CAPTCHA – Is it good or evil?

by David Naylor
See Dave Speak SMX London

We are all aware of CAPTCHA – Completely Automated Public Turing Test to Tell Computers and Humans Apart, but in this day and age when disabilities are a key issue for society should sites be still allowed to use them?

The main reason for a CAPTCHA is to prevent bots from registering on sites to enable email address registration for spam emails, to solicit email spam or online spam of sites such as online polls. But the use of a password system that is displayed as a distorted image or letters that are obscured using random methods such as overlaying, has to prevent certain web users from being able to access websites fully.

A CAPTCHA will prevent a visually impaired user from accessing a protective source. They are not a computer, but a human with special requirements. A visually impaired person would not be able to use their screen reader to register with a site that uses a CAPTCHA….
There has been slow development on audio CAPTCHA's but this would not be effective and has not been developed fully. But then the audio CAPTCHA will affect another group of disabilities…
Sites using CAPTCHA's will be the target of litigation for discrimination against people with disabilities.

The W3C WAI, Web Accessibility Initiative, clearly states that the web must be accessible for everyone regardless of disability. All people must be able to perceive, understand, navigate and interact with the site. It is estimated that around 10% of the population in each country is classified as disabled which puts them in a big market share, not to be missed out on. With the Disability Discrimination Act become a greater force in making sure that all buildings are accessible to the disabled it is only a matter of time before CAPTCHA will be under greater scrutiny and classed as discriminatory.

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