and Arizona), 8:00 Mountain, 9:00 Central and 10:00 Eastern. Visit http://interactive.acbradio.org to listen.
 
See you tonight,
 
Karen and Darrell in the Desert Cafe on ACB Radio Interactive
Categories: Uncategorized

Abledbody Blog Covers International Copyright Exemption Treaty Letter Writing Campaign

June 1, 2009 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

We thank the folks at Abledbody for including an article about the letter writing campaign in their News Watch segment. This blog appears to be an excellent resource for advocacy and information about assistive technology and disability rights activities. I have just subscribed to their RSS feed in Newsgator, and recommend all of you consider doing likewise in your favorite RSS aggregator or reader.

Categories: Copyright Treaty