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Visual Verification: Please Help Test ReCAPTCHA Audio Playback

August 30, 2007 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

We have received a request from one of the ReCAPTCHA programmers to perform some testing in an attempt to improve the usability of their audio playback alternative. Once again, this is our opportunity to provide feedback that can result in a direct increase in the accessibility of CAPTCHA. Let’s all step up to the plate this time!

Please complete the following steps, noting the answers to all questions presented:

  1. Note the operating system, name and version of the web browser and screen reader being run for this test.
  2. Visit the ReCAPTCHA live demonstration page.
  3. Select the audio challenge link.
  4. Did you hear any audio?
  5. Were you able to solve the audio CAPTCHA successfully?
  6. If not, what happened? Please note any error messages.
  7. Choose the “Can’t hear the sound?” link.
  8. Were you able to download the MP3 file? If not, please note any error message shown.
  9. Visit Twitter’s Create an Account page.
  10. Select the audio challenge link.
  11. Did you hear any audio?
  12. Were you able to solve the audio CAPTCHA successfully?
  13. If not, what happened? Please note any error messages.
  14. Choose the “Can’t hear the sound?” link.
  15. Were you able to download the MP3 file? If not, please note any error message shown.
  16. Optionally, please note your IP address.
  17. Send your test results to and post a copy as a comment to this article.

The ReCAPTCHA people really want to make sure their service works for as many users as possible, so let’s all step up to the challenge and get them as many high quality test results as possible.

Visual Verification: Trouble with Audio CAPTCHA on Twitter

August 30, 2007 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

We have received numerous reports from blind users who are unable to use Twitter’s audio CAPTCHA for the past several days. We ask as many of you as possible to visit Twitter, try the audio CAPTCHA and report your results in this ticket opened with Twitter’s customer support team. If you’re already signed into Twitter, it will be necessary to sign out in order to try the audio CAPTCHA again.

Urgent: Bloglines May Soon Become Inaccessible!

August 26, 2007 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

The Bloglines people have just come out with their beta representing the future of the service. As it stands, things don’t look very good for us blind folks with respect to its continued accessibility. Once we lose Bloglines, there will be no accessible, web based RSS feed aggregator for blind people! Let’s all urgently provide our feedback to the Bloglines team reminding them of our existence and asking them to keep accessibility in mind.

Categories: accessibility

TV Guide Wireless – At Last, Accessible Online TV Listings!

August 25, 2007 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

If you have been looking for easy to use, fully accessible online television listings, your search is over! The TV Guide Wireless service for mobile PDA and smart phone users is just the ticket. Simply select the TV Listings link, enter your zip code and select your provider to find out what’s on TV right now. The listings are provided in a simple text format showing the channel number, channel name and title of the currently playing program. If you want to know what’s on for a different date or hour, accomplishing that is straightforward as well. This service comes highly recommended for both its usability and full accessibility to blind and visually impaired computer users. If you agree that this is the most accessible resource for TV listings, please consider submitting your feedback to TV Guide. Let’s make sure the company is made aware we are using this site, in hopes that it remains both accessible and available to us in the future.

Categories: accessibility

EdSharp 2.0 released

August 25, 2007 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Version 2.0
Released August 25, 2007

Major programming and word processing enhancements have raised the version
from 1.2 to 2.0. EdSharp is now a text editor, file converter, coding
environment, and mini word processor! Fixes and improvements are documented


Fixed the Jump command not recognizing a column as well as line number.
Fixed regular expression dialogs requiring a double rather than single
backslash to begin a special token.
Fixed the Yield with Regular Expression command (Control+Shift+Y) not
remembering the previous expression used.
Fixed Exporting from HTML to Markdown.

Extra speech messages may now be toggled off — or reactivated — with
Control+Shift+X. When off, such messages are redirected to a text file
called Speech.log, which may be examined in an editing window with
Alt+Shift+X. This file is initialized when EdSharp starts, and the Extra
Speech setting is remembered from the previous session.

Made Delete Right (Control+Shift+Delete) and Delete Line (Alt+Backspace)
delete to the end of the visible line — wrapping is respected. The new
Delete Hard Line command (Control+D) deletes through any wrapping until just
past the next hard line break (what is created by pressing Enter).
The Delete Paragraph command (Control+Shift+D) deletes from the current line
through the next one or more blank lines.

Press Alt+F7 to look up definitions of a word from the web
site. EdSharp prompts for a word or phrase, defaulting to the current chunk
or selected text. The definitions retrieved are placed in a new editing

When a file is saved without giving it an extension, .rtf is added as a
configurable default. If a file would be overwritten, the original may be
optionally saved with .bak added (default is No).
Each option in the Configuration dialog (Alt+Shift+C) has a unique access
key in its label, so you can jump directly to it with an Alt plus letter
combination. Some options are reserved but not yet implemented.

Sections added to the EdSharp documentation discuss the new word processing
and programming features as follows:

Word Processing
EdSharp supports several aspects of Rich Text Format (.rtf) as well as plain
text (with optional structure). In certain situations, EdSharp behaves
differently if a file has a .rtf extension rather than any other one.
Specifically, the Open Other Format command, Control+Shift+O, imports a .rtf
file with its formatting rather than converting it to plain text. The Save,
Save As, and Save Copy commands, Control+S, Control+Shift+S, and Alt+S, save
a .rtf file with formatting preserved.
Use the Copy Rich Text command, Control+Shift+C, to copy selected text with
formatting to the clipboard.

Formatting commands include the following. Use the Justify command,
Alt+Shift+J, to set the horizontal alignment of text as left, center, or
right. This formatting applies to either selected text or the current hard
line — a line of text terminated by a hard line break (created by pressing
Enter rather than wrapping).

Use the Style command, Alt+Slash, to set or clear bold, italic, or underline
formatting. This applies to either selected text or text ahead of the
current cursor position. Similarly, the Set Selection Font command,
Alt+Shift+Dash, adjusts the font or color of selected text or text ahead of
the cursor (think of a "dashing" display). The key to its right,
Alt+Shift+Equals, is for setting the default font of a new document. The
Justify, Style, and Font dialogs indicate current format settings.

Navigation commands let you move forward or backward to a change in
formatting. Control+RightBracket goes to the next justification change, and
Control+LeftBracket goes to the previous one. Control+Slash goes to the
next style change, and Control+Shift+Slash goes to the previous one.
Control+Dash goes to the next font change and Control+Shift+Dash goes to the
previous one. The cursor stops at the character with different formatting.
The new formatting is announced and current line is read.

To query the current font and color, press Alt+Dash. For justification and
styles, press Alt+Slash.

Press Tab to indent the current line of text, or Shift+Tab to outdent it.
If multiple lines of text are selected, these commands are applied to all of
them. Press Alt+I to hear the number of indentation levels of the current
line. The Trim Blanks command, Control+Shift+Enter, removes all indentation
and trailing spaces at once, as well as removing more than two consecutive
blank lines (when multiple lines are selected).

Press Alt+Shift+I to toggle a mode in which you are alerted to changes in
indentation level, such as when using the up and down arrow keys. EdSharp
will say how many levels in or out the indentation has changed. This mode
also reverses the rols of the Enter and Shift+Enter keys.

When Indent Mode is off, you can start a new line of text with the same
indentation as the current one by pressing Shift+Enter. By default, an
indentation unit is two spaces. This may be changed with the Configuration
Options command, Alt+Shift+C (or use Alt+Shift+M to manually edit settings
in the EdSharp.ini file). To go to the first character of the current line
after any indentation, press Alt+Home. To go to the last non-white space
character, press Alt+End.

Press Control+I to go to the next code block, or Control+Shift+I to go to
the previous one. EdSharp considers a line of text with less indentation to
be part of a different code block. For example, if the cursor is inside a
loop block, then Control+I will go to the line at the closing of the loop
where a lower level of indentation resumes. In Ruby, this would be the line
with the word "end" or a right brace (}) character. In Python, it would be
the first line of code following the loop, since the change in indentation,
itself, indicates the end of the loop.

The Quote and Unquote commands, Control+Q and Control+Shift+Q, may be used
to add or remove comment symbols at the start of lines. The default quote
prefix may be changed from > to a comment sequence appropriate for the
language in use, e.g., ' for Visual Basic, * for Xbase, ; for AutoIt, or #
for Ruby.

Curly brace characters delimit code structures in a number of languages.
Press Control+B to find the matching right brace (}) character from the
current location. Press Control+Shift+B for the matching left brace ({)
instead. Press Alt+B to hear the number of unmatched left braces before the
cursor and right braces after. Different brace characters may be
configured, e.g., angle brackets (<>) for editing HTML or XML. If the
cursor is on a brace-type character when issuing one of these commands,
i.e., one of {}<>[]() , then EdSharp uses that character and its opposite
when searching, regardless of the current setting.

A scripting language allows a program to be run as a text file associated by
extension with its interpreter, e.g., .pl for Perl, .au3 for AutoIt, and
.rbw for Ruby files. Press F5 to run the current file with its associated
interpreter. If the current file name has a complete path, EdSharp saves to
disk before running the file to ensure the latest version is being used.
Otherwise, EdSharp saves to a file in a temporary folder and runs that file.

The Alt+F5 command prompts for a command to run and speaks its standard
output. The path of the current file may be passed via the syntax described
for EdSharp's Import and Export capability. The command remembers its
previous value, and may be adjusted each time it is run.
Use the Review Output command, Alt+Shift+F5, to open a new editing window
containing the output produced by the last command.

Use the Compile command, Control+F5, for a programming language that
involves compiling source code to binary form. For example, a C# program in
a .cs file may be compiled to a .exe file. This command may also be used
for interpreters that report syntax errors via the standard output or
standard error streams.

These tool commands typically begin with the file name of the compiler or
interpreter. Any parameters may be specified thereafter. If the token
%SourceDir% is included, EdSharp temporarily changes to the directory
containing the source file before running the tool.

The first line and column position mentioned in the output, if any, is
assumed to be the position of a compilation error in the source code.
EdSharp uses the JumpPosition setting to find the position in the output
based on a regular expression. The regular expression should be defined so
that the first number of a matching string is the line number and the second
number, if any, is the column number. EdSharp automatically jumps to that
position. It is also saved so that the Jump Again command, Alt+J, returns

Another regular expression may be configured for navigating among routines
in source code. The NavigatePart setting is used by Alt+PageDown and
Alt+PageUp to go to the next or previous function, method, or class

Thus, the Compile command, Control+F5, combines debugging steps efficiently
by compiling, saying output without a model message box, and automatically
jumping to the first error position, if found in the output. The output
spoken may be abbreviated by means of a regular expression setting that
specifies the pattern of text to remove. The Pick Compiler command,
Control+Shift+F5, lets you conveniently configure the CompileCommand ,
AbbreviateOutput, JumpPosition, NavigatePart, and QuotePrefix ssettings for
a particular compiler or interpreter. EdSharp offers settings for the
following languages: C#, HTML, Java, JAWS Script, Perl, PHP, PowerBASIC,
PowerShell, Python, Ruby, and Visual Basic .NET.

The name of a tool to be run should either include its directory location or
be available on the Windows search path. This may be adjusted by editing
the Path environment variable in the Advanced tab page of the System applet
in Control Panel. If the tool is a long file name enclosed in quotes then
either prefix the command line with the @ symbol or enclose the whole thing
in quotes. This is necessary to prevent .ini file manipulation functions of
Windows from losing the opening quote before the tool.

For HTML, the HTML Tidy utility is configured by default and distributed
with EdSharp. After eliminating coding errors found with Control+F5, use
Alt+Shift+E to export to a target file containing clean HTML. More
information is available at

For PowerBASIC, a batch file is needed (in the EdSharp program folder),
which refers to the default location of PowerBasic for Windows version 8.0.
The path to the JAWS script compiler is also hard coded for the latest
version. JAWS scripting is additionally supported by EdSharp's own scripts:
Control+I is a hot key for inserting the path to the user script folder, and
Control+Shift+I is for the All Users script folder, when focus
is in the Open or Save Dialog of EdSharp.

Compiler settings are stored in the [Compilers] section of the EdSharp.ini
file. Only current compiler settings appear in the configuration options
dialog, Alt+Shift+C. Other settings may be edited, however, using the
Manual Options command, Alt+Shift+M. You can adjust command line
parameters of configured compilers, or add others. Installing a new version
of EdSharp does not change existing compiler settings.

Categories: Uncategorized

Imagine The Dark Future of CAPTCHA and Multifactor Authentication for the Blind

August 25, 2007 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

If you’re blind or severely visually impaired, imagine that you wake up one day to find…

  • You compose an e-mail to your sister, only to discover you can’t send it due to a visual CAPTCHA that provides no audio playback or other reasonable accomodation. A telephone number is given for visually impaired users. After waiting on hold for an hour, the person at the other end of the line has no clue how to help you. You consider switching e-mail providers, but you wonder if your bank account balance would support such a decision…
  • You log into your bank’s web site, only to find that a new visual security scheme has been implemented without considering your need for equal access. Since there is no reasonable accomodation for you as a blind person, your username and password are no longer sufficient and you have lost the ability to access something as simple as the balance of your own checking account! Since you do not live with a sighted person, you’re out of luck for a few days until you can find one with whom you trust with your personal bank account. Personal web surfing, for any reason, is not permitted at the office, so a co-worker is not an option.
  • You decide to log into PayPal to check your account balance there, only to find that the PayPal Security Key is now required for all customers! You never got one of those because the numbers it displays are only delivered visually. You assumed it wouldn’t be a requirement, or that accessibility would be considered before that happened. You’re now also locked out of your PayPal account! You give up, get showered, dress and leave for work…
  • At the office, you find yet another nasty surprise. All computers are now equipped with a visual display token for purposes of authentication and heightened security. The token displays a sequence of characters you must enter, in addition to your existing username and password, in order to be granted access to your work computer. Furthermore, due to the high security nature of the job, this process is required once every hour and anytime you leave your desk for breaks, lunch, etc. You suggest asking a supervisor for help with this process until it can be made accessible, but your employer sees fit to go ahead and get rid of you instead. Accomodating your needs would just be too much of an “undue burden”… You’re fired!
  • You return home to begin the process of applying for Social Security, Unemployment and other welfare benefits, only to find that most of the web sites require solving a visual CAPTCHA. You’ll have to go down to these separate offices in person! Getting assistance in person is an absolute nightmare! After waiting in line at Social Security for an hour, the agent says she is too busy to help you due to the need to serve other clients and, anyway, isn’t all this done online nowadays? You’re given a bunch of paperwork to have filled out by some sighted person, one of these days…
  • It takes so long to find competent sighted help that you don’t start receiving any welfare benefits for almost two months! In the meantime, you have lost your house and are now living in a homeless shelter! You can forget about another job, as most employers now require secure visual authentication, and most job related computer applications are virtually totally inaccessible to blind people…
  • Most assistive technology companies have since gone out of business, due to the implementation of visual authentication and the almost total lack of mainstream technology that even approaches any level of functionality with screen readers. Only a single company remains, delivering a screen reader to the few remaining blind government employees who retain their jobs by a thread. The Federal government is dying to be granted the ability to use the same visual authentication scheme as that employed in the private sector, if only they could successfully get Sections 504 and 508 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act repealed. There are national security reasons for doing this which clearly trump the needs of a few blind people. Congress and the President are in negotiations to make that happen any day now…

We should be afraid, be very afraid, of the clear and present danger posed by inaccessible CAPTCHA, visual only multifactor authentication schemes and other technologies that do not reasonably accomodate our needs. Our fear should not result in our cowering in a corner waiting for it to happen. Instead, we must become angry enough to start really doing something about it! Anger is not always a bad emotion. It is often a response to injustice, which we can choose to channel into taking positive action. As a blind community, are we up to the challenge of absolutely insisting that our need for equal accessibility be reasonably accomodated? As a blind individual, what actions will you take right now and later to ensure a brighter, more accessible future for you and your blind brothers and sisters? Don’t choose to remain in the dark one more second! Please feel free to take our poll on accessibility and provide your feedback by way of posting a comment to this article.

Alternate ACB Radio Interactive Broadband Listening Stream Now Available

August 20, 2007 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

ACB Radio Interactive listeners now have an alternate listening option, thanks to additional streaming bandwidth provided by Paul Merrell. Please feel free to utilize this option at any time in cases where you experience any breakup, buffering or outage of the primary broadband stream.

Once again, we at ACB Radio thank Paul for his generous donation!