Accessibility Issues Faced by a Blind User in Voting in an Online Competition

A computer school for the blind has joined a blog competition organized by an international group. Persons who want to vote for the computer school need to register to the international group’s web site before they can place their vote. I wish to vote for the computer school, but the inaccessibility of the web site’s registration form has prevented me from voting.

Background

ATRIEV

Adaptive Technology for Rehabilitation, Integration and Empowerment of the Visually Impaired (ATRIEV) is a not-for-profit organization that specializes on information and communications technology training programs for visually-impaired persons. It is the only IT-based school for the blind that facilitates access to post-secondary education, mainstream employment, and similar opportunities through the use of adaptive technology in the Philippines. (Taken from ATRIEV’s web site)

ADOC

The APEC Digital Opportunity Center (ADOC) Project is an initiative that Chinese Taipei first raised in the 2003 APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting. It aims to assist in transforming digital divides into digital opportunities throughout the Asia-Pacific region. (taken from the ADOC web site)

Blog Competition Organized by ADOC

ADOC has recently started a blog competition in its web site. Seven ADOC partners from the Philippines are vying for the title Country Champion. ATRIEV is one of the seven ADOC partners in the competition. The country Champion will receive computers from ADOC to be used in the partner’s project. ATRIEV would like to win the country competition to boost its hardware requirements.

Difficulties Faced by a Blind User in Registering to the ADOC Site

I received an email from ATRIEV inviting me to vote for them in the blog competition. I immediately agreed to do so, because I have immense respect for what ATRIEV is doing and I believe the computers can truly benefit ATRIEV. However, I wasn’t able to vote because I couldn’t complete the registration process.

There are two accessibility issues in the ADOC registration form which prevented me from registering.

The Birthday Field

The registration form required me to enter my birthday. After several minutes of trying to figure out how to enter my birthday in the specified field, I found out that I need to enter on a specific graphic. Activating the graphic would then load a calendar where the user is expected to enter his or her birthday. The dates in the calendar can only be accessed via the mouse. Since I cannot use the mouse because I am blind, I couldn’t enter my birthday on the specified field.

My recommendation: It would be much better if there were an alternative option to select the user’s birthday. A good example is to have a combo box for the month, a combo box for the day, and a combo box or text box for the year. This will ensure that persons who cannot use the mouse can still select the details for their birthday.

CAPTCHA has No Alternative

CAPTCHA stands for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart. CAPTCHA is used to ensure that only humans are able to access information on a web site. CAPTCHA codes normally consist of distorted characters embedded in graphics which users have to read and enter on a text box. The registration form of the ADOC web site requires the user to read a CAPTCHA code and enter it on a specified field.

The CAPTCHA code on the registration form obviously cannot be read by a blind person. This is the second issue which prevented me from proceeding to the next voting steps.

My recommendation: Blind users would be able to pass the CAPTCHA test if the page provided alternatives. Audio CAPTCHA, simple math questions, or basic questions are good alternatives to distorted graphics. These alternatives can be added along with the existing CAPTCHA in the page.

Message to the Webmaster of the ADOC Web Site

I know that it wasn’t your intention to have these accessibility issues. But these issues have prevented a visitor and prospective voter from participating in one of your programs. I would like to kindly express my willingness to help you and ADOC in making sure that accessibility issues such as these are kept at a minimum and quite possibly, removed entirely from the web site. We can help each other to make sure that the same difficulties will not be experienced by other blind individuals who wish to use your site and participate in your projects. Otherwise, if you could consider my recommendations above, I and other blind users would greatly appreciate it.

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4 Responses to “Accessibility Issues Faced by a Blind User in Voting in an Online Competition”

  1. Arielle Says:

    Charles,

    I’m a big fan of ironies but only in casual conversation. This is a sad thing indeed. I hope that the webmasters of the voting site will fix the problem promptly so that you can vote for ATRIEV. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some of their staff, they’re very good people. =)

    Arielle

  2. jouielovesyou Says:

    Hi. This article should be updated. There are many solutions now to the captcha available; in fact a Quitter client has one included in its list of sessions.

    • Julius Charles Says:

      Hi Jouie,

      Thanks for your comment. I agree that there are existing solutions to CAPTCHA. However, I believe that the very solution should come from the ADOC website itself, and not from other services. That is the only way that the web developers can say that the site is accessible in terms of its CAPTCHA.

      So, in response to your suggestion, I don’t think that this article should be updated, as the developer of the ADOC website hasn’t made any improvements in terms of the site’s CAPTCHA issue.

      Regards,

      Julius

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