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October 2018

Hello <<First Name>>!

This month you will be hearing from Zel Iscel, who joined Web Key IT in October 2016 as a Usability Analyst as a blind website user. Web Key has provided Zel with amazing opportunities to learn, share and grow.
Zel’s role at Web Key is to test the accessibility of websites for screen reader users. Occasionally, Zel also visits clients of Web Key IT to provide a live usability test on their website. This is not only eye-opening for the clients but for Zel as well as she has gained an insight into the joys and frustrations of web developers.

Beware of Excluding People When Using Captcha to Ensure Your Website Security

In this article, I will briefly define captcha and give some basic examples. I will discuss the issues around accessibility for people with and without disability in the drive to use captcha to ensure the security of a website. I aim to demonstrate that several captcha techniques can be used to ensure that the site is secure and no one who wants to use the site is excluded.
Imagine there is a problem with your monitor and you can barely make out what it’s showing. But you’re soldiering on to complete an online form that must be submitted before midnight that day. You’ve got about an hour for the deadline but you’re almost at the end so there’s no stress.
You’re on the final page where you’re asked to type what you see on the screen. The image is blurry, your screen is even more blurry and you just can’t make out the letters and numbers. You try the audio a few times but can’t make much out from that either. In frustration, you go to the feedback page and tell them what you think of their form – trying to be nice about it – then you’re again asked to type what you see in order to submit your comments …
Whether we’re working toward a deadline or not, this is the reality for many of us who have a disability.
The process of recognising text through an image and typing it in a form is known as ‘character-based captcha’. Captcha has been widely used on websites to ensure that data – such as email addresses, identification numbers, etc – is accessed by humans and not robots. A robot is software designed to retrieve information from websites.
Character-based captcha was the first type of captcha and was thought to be easy for humans to recognise but difficult for robots. However, people who can not see, distinguish or comprehend the characters represented in the images have been excluded from this form of captcha.
An alternative to character-based captcha is sound output. The most common form of sound output is audio captcha, where words and numbers are presented audibly and users are required to type what they hear. However, just as images are blurred in the visual character-based captcha, the sound is muffled in the audio captcha and it is difficult to identify whether a number, such as fifty, is to be written in words or as a figure. While a good audio captcha is welcomed by people with a print disability such as blindness, vision impairment and dyslexia, it excludes people who are deaf or hard of hearing, people with an intellectual disability, people with little or no English skills and, if the quality is really bad, most people including those with a print disability.
There are now many other types of captcha. These include, but are not limited to, face recognition, finger printing, setting security questions, signing on with a password and email address or phone number, and face capture - where the user is required to identify the gender of a face or to match the face to a name. As can be seen from the paragraphs above, one technique is not suitable for everyone; even those without a disability can be in a situation where they are unable to use a certain method of captcha as illustrated in the scenario in this article.
The solution is to use more than one captcha technique. Facebook, for example, allows the user to create an account with an email address or mobile number and password and prompts the user to provide personal answers to some questions such as “What was the name of your first pet?”. If you forget your password, you can choose to get a series of numbers via mobile or email that you can type in, or you can provide the answers to your elected questions, or you can choose to match the face to a person. This is a huge positive leap from when I first signed up to Facebook in 2007, where I had a friend do it all for me. Consequently, I was unable to use Facebook for long periods of time when I forgot my password as I had to get a friend or family member, at a time that suits us both, to sign me in again.
Yet, while captcha techniques have improved for accessibility, it has not been very successful in ensuring the site’s security from robots. Improved artificial intelligence has made it more and more difficult to distinguish input from a robot and a human. Robots can now carry out tasks that only humans could once do such as recognise text in images, identify faces and process speech.
In conclusion, the most important thing for me is to ensure that accessibility is not compromised by security. A site needs to be both secure and accessible, and it doesn’t really matter what captcha techniques are employed as long as there is a technique included that caters to the needs of all users according to their ability and situation at the time of use.
This article is based on the W3C Accessible Platform Architectures (APA) Working Group’s draft publication, ‘Inaccessibility of CAPTCHA Alternatives to Visual Turing Tests on the Web' -

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Have you considered taking one of our courses in Digital Accessibility?  Leah Napier, Reader Services Librarian for the Spearwood/Cockburn Libraries said of her experience in the Certificate in Digital Accessibility,

“This is probably the only certificate from a work training course that I actually want to have displayed somewhere at my desk!”

Register your interest in an upcoming course by contacting us at

Looking for Participants for a Research Project

A Curtin University Senior Research Fellow, Dr Anna Hampson Lundh, is currently looking for people who are blind or vision impaired who are willing to be interviewed for an hour about their use of text-to-speech tools, talking books, and other audio-based technologies to read for their postgraduate university studies. If you would like to know more about this research or are interested in participating or forwarding recruitment materials, please contact Anna on or 08 9266 7291

Upcoming Events Green Calendar Icon Graphic

Perth Web Accessibility & Inclusive Design Meetup
20th of November, 2018
Dome Cafe, 149 James Street, Northbridge.
Read more about the Accessibility Meetup group
Or see the new A11y website here!

TPAC 2018
22-26th of October, 2018
Lyon, France
Registrations for TPAC are here
OZeWAI 2018
21-23rd of November, 2018
ABC Studios, Sydney
Register for OZeWAI or submit a proposal here
16th International Web for All Conference (W4A’19)
13-15th of May, 2019
San Francisco, USA

This year’s theme is "Personalization – Personalizing the Web".
Submissions for papers for the conference are due 27th of January, 2019. All topics related to web accessibility are welcome as are papers dealing with wider aspects of digital accessibility and universal access.
More information about W4A here

W4A is co-located with the 27th International World Wide Web Conference (WWW’19)
More information about WWW'19 here

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If you haven't already, take a look at our Facebook page for daily updates and some excellent accessibility articles and resources, there really is a lot on there. We also have a Twitter feed, as well as LinkedIn. All these links are below for future reference, so have a click around, and share this with your friends.

Please do remember to take a moment to look at our website and as always, we look forward to hearing your thoughts, comments and any feedback you may have!
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