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Newegg Adds Audio CAPTCHA, Demonstrates Ongoing Accessibility Commitment

July 7, 2009 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Newegg announced Tuesday that it has implemented audio CAPTCHA on its login page as part of its ongoing commitment to accessibility. The audio playback features an easy-to-understand foreground voice reciting the alphanumeric code to be entered with a background sporting an outdoor sound scheme.

“We at Newegg want to make our website accessible for everyone, including our visually challenged visitors. To demonstrate our commitment, just recently Newegg was awarded the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) Nonvisual Accessibility Web Certification for implementing Deque System’s Worldspace product,” said an unnamed Newegg representative. “Newegg voluntarily implemented the CAPTCHA on our website. We always appreciate suggestions that make our site more user-friendly and since becoming aware of your comments we have installed the audio CAPTCHA for your use.”

Blind customers appreciate this positive move. “The NewEgg audio CAPTCHA works great, simple, fairly straight forward, and not a million characters to remember!” said Tina Ektermanis, a blind college student who experienced difficulties making a purchase on the site in June.

NFB’s Accessible Convention Broadcasts Highlight the Organization’s Responsiveness

July 7, 2009 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

On Sunday, we reported the inaccessibility of the live convention broadcasts of the National Federation of the Blind. A new, accessible streaming option was released by the organization Monday morning.

“You’re 100 percent correct about the inaccessibility of Silverlight. The first time we realized the company who donated the streaming to us used Silverlight was when we saw your blog post,” said Chris Danielsen, NFB’s Director of Public Relations. “The NFB will never purposely launch an inaccessible technology. We make every effort to make sure we’re practicing what we preach. In this situation, we screwed up. But we rectified it immediately.”

We jumped the gun by writing the story without giving NFB officials a chance to remedy the issue.

“You could argue we should have been aware of it, but we weren’t. As soon as we found out about it from you, we rectified it. I wish an e-mail had come to us before the blog post. I wish you would’ve confirmed this before blogging,” Danielsen said. “In the future, please talk to us before calling us out.”

“The fact that the organization was able to remedy the situation very early on when few staff are in their offices is promising,” said Angie Matney, a blind law school graduate and NFB member. “It demonstrates that NFB is committed to ensuring the best possible convention listening experience for all who were unable to attend.”

Thought Provoker: Accessibility Evangelism or Something Else?

July 6, 2009 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

A reader shared with me her thoughts on the term “accessibility evangelism” as a description of the work I do to promote equal opportunity for the blind through access to information and technology. I have honored her request to remain anonymous.

I don’t like the term evangelism because of the connotation. By definition, evangelism is associated with zealots and fanatics. In my mind, evangelism, zealotry and fanaticism are things you want to stay away from because the connotation is that you will do anything to achieve your goals. The impression the term gives is of a group of people that are willing to go to any lengths to promote accessibility and I think that is a little scary or fanatical. I definitely think that the phrase accessibility evangelism is off putting.   Instead of evangelism, I would suggest champion, proponent, advocate, or campaign.

Another reader, Amber, weighed in with her own thoughts:

Well, in general, evangelism makes me think of those preacher guys on TV, you know the ones who are very powerful preachers and generally I get turned off by that. But I think it’s the term evangelism that makes me think of that.

I guess the term to me would mean someone who works tirelessly to get equal access to services and goods. And that’s not a bad thing, just tireless and thankless.

For example, I wonder if we see the similar thing with African Americans. So many people fought tirelessly for civil rights, but do African Americans think of these things when they vote, sit anywhere in a bus, or run for political office or is it something they take for granted? I’m not saying people need to be overly thankful just remember. This goes for many groups.

Steve asked “are you going to sell me an accessible bible?”

Karen has expressed similar thoughts about associating the term”evangelism” with fallen televangelists like Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker.

On the other hand, an evangelist can be a positive supporter of an operating system or particular technology in the computer industry. There are evangelists for the Apple Macintosh computer, the Linux operating system and the open source software movement. Oracle even has an “accessibility evangelist” on staff who works to ensure the company’s products meet established guidelines and rules like Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Now it’s your turn. What comes to mind when you hear the term “accessibility evangelist”? Do you find this term confusing? Why do you think this term should or should not be used to describe efforts to increase accessibility for the blind? I welcome your comments to this thought provoker.

NFB Provides Fully Accessible 2009 Convention Streaming Option

July 6, 2009 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

The National Federation of the Blind announced Monday morning that it has made available a fully accessible streaming option for its 2009 national convention.

“We have placed a different streaming link on the home page that should open the stream in the user’s default media player of choice instead of the Silverlight player,” said Chris Danielsen, Director of Public Relations with the National Federation of the Blind. 

“We apologize for any problems that this has caused anybody,” David Andrews, the organization’s webmaster and mailing list administrator, said.

NFB Streams 2009 Convention Using Inaccessible Silverlight Technology

July 5, 2009 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

In an overwhelming display of hypocrisy, the National Federation of the Blind, claiming to be the representative voice of all blind people in America, has chosen to stream its 2009 national convention using inaccessible Silverlight technology.

While blind people can listen, they can’t control the volume, mute or use any of the player’s controls. While NFB is the primary actor in a lawsuit against Arizona State University over inaccessible textbooks, the organization delivers a listening experience to blind people that is inferior to that provided to the sighted for the purpose of hearing their own convention broadcast live on the net! Shame on the National Federation of the Blind for insisting that others be accessible while failing to practice the very message they claim to preach!

In contrast to NFB’s poor example, The American Council of the Blind is broadcasting their convention coverage live through its long-established ACB Radio outlet using fully accessible technology. We urge all of you to enjoy the ACB convention and use the feedback option, one of the few accessible elements on the NFB’s convention streaming site, to tell the organization’s leadership exactly what you think about their blatant discrimination against the blind community they claim to serve. Choose accessible!

Good Thursday TV Coverage of the Kindle Lawsuit

July 3, 2009 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

At around 4:00 Thursday afternoon, I was contacted by Melissa Blasius with Channel 12 News in Phoenix and asked if I could be available at 5:30 to be interviewed for a story that would run on the 10:00 newscast. I discovered I could prepare myself and make the necessary transportation arrangements for this sort of work within one hour after receiving the request.

You may now watch the video of the story on the 10:00 evening news. An article was also written based on this story, though its text is significantly different from the dialogue on the newscast. A copy of the article’s text is provided for easy accessibility.

My thanks go to Chris Skarstad (Toonhead) and CathyAnne Murtha of the Access Technology Institute for their vital assistance making it possible to bring to all of you a direct link to the video despite accessibility issues with the 12 News web site.

Lawsuit says ASU discriminates by using e-books

by Melissa Blasius – Jul. 2, 2009 11:13 PM

12 News

A journalism student has filed a discrimination lawsuit against Arizona State University.

Darrell Shandrow, a junior, wants the university to delay a pilot program for electronic textbooks and readers called Kindles. He says the devices, made by Amazon, are impossible to use by visually-impaired people.

Sandrow, who is blind, says Kindles have a text-to-audio function that can read the books out loud, but he claims on-screen menus have no audio functions. That means he could never navigate to page one. Blind students would have to continue ordering specialty texts in braille or audio formats, and those books can take months to arrive.

Shandrow said, “Asking us to continue on as we’re going is like saying to sighted students you are climbing on to jet age with your e-books, but blind students still need to use the horse and buggy.”

The National Federation of the Blind and the American Council of the Blind are also plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which claims ASU’s use of Kindles would put blind students on unequal footing.

An ASU spokesman sent a response to 12 News. It said Kindles would be used “for a single course where students may also access traditional textbooks.”

In the statement, Spokesman Virgil Renzulli also said all campuses have Disability Resource Centers “providing the necessary tools so that all students with disabilities have an equal opportunity to be successful in their academic pursuits.”

Categories: accessibility, Kindle, lawsuit, news, TV

Positive TV News Coverage of the Kindle Lawsuit Against ASU

July 1, 2009 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Shortly after 9:00 Tuesday morning, I was contacted by Tim Vetscher with Channel 15, a local ABC affiliate in Phoenix, and asked to participate in a story on the Kindle lawsuit. He picked me up at 10:15 and we went to a nearby bar-restaurant establishment called Four Peaks Brewry, where he and Toby Phillips, a senior broadcast journalism major at the Cronkite School, talked with me for almost 45 minutes. The interview included a demonstration of Braille reading and accessible technology, part of which made it into the TV story.

After viewing the story, Chris Danielsen, director of public relations for the National Federation of the Blind, said: “Nice job on this. I see that they didn’t get the nuance that books can be read aloud by the Kindle DX; it’s the navigation that’s not accessible. Still, I think we got our point across.”

The story ran on the 6:00 evening newscast. I am happy to report that you can now watch the video or read the transcript below.

Reported by: Tim Vetscher

Email: tvetscher@abc15.com

Darrell Shandrow, a junior at ASU, is suing the university over its use of the Amazon Kindle for textbooks. (Tim Vetscher)

TEMPE, AZ — A student at Arizona State University is suing the school over a new electronic textbook reader.

Junior Darrell Shandrow calls ASU’s new pilot program to use the Amazon Kindle e-book reader in some classes this fall discrimination.

“I believe it’s important for blind and visually impaired people to have the same opportunity to participate the sighted already enjoy,” said Shandrow.

Even though he can’t see, Shandrow doesn’t shy away from technology.

Thanks to a screen reading program, Shandrow uses a labtop computer that talks to him and tells him what’s on the screen.

That kind of accessibility, Shandrow says, helps him to attend ASU, where he’s a junior in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

When ASU announced plans to begin using the Amazon Kindle as a textbook reader, Shandrow immediately had concerns.

“It’s saying we’re giving sighted students a new avenue for reading but we’re not granting the same facility to blind and visually impaired students,”
said Shandrow.

Shandrow claims the Kindle lacks text-to-speech technology and therefore makes it accessible only to sighted students.

So Shandrow filed a lawsuit against ASU hoping to stop the use of the Kindle.

“We want the pilot program, we just want it to be accessible,” said Shandrow.

An ASU spokesperson released the following statement to ABC15: “Arizona State University is committed to equal access for all students. Disability Resource Centers are located on all ASU campuses. The Centers enable students to establish eligibility and obtain services and accommodations for qualified students with disabilities. These efforts are focused on providing the necessary tools so that all students with disabilities have an equal opportunity to be successful in their academic pursuits.”

“I feel the need for equal accessibility, that is to have an accessible Kindle reading device and accessible books, is a civil right,” said Shandrow.

Amazon claims to be working on adding navigation accessible to the blind for the Kindle.

Shandrow says until that happens, the Kindle e-book reader should be shelved.

In the interest of full disclosure, reporter Tim Vetscher is an adjunct professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

Categories: accessibility, Kindle, lawsuit, news, TV

D-Link Soon to Include Audio CAPTCHA and Implement Accessible Default Login on Routers

June 26, 2009 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

D-Link will soon provide audio CAPTCHA and change the login default on its routers to make them more accessible to customers with disabilities.

In a May 12 press release, D-Link announced that it was the first company to add CAPTCHA to its routers as a means of protecting users against new threats. These potential security breaches are serious. “A series of recent Internet security attacks on home and small office computers are compromising networks where users least expect it – their routers. These malicious software invasions, in which users unknowingly download a Trojan horse when performing common tasks, invade the router to detect wireless capabilities, then alter the victim’s domain name system (DNS) records so that all future traffic is diverted through the attackers’ network first”, states the press release.

“We’re excited to be the first in the market to announce we have taken the initiative to implement CAPTCHA into our routers, thus providing yet another layer of security to our customers,” said AJ Wang, chief technology officer of D-Link.

The press release goes on to explain “the term CAPTCHA is an acronym for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart. CAPTCHA is a type of challenge-response test used in computing to ensure that responses are generated by humans, not computers. A common type of CAPTCHA requires the user to type letters or numbers from a distorted image that appears on the screen.”

Concerned that blind and visually impaired customers may be unable to access the company’s routers, accessibility advocates quickly reacted. “We did hear from our customer base that there was some concern on the CAPTCHA implementation,” said Dan Kelley, D-Link’s senior director of marketing.

Kelley said a beta version of the firmware is now available that disables the CAPTCHA by default. It will be officially released as an update to all customers once it has undergone the necessary testing. Users will be able to access the router without the CAPTCHA requirement after unboxing. They may explicitly enable the security enhancement through the web user interface as part of the setup process.

“We’re also going to be creating an audio version of the CAPTCHA which will be available in as soon as three to six weeks,” Kelley said. “You can press the button and it will read off the letters that you need to enter rather than having you read them off the screen.”

Effective accessibility evangelism may have helped D-Link executives understand the need for these changes. “In my discussions, I do remember that the audio version was already being planned but now I think that everything’s being a little bit more expedited realizing that there’s been some concern in terms of the feedback of the market,” said Kelley. “We have heard from a couple of customers who need this and we have been able to take care of them promptly.”

Companies like D-Link closely monitor their customer base and the overall technology marketplace for trends, including those pointing to greater accessibility. “We’re going to be paying close attention to what others in the industry are doing in terms of making improvements to CAPTCHA,” Kelley said. “We are always paying attention to customers whether through direct e-mail, on Facebook or on blogs.”

In keeping with its “Building Networks for People” tagline, D-Link is willing to consider additional accessibility enhancements in response to customer feedback. “If there’s anything that would help us figure out a way to make an improvement we’d be glad to hear it.” said Joe Melfi, D-Link’s associate director of business solutions.

Complaint and Motion for Preliminary Injunction Against ASU and the Arizona Board of Regents

June 25, 2009 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

In keeping with our tradition of accessibility and openness, we are glad to provide full plain-text copies of the complaint and the motion for a preliminary injunction against ASU and the Arizona Board of Regents to prevent use of the inaccessible Kindle in an upcoming fall semester university pilot program.

Complaint

Accessible copy of the complaint (The NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND, The AMERICAN COUNCIL OF THE BLIND, and DARRELL SHANDROW vs. The ARIZONA BOARD OF REGENTS and ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY) for discrimination against blind and visually impaired students under the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act.

Motion for Preliminary Injunction

Accessible copy of the motion for a preliminary injunction asking the court to immediately stop ASU from implementing the pilot program at the beginning of the fall semester on August 24 while the complaint goes forward.

Categories: accessibility, Kindle, lawsuit