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May 26, 2007 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Please read this testimonial evidence from a blind person discussing the
negative impact caused by the "no blind people allowed" sign on a popular
social networking site. It is important for us all to realize that this
discrimination is quickly moving beyond the registration process and into
day-to-day use of some web based resources. We must insist that CAPTCHA be
made accessible by way of audio or other reasonable accomodations in all
cases where it is used.

My name is David Harvey from New Zealand. I just signed up with
www.facebook.comm and asked my flatmate to help me out with the visual
process during registration. All went well.

Four days later as I write this today, they've put VV on the features that
mean a lot to me – adding friends, posting messages, writing on
walls, etc. You can stop the VV if you verify your account. You do this by
enterying your cell phone number and a text message will be sent with
a code you must enter into the box.

This has made me angry since using social networking sites like Facebook as
a communication tool is that you don't have to give out your email address,
and I wish to be able to use those sites the same as everybody else. I
don't want to have to deactivate my account with them, since
I've made a lot of friends this year, most of whom live abroad and are
leaving at the end of June, and they prefer Facebook over Bebo or Myspace.

As a result of this increasing inaccessibility, David has written an e-mail to Facebook’s support team:

Yes I did contact them. I’ll let you and Jeff know my response once I receive it. Here’s the email I sent regarding this very serious and discriminating issue:



My name is David Harvey from New Zealand. I signed up for Facebook on 23rd of may NZ time. Since I’m blind my flatmate help me out with the visual verification at registration. Within the last six hours captcha has been implemented site-wide, which is preventing me from interacting with my friends, as well as adding new ones. I also discovered there’s an option to verify my account, but I don’t yet have a mobile phone to verify with and won’t have one for at least three months. I know blind and visually impaired people who work in the technology field. Some sites like PayPal, LiveJournal and Google have implemented audio captcha, which reads the text out using synthesized speech. This is a very serious issue not just for Facebook but for all sites who wish to use captcha.

Please let me know if you are interested in working with me to resolve this issue. I love your services and I’d hate to cancel because of a visual graphic which my screen-reader is unable to read get in the way
of using such a fine service.

Another quote on the Facebook login page says “Everyone can join”. Well that’s not the case. Did you know that companies can be find for misleading users?


David Harvey

6 opinions on “Visual Verification: FACEBOOK VV LOCKING ME OUT FROM MY FRIENDS

  1. I am not sure why this user has been experiencing these difficulties. IT’s possible that facebook in other countries has different settings. I live in the United States and I use facebook successfully and know several hundred blind people who use facebook successfully. Once an account is verified with a valid email address, no captchas are present on the site. Again, I am not sure why this user cannot validate his account with a valid email address and this may be due to the different rules in different countries, although I find this hard to believe. I’d like to know more about the details of this, as I think Facebook has been quite responsive to blind users when we’ve requested changes to the site which would improve accessibility.

  2. There has been chatter on the NFB students list about Facebook, and it sounds like members wrote to the company. I also wrote to the company this weekend because I could not create an account, and I have not heard back from them.

  3. As a web designer attempting to make my sites accessibile for all, would adding an audio ‘CAPTCHA’ facility that read out the words on the screen be acceptable?

    I would appreciate a reply by comment on your site. Thanks!

  4. Hello James. Yes. At this time, audio CAPTCHA is the current state-of-the-art for providing accessibility to this security measure. It is important to note that, even with audio CAPTCHA, the deaf-blind would still be excluded. Providing a CAPTCHA that relies on something other than a censory experience definitely requires additional research. In the meantime, yes, audio CAPTCHA is not only acceptable, but necessary in order to avoid creating and maintaining unnecessary barriers that lock out your customers or site visitors solely based on their lack of eye sight, an attribute which is clearly outside the person’s control. Thank you for your comment and consideration.

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