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Karen Encourages Us Not to Give Up on the Struggle for Accessibility!

May 9, 2005 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Recently, Darrell had written an article on his site and a follow up comment to an article that Bob Parsons of Go Daddy had written on May 3. Several internet users have visited both sites and have been very upset with the articles Darrell posted on blind access journal This past Wednesday, May 4 and Friday May 6.

Many in the blind community have accused Darrell of being irresponsible and inappropriate in his approach to addressing issues of accessibility. They say he is too strong and overly intense and emotional. Furthermore, Many in the blind community do not understand Darrell’s quest to improve the lives of the blind by focusing on expanding the number of
web sites we can access, enabling us as blind people to have more access to information and the ability to compete in society with our sighted counterparts
on a more equal level. The more information we can access, the more informed we all as blind people can be. Knowledge is power! Though we have more access to information than we once did, we are still extremely limited in comparison to all the information that is available to the sighted. More should be done; more of us need to act to improve the
lives of the blind.

Adaptive technology has existed for over two decades now and several technological gadgets exist to make it possible for those of us who are blind to read the printed word, use home appliances or use items to perform daily tasks. These devices include Optical scanners, screen readers, talking microwaves &
mini electronics like the voice-it-all that enables a blind person to detect colors so he/she can match their clothes and recognize money. Despite the fact that our lives are better today than in past decades, we still have along way to go before we will gain access to all the information
that is available so we can be equal to the sighted. Needless to say, Individuals like Darrell strongly believe that we the blind need to do much more if we are going to accomplish this goal.

I know many in the blind community do not agree with Darrell’s advocacy tactics. It is evident on several of the mailing lists and other venues on the net that the majority of the blind do not think this is much of an issue, that Darrell is too emotional and prone to overreaction. Even I, his fiance, do not always agree with the way in which he approaches this subject or responds to individuals comments or lack there of. Yet, I understand and respect his urgency, and what he is attempting to achieve. He spends a great deal of time working on accessibility issues, including educating web developers about the need to provide alt tags and accessible alternatives to visual verification, writing letters to assistive technology and mainstream companies and organizations, and doing beta testing outside of work. He is not doing this for his mental health. In fact, this is affecting his health and not in a positive way. However, he continues to work to “change what it means to be blind”, to improve the lives of the blind and make the world a better and easier place for us to live. Many of you do not see the need for the urgency to do anything and everything necessary to improve accessibility. Even if you do not understand or agree with Darrell’s approach to gaining accessibility, I would think you would respect him or anyone who is putting forth effort to improve the lives of others, not just himself.

I know you may not be able to identify with the examples Darrell has provided in order to help others to see why we need to make these changes to increase accessibility. Some of you may not be able to identify with such issues as segregation as an analogy for the negative impact inaccessible visual verification has on the blind. We can only truly relate to the circumstances of another person if we experience something firsthand and walk a mile in that person’s shoes. Most can identify with someone whom has had their privacy violated, whether you have personally experienced identity theft or have had to ask a sighted person to read your personal mail, a pin number on your credit card/debit card or have had someone gain access to your credit card information and actually make charges on your account. Sighted or blind, we are all more vulnerable these days. Yet, those of us whom are blind are often more vulnerable, sometimes due to inaccessibility. For instance, when checking out at a supermarket, you have to ask the cashier to help you use their digital display terminal to pay for groceries and withdraw cash since no allowance has been made for alternate methods of accessing the displayed information or using the touch screens. Another example is, when you order a new credit card and you receive it in the mail without any information in an accessible format. If you do not
have a sighted person to assist you, then your unable to get your account number. Why should we depend on a sighted person to read this personal information, any information at all for that matter! Such inaccessibility means that, as blind people, we are not granted the same privacy considerations as the sighted. Perhaps, you may relate to another example that is closer to home for those of you who have a Dog Guide or have a family member or close friend who has one. I know people who have been denied access to a restaurant , a hotel or a cab. I have been denied a ride in a cab because of my dog. This only happened once and I spoke with the manager and it never happened again. Fortunately, this does not happen too often these days. Yet, it does happen from time to time. These are good examples to which I think all blind people can relate.

In regards to the Google and GoDaddy issues, this, too, is a violation of our privacy and human rights as it limits our ability to equally participate on the internet. The fact that “visual Varification “ is needed in order to gain access to an account or surf some web sites limits us. We are unable to gain access in the same way as the sighted. Although Go Daddy does provide a way for us to gain access, it is not the best option. Although they have an alternative in which blind and visually impaired users can call and speak with a tech to get assistance, this is a violation of privacy. Besides, why should a blind user have to call a technician, when several blind techs have provided information about accessible alternatives, including an audible solution in which the blind user can independently hear the characters to be entered? Darrell was not expecting Bob parsens to “ be an Advocate for the blind”. He just wanted Bob to hear him out, to become more informed about the issue and all the consequences it brings to the blind and implement a solution to the visual verification issue that provides a level of truly independent accessibility. Darrell was also disappointed in Bob for specifically discussing “the human verifier” without giving more emphasis on the accessibility ramifications. That was it!

Those of you who know Darrell, whether it be through E-mail, his web site or conversations in person or on the phone, you truly know and understand what he is trying to accomplish. You will also recognize that, when he addresses an individual or group with a particular issue, he is at first both pleasant and assertive. He explains the nature of the problem, the consequences it brings to the blind and provides solutions. If, after awhile, he does not receive any response or nothing has been done to resolve the issue, he is not afraid to do all that is necessary to continue escalating the matter to get proper resolution in the form of accessibility for the blind. Some of you may not agree with him. Yet, do you always agreew with everyone whether they be your Family, friends or members of a consumer organization for the blind? I think not! Yet, if you truly understand and respect the person for at least making an effort and taking the time to do something, such as improve the lives of the blind, then, do what you can to help Darrell, help yourself, assist others to improve the lives of all the blind- not just your family, friends or members of NFB, ACB, whatever consumer organization you belong to. Instead of being so critical of how Darrell has addressed Bob Parsens and others, provide suggestions of better ways to approach the subject, your experiences of what has worked or contacts of people he should write who would actually assist us in the process of gaining accessability.

If we all do less complaining or criticizing another for what they do or not do, we can all do something within our community to make adifference for the blind as a whole. Let’s work together! Please do what you can in your own communities. WE do have to worry about the future of the blind. WE need to be concerned about such issues as Social security and vocational Rehab. Both programs may someday not exist or may be limited for the blind. We continue to have a 75 % unemployment rate. Many blind people depend on Social Security and rehab. So, we need to work together. Don’t walk alone; march together. Lets help our fellow blind, doing whatever we can to gain more access to everything that the sighted have without even a second thought. Until that time, we will not be equal to the sighted and blindness will continue to be a severe disability – not just a nusense. Don’t be complacent; take action! Do what is needed to truly “change what it means to be blind”.

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Jonathan Mosen Covers Approaches to Accessibility Advocacy and How I May Be Going Wrong

May 7, 2005 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Jonathan Mosen, a respected Internet broadcaster and advocate in the blind community, indirectly addresses my recent communications with Bob Parsons and makes some valid points in his latest article entitled How do we get what we want? I haven’t yet decided if or how I will change my tactics or strategy. All constructive feedback is always welcome.

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Bob Parsons discusses visual verification while completely blowing off accessibility!

May 4, 2005 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

I wrote the following letter to Bob Parsons of GoDaddy Software after learning of his decision to discuss visual verification on his radio show while completely missing the opportunity to properly cover the need for its accessibility!

May 4, 2005

Dear Mr. Parsons,

I am a blind information technology professional, accessibility advocate and
publisher of the Blind Access Journal found at I just heard from a blind colleague who
called into your Radio Godaddy show on “the human verifier” this evening,
Wednesday, May 4. He indicated that you essentially blew him off totally,
telling him that calling customer service is an acceptable solution.
Companies such as America Online and Yahoo provide this approach to the
accessibility of their visual verification scheme, but calls are often
returned more than a day after the voice mail requesting assistance, if at
all. Google continues to expand its use of visual verification while
providing absolutely no accessible alternatives, despite over six months of
continuous and ever increasing advocacy. In the case of GoDaddy
specifically, the customer service approach seems to work OK since your
support center is immediately available 24×7. I have tried this once. It
worked. The phone was actually answered by a live human being. An equally
accessible alternative for your visual verification, such as audio playback
of the characters, is still ultimately required in order for you to truly be
considered as doing the right thing with respect to equal accessibility and
participation for the blind. Lack of equal accessibility in the information
age is the same as the refusal to serve African Americans in restaurants or
the forcing of African Americans to the back of the bus as late as the

We strongly feel that you have missed an excellent opportunity to educate
the world about the need to make accessible alternatives to visual
verification available to insure that the blind and visually impaired are
able to equally participate on the Internet. We sincerely hope that your
intent is not to discriminate against or otherwise willfully do anything to
purposely exclude us from reaping the obvious benefits the Internet has to
offer. If we are correct, we expect and hope that you will repair some of
your damaged goodwill with your loyal customers in the blind community and our friends and relatives
by taking positive steps to resolve your company’s issues with inaccessible
visual verification and that you will use your blog, radio show and other
venues to educate others on the need for accessibility.


Darrell Shandrow

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Once upon a time, there was a stock broker…

May 4, 2005 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Let me tell you a quick story about a multi-million-dollar stock broker who tried to steal money from an honest hard working blind guy and get away with it! The blind guy caused
him to lose his stock broker’s license, get into trouble with the state’s attorney general and go out of business forever. Nobody else in that industry
will touch him now. He, his wife and a couple of children almost ended up homeless and on the streets because of his actions toward a blind guy whom he
perceived was completely powerless to stop him. He now works at McDonalds! The blind guy is quite proud of his accomplishment in this area.

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