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Visual Verification: E-Bay’s Inappropriate Response to the Concerns of its Blind Customers

May 12, 2006 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

In recent months, E-Bay has been rolling out visual verification without accessible alternatives. Thus far, the scheme is used when communicating among buyers and sellers through the E-Bay web site. We have received reports from two blind E-Bay users stating that the company appears to be unwilling to provide an accessible alternative, instead making the inappropriate suggestion that it is acceptable to require the help of a sighted person (friend or relative) in order to gain access to the affected resources. If it is acceptable to require sighted assistance to work around visual verification schemes, then why not require the same assistance to use the Internet in general? There is no reason to believe this CAPTCHA would not be expanded to other portions of the site in the future, thus increasing the company’s lock out of its blind customers. We must do everything possible to expose this inappropriate response on the part of E-Bay’s employees and to cause the company to tear down its “no blind people allowed” sign by implementing accessible alternatives such as those provided by AOL, Google, Microsoft and others.

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2 opinions on “Visual Verification: E-Bay’s Inappropriate Response to the Concerns of its Blind Customers

  1. Here we go again!

    Dude, when willl you and all the other bloggers kill the blind pitty party? look, I really simpithized with you when almost losing your job, over accessibility issues, because that is exactly what caused me to lose my position when working directly for the state of Arizona, but now I just contract with them and its all goood again.

    but this I’m blind, I’m hated by the sighted wourld and I’m gonna go eat slugs, shindig is outragious.

    let me give you an example of not taking sighted people’s crap.

    I went to castles and coasters, with my sister and her husband and my woman a week ago. after I, the blind guy, that holds a job and works hard for his money, was done paying for the day passes to get on all the rides and got a receipt, the lady who gave me my passes and receipt said, “Now…. you need to go to customers service and sign a waver”

    I was taken back by this, maybe cause I couldn’t believe that I theme park that I visited about 20 times before was telling me to sign a paper, at first I thought this was something everyone signed because the park did in fact have a couple of rides get stuck etc. I then asked, ” is this a waver everyone signs?” and she replied “no, its a form we have all disabled customers sign becauseincase you get hurt, you can’t sue us” I replaied with “You got to be fucken kidding me right?!” and she replaied, “please visit customer service seir” and I asked ffor the manager of the park to meet me there.

    when I walked in to customer service, I woman, handed my sister a paper and said, “here can you help him feel this out” I reached for the paper and ripped it out my sister’s hand and stated ” woe, hold the hell on, get me a manager now!” she complied and a person named kerk showed up and I started by, “look! for one lets get something straight, I don’t have a care taker, for two, I work like everyone else in this place and it is both embarassing and humiliating for you to try and have me sign this because I’m blind” he replied with the tipical” we’re sorry its a mistake, go have fun in the park” after leaving leaving the office and when my sister and her husband was on the rides, Iput in a call to the park and reached kerk via phone, kerk was very apologietic and seemed to know the ada, the discrimination which was implied and apologized alot, he told me, which I’m convinced to try and connect with me or something, that he had a blind father in law. and told me he agreed that there was no reason for anyone to feel that form out because it was an illegal form.

    now the example from this story is that I didn’t think and still don’t that the big bad sighted world is out to get me, and keep me away from the freedom we are all granted in this country and in this life. I am blind tech, and I am gabe vega, I don’t advertize my blindness to hide, I am proud who I am and will not, stand up for idiots trying to use it against me.

    The BlindTechs Network

  2. Gabe, that is such an outrageous statement on your part. The fact that you’d reduce the advocacy efforts of this and other blogs to mere whining is such a narrow-minded and ignorant stance. I don’t know if you’ve noticed it or not, but more and more, corporations who conduct business on the web are locking out blind people because of CAPTCHA. And mouthing off at someone like you claim you did at the amusement park isn’t going to get us access to features on Google, or bank services, or email services, or any other web based service that implements CAPTCHA for security purposes. And do you know why? Go ahead, take a wild guess. Give up? Because there’s no one for you to mouth off at. All our communications with these corporations take place through email, or a letter, or maybe if you’re really fortunate, you’ll actually be able to talk to an honest to goodness, real life person on the phone. No matter who you get in touch with, it’s not going to be anyone who can do anything about it because the only people you’re talking to are these people who work in some customer support department and have no training or experience dealing with people who are blind. They don’t understand what a screen reader is or what JAWS is. Or that we have vision impairments that make it difficult if not impossible to read their clever little visual verification codes. They don’t understand any of that stuff. All they’re going to tell you is something similar to what our friends here at eBay said, which is to get someone with sight to help you. Oh, how considerate of them. I sure wish I could have thought of that idea. Getting in touch with customer support is pointless. Trust me, I’ve tried, numerous times. You know what it gets me? Zilch, nothing, nada. The only way you can get these huge corporations to do anything is to get out and make it public. It takes a concerted effort from the blind community to force action and change. You practically have to embarrass these people to get them to do anything. In the case of Google, if it wasn’t for the efforts of people like the ones who own and operate this blog and others, as well as all the people who signed the petition and sent emails, letting Google know that the visually impaired use their services and want to use their services, we’d still be stuck having to ask someone else to read that stupid graphical code for us. Do you call that fair? I don’t. Can you imagine going to your local Wal-Mart and the only way you could get into the store is if you had to punch in a different code every time at the door? Oh sure, they’d give the code to you. They’d put a nice big sign right next to the door with the code. They’d even put it in nice big red letters so everyone could see it. That is, everyone but that so-called “poor blind person” as you so affectionately called them. This doesn’t have anything to do with getting sympathy from people. I don’t want anyone’s sympathy. I graduated from college with a four-year degree in Information Technology and I own my own online business and I’m doing quite well, thank you very much. I could care less for anyone’s sympathy. This is about getting access to online services. Since so much of what we do today is now being conducted online, it’s entirely unacceptable for blind individuals to be locked out, especially when there are relatively easy ways to make software accommodations. And it isn’t like we’re dealing with some mom and pop store, where they’re so small and financially strapped that they can’t afford to make accommodations. we’re talking about freakin’ Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, eBay, and banks! These are billion dollar corporations in most cases, with huge IT departments. Don’t tell me they can’t afford to make accommodations. This comes down to a matter of their being informed and having the desire and nothing more. Blogs like this are making it publicly known that critical features of certain web sites are inaccessible and that they need to do something about it. I applaud them.

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