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Blind Users v. the Internet

December 23, 2005 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Until recently I have been passive-aggressive on the entire visual verification issue, but today while attempting to reply to e-mail in Yahoo! Mail I was presented with Sender Verification. This is visual verification that yahoo is now placing on *every* outgoing e-mail you send.

I have verified it is every e-mail by sending a very simple message to myself with no trigger words.

The yahoo solution is the same stupid phone solution they have for other services that may or may not work.

Ladies and gentlemen now that Yahoo has extended this to its e-mail service it is only a short time before the problem reaches to other services like Hotmail.

Therefore, I am declaring war on all sites and systems of web based or electronic access that use visual verification in any way.

Big things will be happening on this front in the new year. I call on DREDF, DRA Legal, and any other interested parties (i.e. NFB or ACB) to take all necessary and appropriate legal action to address this growing problem online.

I personally don’t expect much to come from the two major consumer organizations in the United States on this since they seem more interested in other things like identifying money and fighting DVS.

I’m heading to Washington, DC in February and this *will* be on my agenda for discussion if it is necessary.

I will take personal action as well if I deem the other groups named above are not moving to address the problem.

However, until such time as public interest groups take up this issue I encourage you to go to the following website You do not have to register, just choose the complaint radio button on the home page and in the search box that you tab to after the radio button enter yahoo or Google or any other company that you find using visual verification and then press enter. If the company name or any similar is in the database the site will return results. You also have to choose a category for your complaint. For our purposes you need to choose site navigation. If not in the database you have the opportunity to enter the companies contact details. If you cannot find a companies contact details to enter in the database send me an e-mail at rlynch80 at and I’ll get its information for you.

Once you have the company you need to write a detailed and well thought out complaint letter to the company. I suggest writing this letter using notepad and then copying and pasting it into the field you are provided by PlanetFeedback. You will also have a field for what you want the company to do. Here I suggest you discuss an audio feedback system or better yet for sites that you need to register for they can use an e-mail based verification or even a question based system like How do you spell dog, or What color is a red rose.

More coming on this in the new year, and oh yeah Marry Christmas.

Categories: Uncategorized

Christmas Preparations, GoDaddy Visual Verification Update, New Baby Marin and More

December 22, 2005 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker


Only two full days till Christmas begins!

Download and Listen

Categories: Uncategorized

FreedomBox Enables Access to a Major Component of the Podsafe Music Network

December 19, 2005 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker


We applaud FreedomBox for their willingness to enable access to a major component of the Podsafe Music Network, allowing blindcasters to add tracks to their playlists for downloading and playing on their podcasts. Will Podshow fix their broken HTML code that continues to deny most blind podcasters this capability? Will other screen reader developers like GW Micro and Freedom Scientific rise to the challenge by enabling this ability for their customers?

Check out Sean Patrick McGraw on the Podsafe Music Network.

Karen’s sister, Mary Beth, goes into the hospital tomorrow to have her second baby, making Karen an aunt for the fifth time. Will the child be a boy or girl? Stay tuned for all the details!

Download and Listen

Categories: Uncategorized

Yahoo! Mail May Soon Become Inaccessible

December 19, 2005 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Jim, an avid Yahoo! Mail premium subscriber, reports that the company’s latest beta is almost completely inaccessible to those of us whom rely on screen readers. True to form, Yahoo! has not yet chosen to respond to Jim’s concerns. Yahoo! has been ignoring our need for accessible visual verification for a long time now without consequence. It seems the blow off of the blind continues with this latest beta. Any additional news on this front would be quite welcome.

I deeply regret having to report that the beta of the new yahoo mail
has been made mostly inaccessible to us as screen reader
users. While it is hit or miss possible at times to route the mouse
cursor and click some of the controls and have them work, it is not
reliably accessible by any means and certainly is not practical to
use in such a state. The technology they are using as of the beta
does not allow the screen reader to work with the controls in many
cases. For example messages no longer show up as a link that you can
activate to open them and there is no longer any checkbox to check to
perform actions on messages. You can no longer even see anything
that allows you to get to any subsequent pages of messages in a
folder beyond the first one. Some of the controls such as folder
names, compose, reply, forward, etc are now on mouse over links which
actually can be manipulated more or less depending on which version
of your screen reader you have. That we could live with. The bottom
line is that yahoo mail has gone, practically over night, from being
a wonderful user experience that I personally have been a paying
subscriber to their premium services for a number of years and it has
been fantastic for my needs to a mostly inaccessible unusable
service. I have written to them via their beta feedback form twice
now. One time on Friday Dec 16, 2005 categorizing it in their
predetermined list of categories as a problem using the product and
also on Sunday December 18 selecting the category of technical
problem. In both cases I spelled out the problem and referred them
to the screen reader manufacturer web pages of GWMicro and
freedomscientific as well as offering them any help I could provide
in determining and resolving the issues. I have not gotten any
response to either message as of Monday morning December 21. I will
certainly let you know if that changes.

Categories: Uncategorized

Using Legal Means to Obtain Satisfactory Settlements of Technology Access Issues?

December 17, 2005 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

I ask Lainey Feingold for advice on how we might be able to achieve positive settlements of technology accessibility issues. Though I prefer working with the technology industry in a cooperative manner to obtain the accessibility we must ultimately be granted, I am certainly open to considering legal approaches. The issues are just too important for us to ignore as a blind community. Our futures are at stake.

Dear Ms. Feingold,

My name is Darrell Shandrow with the Blind Access Journal blog and podcast, where we hit technology accessibility issues hard and press for positive results in order to retain and improve our ability to participate in an accessible world. It seems that, despite all efforts, the amount of technology to which we are able to access with screen readers is shrinking on a minute-by-minute basis. I have recently learned of your accomplishments with the inaccessible Walmart debit card machines and was wondering what advice you may have for dealing with these accessibility issues from a legal or other basis.

Here are just a few examples of serious technology accessibility issues currently on the radar screen:

Software from companies such as Siebel is still being implemented by employers in ways that are inaccessible, even when making reasonable adjustments would be easily done, causing an inability to obtain employment or the loss of existing gainful employment for the blind.

Many companies are moving to the use of visual verification schemes to improve the security of the services they offer. Since most of these CAPTCHA implementations provide no accessible alternative, the blind are being increasingly locked out of the ability to register at many web sites and, at times, even the ability to do business is severely abridged or made completely impossible for the blind. While some accessible alternatives allow independent access through an audio playback of the characters to be entered, others require a separate manual process that is almost never followed through by the company while most simply provide no accessibility at all. Examples of offenders are, FEMA, GoDaddy, Google, The U.S. Postal Service, Yahoo and many, many more!

There are also many companies that are simply developing their products and services without any consideration of accessibility, then failing to address the issues as they are brought to attention. Examples of offending hardware that is completely inaccessible would be many appliance manufacturers, most of Apple’s iPod and similar hardware lines, and so many others I just couldn’t begin to count. Software issues are similarly numerous, including Intuit’s Quicken and QuickBooks, numerous software development environments, many Java based applications and many more examples abound. Finally, it seems that more and more web based services are using AJAX, Flash, Microsoft .Net, and other programming languages and techniques in ways that make them completely or partially inaccessible. Again, in almost every case, requests for increased accessibility simply fall on deaf ears or otherwise receive lipservice which is never followed through to a positive conclusion. Offenders in this category include Google’s Gmail, Yahoo’s mail service, Podshow’s Podsafe Music Network, some difficulties with Microsoft’s live services and many, many more.

I am extremely concerned about the certain tragic consequences that will result if we don’t figure out some way to start gaining a foothold in our accessibility evangelism efforts very, very soon. We will, in a hurry, find ourselves not only locked out of the ability to learn and work but even to enjoy any sort of leisure activities if we don’t start seeing some real, significant positive changes in the area of technology accessibility. We currently endure a 75 percent unemployment rate in the blind community. Let’s all get ready to see that number climb much higher in the near future if we don’t start getting a handle on this stuff.

Thanks for any and all advice you can provide in our efforts to evangelize for accessibility and actually get results. Merry Christmas to you and your family!

All the best,

Darrell Shandrow

Categories: Uncategorized