WUD: captcha problems discussed in assistive tech expo

Tom Schultz and I are at the World Usability Day event hosted by Michigan State University today. We sat in a session this morning that focused on a demonstration and discussion of assistive technologies.

An interesting point in the discussion was that problems with CAPTCHAs for people with visualĀ  impairments. One of the presenters went through a process at the DELL website, selected a computer and went to purchase it, but on the way to checking out, he had to pass a CAPTCHA that asked him to enter the characters he sees in the image into a text box.

Of course the problem was that he could not see the image and there was no alternative available. No sale.

Someone else brought up Google’s use of audio as an alternative to the visual CAPTCHA, but the presenters pointed out that for someone who has both visual and hearing impairments, this is still insufficient.

(You can try the audio CAPTCHA on the first page of the sign up page for Blogger. Try it out!)

They pointed out that a CAPTCHA that used reasoning could be a more accessible approach, and another idea was to send an email to verify that the agent is, in fact, a human (that’s the point of a CAPTCHA).

I’ll probably post another update from this conference later.