Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Yahoo acknowledges inaccessible content, yet still fails to innovate

Well, if this doesn’t take the cake.

I have posted on Access Ability previously about
Yahoo’s inaccessible CAPTCHA,
those distorted letters and numbers that appear in a graphic and require the user to type them into an edit field to prove there is a human on their end of the computer and not some spam robot. Screen readers like the one I use, JAWS, do not recognize these images and Yahoo has been unwilling to present an accessible solution, of which several varieties already exist on different web sites.

It is as if Yahoo is sticking their head in the sand and ignoring the mere existence of blind computer users and their need for accessible web content. Maybe that is part of the grand Yahoo master plan, just play dumb and we can offer that as our defense.

I personally know, as of today, for a fact that Yahoo can not plead ignorance. (Its not like they really could, given the public outcry and awareness that has been raised over the past few months by advocates such as Darrell Shandrow at
The Blind Access Journal
Over inaccessible CAPTCHA.)

How did I find out that Yahoo knows blind people exist? Let me explain...

I use a Yahoo mail account for email and news alerts pertaining to this blog, and while signing in to my Yahoo account this morning, I was prompted to upgrade to the “ALL-NEW Yahoo! Mail.” In the pitch, I was told that I should “Be a better pal!” This was followed by claims that “We've built a better Yahoo! Mail, so upgrade to the all-new faster and easier version,” and given a list of what was better about their new service.

This all sounds really good, but below that list was the following message in a link:
“Unfortunately the new Yahoo! Mail doesn't currently work with screen readers. Until then, please return to Yahoo! Mail Classic.”

So, Yahoo acknowledges that they recognize there are blind people using their site and products. And, this includes me, as I was being personally directed to go back to Classic mode. Furthermore, they grant that their “ALL-NEW” and “better” Yahoo doesn’t work with screen readers. And, put this all together and Yahoo is saying blind people can’t be “better pals,” at least not if Yahoo has anything to say about it.

This means that one day, if Yahoo decides to make this much ballyhooed product accessible to screen readers, it will be a retrofit used to provide a virtual on-ramp that blind people can use onto this information superhighway, instead of having built in accessibility from the beginning. I just find it disgusting that people like the developers who make these products that can be designed with accessibility from the beginning, choose not to even attempt this. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a new building must include wheelchair accessibility and only older buildings are allowed to retrofit. Why do information technologies not fall into some equal category for providing accessibility?

After this mornings experience, I have a question for Yahoo that comes to mind about their technologies. If you can detect that I am using a screen reader, and your company considers itself a leader and innovator of web content, then why in the world can the geniuses on your staff not incorporate the screen reader detection that I encountered today with your CAPTCHA to present an accessible method of human verification when you find a blind user is present?

This just gives me another reason to beat the awareness drum for the
Yahoo accessibility improvement petition.
If you have not yet signed the petition, please do so and help spread the news of this still on-going battle.


Anonymous said...

Your above article concerning Yahoo's cavalier attitude towards people using screen readers is very compelling. As a Master's level Rehabilitation Counselor and a traumatic brain injury survivor, I am astonished that Yahoo turns a deaf ear and displays a condescending attitude toward the needs of individuals who use screen readers.

Thank you for starting the petition. I signed the petition and completely endorse your efforts to have the great and mighty Yahoo step up to the plate to make compatible updates available for individuals using screen readers.

My request to you Yahoo is to get HOT improving your technology in order to concurrently meet the needs of individual using screen readers. To ignore the request is to disparage individuals who need real time advances in your screen reader technology. In the event that you -- Yahoo -- chose to not step up to the plate and make compatible updates available to keep in stride with individuals not using screen readers, you will practically demonstrate discrimination toward those individuals who need to use the screen reader option.

If Yahoo continues to ignore the requests of those individuals using screen readers, maybe an alternative to using Yahoo would be appropriate.

Thank you Ron for for taking the time to draft this post. You are a blessing to many who do not even know your name.

God bless you.

Craig J. Phillips MRC,BA
Second Chance to Live

Our circumstances are not meant to keep us down, but to build us up!

Ron Graham said...


Thank you for both your comment and most gracious compliment.
However, I can’t take any credit for starting that petition. I did, sign it, though, once I learned of its existence and wrote about it in the earlier post mentioned above. I am merely an advocate for accessibility and will heartily endorse any movement that sets up to bring about needed change.

In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need to worry about issues such as accessibility. Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world and it is up to each of us as individuals to speak up and do our part to make accessibility a reality.

Anonymous said...

Amen Brother!

Samara said...

Ron, you are truly an amazing person. As a visually impaired JAWS user myself, I have tried and tried over and over to find a way to be able to create a yahoo account and use yahoo features without having to ask somebody, because where I live, there are not many people I can ask.

I personally do not see why yahoo seems to think adding an audio captia is such a difficult thing. Google does it, AOL does it, LiveJournal does it, hell, I think now even facebook does it. But yahoo (and hotmail now that I think about it and last time I checked) does not do it. I personally find that very discriminating and if it were possible, I'd sue there rotten asses for all they were worth.

Thank you SOOOOOOO (in all caps) much for advocating for us, and if there is anything I can do to help you, I will.

Do you mind if I post the link to this post and to the petition on my LiveJournal blog? I won't unless you aprove, but I figure, the more people who can help advocate with us, the better off we'll be.

You are truly amazing. You give me hope. It's so nice to know I'm not the only visually impaired person floundering out there. Great job. I am very, VERY (in all caps) impressed by you.


Feel free to email me if you ever need help with anything. *laughs* And it would also be cool to bounce JAWS talk back and forth with somebody who knows what I'm babbling about. LOL

Again, you are amazing. Keep up the INCREDIBLE (in all caps) work.