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D-Link Soon to Include Audio CAPTCHA and Implement Accessible Default Login on Routers

June 26, 2009 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

D-Link will soon provide audio CAPTCHA and change the login default on its routers to make them more accessible to customers with disabilities.

In a May 12 press release, D-Link announced that it was the first company to add CAPTCHA to its routers as a means of protecting users against new threats. These potential security breaches are serious. “A series of recent Internet security attacks on home and small office computers are compromising networks where users least expect it – their routers. These malicious software invasions, in which users unknowingly download a Trojan horse when performing common tasks, invade the router to detect wireless capabilities, then alter the victim’s domain name system (DNS) records so that all future traffic is diverted through the attackers’ network first”, states the press release.

“We’re excited to be the first in the market to announce we have taken the initiative to implement CAPTCHA into our routers, thus providing yet another layer of security to our customers,” said AJ Wang, chief technology officer of D-Link.

The press release goes on to explain “the term CAPTCHA is an acronym for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart. CAPTCHA is a type of challenge-response test used in computing to ensure that responses are generated by humans, not computers. A common type of CAPTCHA requires the user to type letters or numbers from a distorted image that appears on the screen.”

Concerned that blind and visually impaired customers may be unable to access the company’s routers, accessibility advocates quickly reacted. “We did hear from our customer base that there was some concern on the CAPTCHA implementation,” said Dan Kelley, D-Link’s senior director of marketing.

Kelley said a beta version of the firmware is now available that disables the CAPTCHA by default. It will be officially released as an update to all customers once it has undergone the necessary testing. Users will be able to access the router without the CAPTCHA requirement after unboxing. They may explicitly enable the security enhancement through the web user interface as part of the setup process.

“We’re also going to be creating an audio version of the CAPTCHA which will be available in as soon as three to six weeks,” Kelley said. “You can press the button and it will read off the letters that you need to enter rather than having you read them off the screen.”

Effective accessibility evangelism may have helped D-Link executives understand the need for these changes. “In my discussions, I do remember that the audio version was already being planned but now I think that everything’s being a little bit more expedited realizing that there’s been some concern in terms of the feedback of the market,” said Kelley. “We have heard from a couple of customers who need this and we have been able to take care of them promptly.”

Companies like D-Link closely monitor their customer base and the overall technology marketplace for trends, including those pointing to greater accessibility. “We’re going to be paying close attention to what others in the industry are doing in terms of making improvements to CAPTCHA,” Kelley said. “We are always paying attention to customers whether through direct e-mail, on Facebook or on blogs.”

In keeping with its “Building Networks for People” tagline, D-Link is willing to consider additional accessibility enhancements in response to customer feedback. “If there’s anything that would help us figure out a way to make an improvement we’d be glad to hear it.” said Joe Melfi, D-Link’s associate director of business solutions.

GoPetition Rolls Out Audio CAPTCHA, Offers Blind Users Two Ways to Participate

June 26, 2009 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

The managing director of the popular online petition site GoPetition announced Friday that an audio CAPTCHA has been put in place for blind and visually impaired users. Verified membership allows everyone full participation without CAPTCHA anywhere on the site.

GoPetition’s declaration “Anyone or any group can use GoPetition to have their voice heard” now fully applies to blind and visually impaired people who may wish to create petitions, sign petitions or participate in the site’s online discussion forums. 

“GoPetition has now fully upgraded its signature process to allow blind people access to audio files for our security codes,” said John Pope, GoPetition’s managing director. “You may also be confident to start a petition at GoPetition if you wish as we are now user friendly for visually impaired people.”

Those wishing to completely avoid CAPTCHA and deaf-blind users may register for full access to all of the site’s services. The process requires e-mail address confirmation. According to a statement on the site: “as a verified member you will not have to navigate through complex codes or captchas, nor will you be subjected to confusing audio instructions.”

Complaint and Motion for Preliminary Injunction Against ASU and the Arizona Board of Regents

June 25, 2009 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

In keeping with our tradition of accessibility and openness, we are glad to provide full plain-text copies of the complaint and the motion for a preliminary injunction against ASU and the Arizona Board of Regents to prevent use of the inaccessible Kindle in an upcoming fall semester university pilot program.


Accessible copy of the complaint (The NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND, The AMERICAN COUNCIL OF THE BLIND, and DARRELL SHANDROW vs. The ARIZONA BOARD OF REGENTS and ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY) for discrimination against blind and visually impaired students under the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act.

Motion for Preliminary Injunction

Accessible copy of the motion for a preliminary injunction asking the court to immediately stop ASU from implementing the pilot program at the beginning of the fall semester on August 24 while the complaint goes forward.

Categories: accessibility, Kindle, lawsuit

Darrell Shandrow Joins ACB and NFB to File Discrimination Suit Against ASU Over Inaccessible Amazon Kindle DX Pilot Program

June 25, 2009 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker



  • Chris Danielsen
  • Director of Public Relations
  • National Federation of the Blind
  • (410) 659-9314, extension 2330
  • (410) 262-1281 (Cell)

National Federation of the Blind and American Council of the Blind File Discrimination Suit Against Arizona State University

University’s Amazon Kindle DX Pilot Program Discriminates Against the Blind

Tempe, Arizona (June 25, 2009): The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and the American Council of the Blind (ACB) filed suit today against Arizona State University (ASU) to prevent the university from deploying Amazon’s Kindle DX electronic reading device as a means of distributing electronic textbooks to its students because the device cannot be used by blind students. Darrell Shandrow, a blind ASU student, is also a named plaintiff in the action. The Kindle DX features text-to-speech technology that can read textbooks aloud to blind students. The menus of the device are not accessible to the blind, however, making it impossible for a blind user to purchase books from Amazon’s Kindle store, select a book to read, activate the text-to-speech feature, and use the advanced reading functions available on the Kindle DX. In addition to ASU, five other institutions of higher education are deploying the Kindle DX as part of a pilot project to assess the role of electronic textbooks and reading devices in the classroom. The NFB and ACB have also filed complaints with the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education and the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, asking for investigations of these five institutions, which are: Case Western Reserve University, the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia, Pace University, Princeton University, and Reed College. The lawsuit and complaints allege violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “Given the highly-advanced technology involved, there is no good reason that Amazon’s Kindle DX device should be inaccessible to blind students. Amazon could have used the same text-to-speech technology that reads e-books on the device aloud to make its menus accessible to the blind, but it chose not to do so. Worse yet, six American higher education institutions that are subject to federal laws requiring that they not discriminate against students with disabilities plan to deploy this device, even though they know that it cannot be used by blind students. The National Federation of the Blind will not tolerate this unconscionable discrimination against and callous indifference to the right of blind students to receive an equal education. We hope that this situation can be rectified in a manner that allows this exciting new reading technology to be made available to blind and sighted students alike.”

Darrell Shandrow, a blind student pursuing a degree in journalism at ASU, said: “Not having access to the advanced reading features of the Kindle DX—including the ability to download books and course materials, add my own bookmarks and notes, and look up supplemental information instantly on the Internet when I encounter it in my reading—will lock me out of this new technology and put me and other blind students at a competitive disadvantage relative to our sighted peers. While my peers will have instant access to their course materials in electronic form, I will still have to wait weeks or months for accessible texts to be prepared for me, and these texts will not provide the access and features available to other students. That is why I am standing up for myself and with other blind Americans to end this blatant discrimination.”

Newegg Rolls Out Login Page Featuring Inaccessible CAPTCHA, Locks Out Blind and Visually Impaired Customers

June 23, 2009 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Responding to a report from a blind Newegg customer, an inaccessible CAPTCHA was discovered Tuesday in the company’s login process for all customers.

“Wow, well, until I can get a hold of someone at NewEgg, guess I’m not going to be able to buy stuff there.  They now have a CAPTCHA in order to log in to one’s account!!!!!” said Tina Ektermanis, a blind college student in Colorado who wanted to order two SD memory cards. “It’s interesting that if you submit without filling in the code, it takes you to the old page, without the captcha, but we need to let them know about this before they put it in place for everything requiring a log in.”

A statement on the company’s login page claims “If you are visually impaired and are having difficulty navigating this site, please call our Customer Support line via our toll free number (800) 390-1119.”

Ektermanis said a friend of hers tried to order products from the company shortly before Christmas 2008 but the request was declined despite the stated promise of assistance.

Mia, a customer service representative, confirmed this lack of assistance during an investigative telephone call to the stated number. “I apologize, but we are not able to take orders by phone,” she said after the unusable validation code was explained.

“Our customer service representatives are supposed to help. This help covers everything, including placing orders and processing returns,” said Vincent Agular, Contact Division Manager in Newegg’s customer service department. He said he is requesting follow up from the company’s web team in light of the availability of numerous alternatives that provide both security and reasonable accommodations.

All blind and visually impaired Newegg customers and potential customers, and those who care about us, are asked to submit feedback to the company’s webmasters asking that they make an accessible alternative to their visual CAPTCHA available right away so as to allow everyone to transact business on terms of equality.

Nevada Blind Childrens’ Foundation Defends Web Site Despite Accessibility Problems

June 16, 2009 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

An article posted Sunday on the Accessibility NZ blog reports that the web site of the Nevada Blind Children’s Foundation fails to follow basic web site accessibility guidelines.

“I couldn’t quite believe what I saw,” said Nicolas Steenhout, leader of the web accessibility consulting firm Accessibility NZ. “The entire site is one big Flash object. You don’t get much LESS accessible than that.”

“We are dedicated to providing information and services that enable families, health care professionals, and the community to understand and meet the unique needs of infants and children who are blind or visually impaired,” the foundation claims in its public mission statement.

Lori Moroz-White, the foundation’s executive director, defends the inaccessible web site. “Thank you for being the ‘accessibility police’.  I have been aware that our website is inaccessible, and have been concerned, and when funding becomes available to change this, it will be changed,” said Moroz-White. “For now, in my opinion it is better to have an inaccessible website, than not to have one at all.”  

Moroz-White adds “We offer blind specific technology access, blind specific programs and maintain a Braille, electronic and game library.” But the inaccessible web site may call into question the goals of the foundation’s programs.

“I think it’s a lot more symptomatic of a culture of dependence,” said Steenhout. “Here’s an organisation who is there to assist people with disabilities becoming more independent, yet they miss the boat completely with their website. The message here is ‘we’ll teach someone else to take care of you’.”

Some in the connected online blind community are deeply concerned about the poor example shown to the world. They believe the site should be temporarily shut down until such time as it can be made accessible. “Inaccessible sites that are ran by agencies that work for the blind should be taken offline”, said Michael McCarty on Twitter.

“One might say that a website should be an expression, a representation, of an organisation. And if that’s the case, then either the website fails the Foundation, or the Foundation fails their ultimate ‘clients’ – children with vision impairments,” Steenhout said. “One might also wonder if the Nevada Blind Children’s Foundation receives federal funding, and if so, should they be meeting §508 of the United States Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended.”

Categories: web accessibility

ILA Responds to Accessibility Concerns

June 12, 2009 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Wednesday’s article generated responses from Independent Living Aids and the members of the connected online blind community.

ILA’s account manager, Frank Boyden, posted a public comment Thursday morning. “ILA appreciates the feedback. We are always trying to improve and be accessible to our customer base. If you have a question or your not sure about something please ask, we always try to go the extra length and accommodate. Our customer service team is well trained and has been with ILA for a long time as many of our customers know. Although Marryann could have phrased her words differently it sounds to me like she was trying to help. If you have suggestions on how we can improve please feel free to send me an email,” Boyden said.

Boyden removed his comment three hours later despite its lack of controversy. “It was pulled because he was not authorized to give you any answer,” said office manager Barbara Chernosky. “I don’t want somebody posting anything good or bad if they’re not authorized.”

The removal of Boyden’s public comment brought on ethics concerns. Consulting members of the blind community, everyone we asked seemed to be in favor of reposting it for all to see. ” Wow I can’t believe they deleted their own comment,” said an anonymous source.

Chernosky said in a Friday telephone conversation that the Franklin English and Spanish Talking Translator is no longer sold by ILA and that more effort will be expended to identify products that may not be accessible to all customers. “We’re going through every product with a fine tooth comb to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” said Chernosky. “I’m not saying we don’t make mistakes, but we’re correcting them immediately.”

Chernosky further indicated that the company’s representatives are specifically trained to imagine what it would be like to be blind or visually impaired so they will accommodate ILA’s customers and treat them with respect. She also pointed out that Stephen Guerra, a totally blind person and active member of the connected online blind community, heads the company’s technical support team. “Technical support is available all day to help,” Chernosky said.

The company is proud of its web site. “We’re adding sound to our watches and our other speaking products,” said Chernosky. “We’re one of the few companies in the nation with NFB web accessibility certification.”

Product documentation is another area where Chernosky said the company is improving. “Many of our products have instructions that are posted on the web site,” Chernosky said, indicating that Guerra and his team are spearheading this effort.

We thank ILA representatives for their willingness to do the right thing. Upon receipt of the inaccessible product, Chernosky said ILA will refund not only the purchase price but also the shipping costs to Karen, so this situation has a positive ending for us. We can take an important lesson from this story. Even when ordering from a company selling products for the blind and visually impaired, carefully read the product’s description and/or ask a customer service representative lots of good questions to make sure the product will meet the needs of the person who will be receiving it.

Categories: Uncategorized

Be Careful What You Purchase from Independent Living Aids!

June 10, 2009 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

I’ll be doing some more targeted journalism on this issue in the near future, so all of you may consider this article to be a rant. ILA continues to have some real problems with selling inaccessible products with inaccessible documentation to blind people, then trying to deliver customer service that’s inappropriate for blind customers.

On Monday, June 8, I received a couple of anniversary gifts from Karen. They were purchased from ILA. One was a Franklin English and Spanish Talking Translator. Karen thought this might help me learn and practice Spanish. There were a number of problems with this gift that, in my opinion, shouldn’t have existed when ordering from a business in the disabilities field. First, it was packaged in one of those hard plastic containers that’s almost impossible to open. Second, the product was accompanied only by a small print booklet. Its documentation was not supplied in any accessible alternative format. Third, and worst of all, the product itself was completely inaccessible for a blind person! Karen’s boss helped her figure out how to use the product. There’s no feedback as you press its keys. Only after typing a word can you press another key to hear it translated in Spanish. That’s the only talking this product does; everything else is displayed on a small LCD.

This morning, I contacted ILA’s customer service department and got Maryann on the phone. I mentioned the three issues above, but she wasn’t at all interested in hearing what I had to say. She was willing to process an RMA to return the product. After giving me the RMA number, she reminded me to fill out the form included in the box. After telling her I was blind, she asked me if I could have a sighted person assist. Frustrated at this point, I said no and indicated that I felt it was inappropriate for her to ask given the field in which ILA does business. I reminded her that blind people are not able to see and, thus, we are not able to directly read or write print without personal or technological assistance. Of course, we can do so easily when information and technology is delivered in a way that’s accessible to us. Apparently, ILA does not have an accessible copy of the RMA form on hand. She gave me the RMA number and ILA’s mailing address without requiring me to complete the form. Fortunately, I am going to be able to return the inaccessible product, but we’re going to get stuck with the shipping cost! Yeah, that’s right. It’s “company policy…”

I am very disappointed with ILA. Their people continue to sell inaccessible products or products without appropriate documentation to blind customers. At this point, I would like to see ILA do the following things to improve the situation:

  • Review all products being offered to ensure they are appropriate for ILA’s customer base.
  • When a product is not fully accessible, provide relevant information in the printed catalog and on the web site.
  • Train everyone answering the phone on how to communicate with customers in such a way so that they are fully aware of which products are accessible to which types of users. For instance, tell the customer if a product requires some sight.
  • Ensure that appropriate documentation is supplied in an accessible format for each product sold.

Independent Living Aids, being a company that does business in the blindness field and sells to the blind community and those who care about us, really should know better! The company should be a leader! We really shouldn’t need to have this unfortunate discussion in the connected online blind community about inaccessibility within the companies that do business with us. Come on, ILA and other offending companies, get with the program already!

Categories: Uncategorized

Apple Announces iPhone Accessibility, Blind Community Cautiously Optimistic

June 8, 2009 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

At Monday’s WWDC conference, Apple announced the inclusion of VoiceOver on its new iPhone 3 GS, making a unique touch screen interface accessible to a cautiously optimistic blind user community for the first time.

“iPhone 3G S provides new accessibility features including VoiceOver, a screen reader that speaks what appears on the iPhone 3G S display, enabling visually impaired users to make calls, read email, browse web pages, play music and run applications,” said Apple representatives in a June 8 press release.

Loyal Apple fans in the blind community are ecstatic to have been granted access to the iPhone after waiting over two years.

“My God. I am in awe,” said Josh de Lioncourt, publisher of the popular Mac-cessibility Round Table Podcast on Twitter.

Shane Jackson, publisher of the BlindWorld Blog and Podcast said on Twitter “Jump up and down, folks. Jump really, really high! iPhone! Yes!”

“It’s the world’s first gesture-based screen reader, enabling you to enjoy the fun and simplicity of the iPhone even if you can’t see the screen,” said Apple representatives on the company’s iPhone Accessibility page. “Instead of memorizing hundreds of keyboard commands, or endlessly pressing tiny arrow keys to find what you’re looking for, with VoiceOver, you simply touch the screen to hear a description of the item under your finger, then gesture with a double-tap, drag, or flick to control the phone.”

Some blind technology users are uncertain about the practicality of making a native touch screen interface accessible, but they are reserving judgment as they wait to see the new iPhone in action. “I am very very concerned about the touch interface. That could be a deal breaker but will wait and see,” said Jeff Bishop, a blind database developer at a major university.

Categories: iPhone

Twitter Quietly Fixes Broken Audio CAPTCHA

June 6, 2009 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

A blind Internet user has reported that Twitter has corrected issues with its audio CAPTCHA during a one-hour Friday evening maintenance window. Blind Access Journal has confirmed the fix.

On August 22, 2007, Twitter implemented the ReCAPTCHA service to protect the site from abuse while granting a level of accessibility to blind and visually impaired people wishing to sign up for the new social networking service. The enhancement was implemented by Twitter in cooperation with members of the connected online blind community. Twitter received praise for this move.

On December 7, 2008, reCAPTCHA began deploying a new audio playback scheme. “Instead of using spoken digits or letters, our new audio CAPTCHA presents entire spoken sentences or phrases that the best speech recognition algorithms failed to recognize,” Luis von Ahn, the project’s executive producer, said on the reCAPTCHA Blog.

“For now, if you are using our custom theme option, we ask that you update the instructions for the audio CAPTCHA to say something along the lines of ‘type what you hear'”, von Ahn told web site developers who implemented reCAPTCHA, signifying the possible need to modify their sites in response to this change.

Reports began to surface of blind people locked out of Twitter’s account creation process. Investigating, Blind Access Journal opened the urgent support ticket 329388 with Twitter’s technical support team on May 28.

“Please resolve this because, as it stands right now, some people are being locked out solely because they’re blind / visually impaired,” Darrell Shandrow stated as part of the request for assistance.

On June 3, the support ticket was closed and removed with the statement “Twitter is a free service, and while we try to provide as much help as we can, we can’t get to every email”. A subsequent request for follow up went unanswered.

On Friday, Twitter underwent an evening maintenance window lasting approximately one hour. Shortly after, an update appeared on the Twitter Status site “The maintenance was successful and we are back up!”

Early Saturday morning, Mika Pyyhkala (pyyhkala) reported “the audio captcha for the Twitter sign up process has been fixed and works now!”

Twitter has made no statement regarding the audio CAPTCHA or any other issues that may have been resolved in Friday’s maintenance downtime.

“Unfortunately it was a very frustrating issue for a lot of people who couldn’t get beyond it,” said Larry Gassman (Lgsinger).