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Bruce, Caroline

"No Blind People Allowed" Signs

There is a gentleman in the so-called blindness community who is a self-proclaimed accessibility evangelist. I'm not particularly fond of the term, but that's what he calls himself. And I like the guy, not to mention the fact that he has done a lot by way of improving accessibility in many areas.

One area, though, where I have a great deal of difficulty with this person is his analogies. One of this person's huge concerns is accessible captcha, those words, letters and numbers that you have to type on some Web pages to gain access to a particular product or service. This gentleman is a very strong advocate for what I call partially-accessible captcha. I say partially because he feels a battle is won if an audio captcha is provided, a solution which is no solution at all if you are a deafblind person.

But his analogy with the inaccessible captcha has been comparing our situation to that faced by African-Americans during the civil rights fight. It's a horrid comparison: yes, we need sighted assistance to gain access to these sites, but once in, we face neither death, bodily injuries, threats, nor even persecution. I sincerely doubt that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would have approved of the analogy. Further, this accessibility evengelist says, inaccessible captcha is the same as putting up a "no blind people allowed" sign. This is simply not true. While I agree that captcha or its equivalent should be accessible TO THE BLIND AND TO THE DEAFBLIND, nobody will kick you out if you get sighted assistance to sign you up.

I bring up this dreary subject again because, in my insomniac state, I got to wondering if this gentleman has ever experienced a real "no blind people allowed" sign. A dear friend of mine was in China recently. She told me that, in front of some public facilities, were signs that proclaimed that any disabled person caught trying to use the facilities would be arrested. It really made me stop and think how good we ahve it here. It's not perfect, to be sure. There are lots of things that could be improved. But as a disabled person, there are many more discriminatory places I could be living in than Canada or the United States.

It just seems very, very wrong to me, and I'm not saying this to pick a fight, to use analogies to represent the problems of something like inaccessible captcha and compare them to true oppression, to true, intentional discrimination. It seems insulting to those who suffered and even died in the causes sited by that analogy to compare them to something as, let's face it, minor in the grand scheme of things as captcha.


agreed, completely.

My family are Philippino, and there are very few options for PWD there. like you said; we have it so good here.
I completely agree.
I think comparing CAPTCHAs to something like civil rights is wrong. If there's a CAPTCHA, I can either get sighted assistance to sign up, or go elsewhere and get the same service.
I doubt he'd use the same kind of language if he were ever confronted with the type of discrimination your friend learned of in China. Maybe he needs reminding of just how good we've got it. Most blind people in developing countries need access to the basics. I guess it's a matter of perspective. I still think his language is on the harsher side and needs to be toned down.
I also agree. I think his heart is most definitely in the right place, absolutely no doubt about that. But I think this is mostly ignorance on the part of the people using the captcha system. They have no idea that it locks us out, how could they know if we don't tell them? But there are ways around it. The service isn't saying hey! Let's put up this captcha so we can get rid of those stupid blind people! They aren't doing this on purpose, they just plane don't know. I have tried on a number of occasions to get this across to him, but it doesn't seem to be getting through. sigh. I like the guy and he's done a lot of great work, but I, much like you, am really bothered by the sign analogy.