Wow, it’s been a real long time since I’ve written anything here… I just haven’t had the time or the desire to really do any blogging. I was reading a thread today, however, that got my kickers in a bunch, so I felt that perhaps it was a good day to come out of retirement. Typically I don’t express much personal opinion on this blog, but since I haven’t expressed much of anything on this blog in the last 6 months, I don’t suppose anyone is going to care if I get a little opinionated here.
What tripped me off today was the subject of Captcha. If you don’t know what it is, it’s when you need to enter some goofy looking letters or numbers to enter a website or register for something. Here’s an Example from the Forest of Love. As you can see, I myself use Captchas on my own sites. The purpose of these is to ensure that the registering party is actually a human and not some program written by a script kiddie that wants to sell Viagra(tm) on my website. As of this writing I have a Captcha, 100% custom written by yours truly in Flash, that integrates with php in order to try to fool the bots. I love this little flash… I was very proud of it when I got it completed. It even has a place where you can use Audio to read the characters for you if you can’t read them on the screen.
As much as I love it, I’m thinking of replacing it. Why?
The Flash Captcha on the page I just linked to has several Accessibility problems, and it’s likely that anyone on the Website Accessibility A-Train would virtually flame it so badly that I might as well serve it with some Favre Beans and A Nice Chianti… *slurp slurp*
For one, it’s Flash based. Bad move. Flash has become a sort of ‘Bad Boy’ of web design in recent years because it can be loud, distracting, and a overall bad experience for the visitor, not to mention long load times. In addition, Flash isn’t always installed by default on every browser, and even though it might be installed, it isn’t necessarily enabled. Without Flash installed and enabled on my site, the Captcha fails and you cannot register.
Secondly, even though I have a button that plays the audio, it’s likely that a screen reader (a program for the blind that reads the contents of a web page) couldn’t use it anyway… making the audio fairly useless. Since it’s in flash, the screen reader wouldn’t be able to read it and notify the visitor (who is probably blind) that they have an audio option.
Third, it’s a Captcha, and Captchas are ALWAYS bad for Accessibility. Ask anyone who is a ‘Web Accessibility Expert’ and they’ll tell you that a Captcha does nothing but put barriers and speedbumps in the way of legitimate users who are trying to surf the web. It’s annoying and an inconvenience and should be stricken from this Earth and avoided like the black plague!
Web Accessibility Experts annoy me. A lot.
They’re usually the same type of people who like to tell me what my site can and cannot look like, how it can and cannot operate, and how I must follow strict guidelines when creating my website so that anyone can access it from any type of computer or any type of browser. Nevermind that the site is MINE and owned by ME and I should have total creative control over it. Nevermind that maybe I don’t CARE if blind people can access my site. That’s not the case, but so what if it is? It’s MY site. That’s what I think anyway. To the ‘Expers’, however, it doesn’t matter. if I don’t make my site accessible to even the smallest minority of web users not only am I an amateur web designer and programmer by default, but I’m also insensitive, and might even be a monster, chauvinist, bigot, or even a conservative. Well… now we don’t want that, do we?
It gets worse, because, since I’m an American, I could probably be sued because someone couldn’t read my blog or view my images due to being blind. Yeah, that’s right. The Target retail store chain just got sued for this very thing. A blind person wasn’t able to shop on their online store because Target didn’t make their website accessible to the blind. Now, I’m not saying the suit against Target is totally unjustified, but I’ve seen some go so far as to say that there should be laws passed saying how accessible websites need to be. Imagine what would happen to mySpace if laws like this passed?
Anyway, I digress. I was reading about a new type of Captcha today that I’m thinking very seriously about implementing on my sites, replacing the Captcha I wrote myself. It’s called ReCaptcha, and it’s pretty cool. It uses words from books to make the Captcha, has an audio component made to work with screen readers, and it benefits the world at the same time. I think it’s a cool idea, but a couple of the comments on the page regarding ReCaptcha smack of accessibility righteousness, which is what prompted me to post this entry.
Awesome idea! For wasting a sh*tload of everyone’s time! Thanks for putting more roadblocks and speedbumps on the web!
But captchas are, at best, annoying! It’s a shame that people that want to post a comment must pass this painful step. And I don’t speak about people with difficulties.
The fact of the matter is that Captchas are the lesser of two evils. Either you endure filling out a Captcha script when you sign up for mail or any other service… or you spend your life digging through Viagra and Mobile Phone ads looking for content. Personally, if one of my visitors can’t be bothered to fill out my Captcha before they use my free service, I don’t miss them.
As an additional note to Web Accessibility Experts who carry the torch of righteousness, I applaud your efforts and hope that someday everyone regardless of age or impairment can have access to everything, but don’t tell me how to create my websites. The day I create a background image for the blind users of my website is the day that you can take me out back and put me out of my misery. Thank you.