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W3C WAI CAPTCHA Note second draft now online

I’m excited to report that the second working draft of the W3C WAI advice on the inaccessibility of CAPTCHA that I’ve been involved in is now online.

The update follows on from the first updated CAPTCHA draft at which point it was announced that:  

“The Accessible Platform Architectures Working Group has published a Working Draft of a revision to Inaccessibility of CAPTCHA at: https://www.w3.org/TR/turingtest/ Inaccessibility of CAPTCHA has been a Working Group Note since 2005. It describes problems with common approaches to distinguish human users of web sites from robots, and examines a number of potential solutions. Since the last publication, the abilities of robots to defeat CAPTCHAs has increased, and new technologies to authenticate human users have come available. This update brings the document up to date with these new realities. It is published as Working Draft to gather public review, after which it is expected to be republished as a Working Group Note.”

This latest version of the draft includes a general restructure of the Note, new guidance relating to Google reCAPTCHA and the increased use of data collected over time to determine the likelihood of a user being a robot or a human.

As an invited expert for the W3C WAI APA Research Questions Task Force (RQTF), it’s been a privilege to work with Janina and Michael on updating the note alongside the hard work of all the RQTF members.  As the Note continues to be refined ready for publication it remains a great experience to be involved in the process.

Perth Web Accessibility Camp 2019 highlights

The 2019 Perth Web Accessibility Camp was held on 12 February at VisAbility and a fantastic day was had by all. With over 100 people in attendance and a great diversity of presentations, it was a great opportunity to talk about digital access from a variety of perspectives. Here’s a selection of my personal highlights from the Camp.

Professor Denise Wood presenting

The Keynote was delivered by Professor Denise Wood, Central Queensland University. The topic, titled ‘Designing Culturally Responsive and Inclusive Online Learning Environments: An Evidence-Based Approach’, discussed how people with disability engage with learning tools and some of the challenges they may face. The key takeway message for me was that accessibility issues are much less about the online learning platform used by the institution and much more about how the content on top of it is designed. It can also be useful to students to include additional accessibility tools to support students broadly.  

Next up was ‘Here comes WCAG 2.1!’ by Amanda Mace from Web Key IT and Julie Grundy from Intopia. There was some great discussion across the new WCAG 2.1 Success Criteria, explaining the importance of things like reflow and ensuring that content on mobile devices needs to work effectively for people that may not be able to move their device to activate various sensors. With WCAG 2.1 gradually being adopted internationally, it was a great introduction as to how the new extensions build on the legacy WCAG 2.0 requirements.   

Doctor Scott Hollier presenting

After the break it was my turn, providing an update to the W3C advice on inaccessible CAPTCHA. In the presentation I talked about how traditional CAPTCHAs such as the use of text on bitmapped images and audio-based CAPTCHAs are not only inaccessible but also not secure. I also provided an update on the advice our group has been putting together as part of the CAPTCHA advisory note. It was great to have a chance to share the information.

A topic that is starting to get more attention was highlighted by Vithya Vijayakumare and David Vosnacos from VisAbility discussing the access implications of 360 degree video. In particular the exploring of captioning positioning for people who are Deaf or hearing impaired and how binaural recording can be used to provide an effective surround experience. This is rapidly becoming a hot topic in international standards discussion so the presentation was both timely and informative.

An important emerging topic that was discussed was from Claudia De los Rios Pérez from Curtin University who discussed the implications of Web design for neurodiverse users. The needs of people with Autism and similar conditions can be overlooked in the pursuit of WCAG compliance so it was good to get some guidance on how to structure websites in a way that better supports the diversty of users.

While all these presentations were fantastic, my favourite from the Camp was from Clare Chamberlain on the topic ‘Negative Life Trajectory – a battle for Plain English’. The topic really challenged the audience to consider the implications of language and the need to carefully consider our messaging. The takeway for me is that we tend to bury our websites in complicated language and clutter which affects a number of different disability groups, yet in most cases the same message can be delivered effectively through some simple restructuring and rephrasing. Prior to this presentation I’d always thought it was quite challenging to simplify language without the loss of meaning, but the presentation demonstrated it can be done quickly and effectively with a bit of time and consideration.

In addition to the presentations, it wouldn’t be a Perth Web Accessiblity Camp without the infamous Great Debate which is up to its sixth year with the fiery topic ‘Paying extra for accessibility is totally worth it’. The debate did its job well in waking up the audience after lunch and providing some great food for thought along the way.

Many thanks to my colleagues in the Camp organising committee for what was a fantastic day and VisAbility for hosting the event.

CES 2019: big technology potential for people with disabilities

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is the world’s largest consumer technology exhibition and showcases the products likely to appear in our shops in the coming months. While CES 2018 was more of an evolution rather than revolution, this year’s show highlighted some new products that could have significant benefits for people with disabilities. Here’s a few of my picks for new consumer technologies that are likely to be helpful as they appear in our shops during 2019.  

MATRIX POWERWATCH 2 SELF-POWERING SMARTWATCH

The Matrix PowerWatch 2  is one of the most exciting devices at CES this year. This is due in part to the watch itself, but also due to the potential application of the technology for people with disabilities. The watch cleverly uses a combination of mini solar panels and body heat to keep the watch charged meaning it never needs to be plugged in.

For people with disabilities, the PowerWatch 2 offers several great features commonly found in smartwatches such as heart rate monitoring, but the fact it never needs manual charging now makes it an option for people that may find it difficult to get a watch on and off to charge due to their disability. Arguably more exciting though is the potential of the technology embedded in other products as there could be a wealth of disability-related sensors, mobility aids and communication devices that may become self-powering. This could potentially improve the reliability of daily assistance without fear of the battery going flat.

GOOGLE V AMAZON: MORE SCREENS, MORE DOMINANCE

Over the past few years the war over dominance in the smarthome has been raging with the Amazon Echo taking the early lead. However, Google Home has well and truly caught up with most new products featured now including dual connectivity for both the Amazon Echo and google Home range of products. There are also a number of specialist products such as the Whirlpool KitchenAid which has a built-in Google digital assistant and provides premium recipe services. The thinking here is that customised devices containing an assistant can have some extra advantages such as in this instance being able to rinse the assistant under the tap if food gets on it.  

From a disability perspective, there’s a few things to take note in terms of digital assistants this year including their interaction with the Internet of Things (IoT). Firstly, it’s clear this year that Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant are neck-and-neck so either ecosystem appears to be well supported at this time. However, it also means that other digital assistants such as Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana are not getting much traction so any automated home integration should look to Google or Amazon as their preferred provider.

Secondly, a notable trend is that the digital assistant is appearing in more devices. This means that there is a lot of potential for disability-specific products being enabled with an assistant. For example, we may see motorised wheelchairs with an assistant which could put itself away at the end of the day, then be brought back to the bedside just by calling it.

The other aspect of digital assistants highlighted this year is the move towards screen integration, but not at the expense of audio integration. This is great news for people who are Deaf or hearing impaired as it means that there are devices that can be controlled visually, but people who rely on audio such as people who are blind or vision impaired will continue to enjoy the full functionality of the device. The effective integration of multiple interfaces is a great indicator that as this area continues to develop, our ability to control our environment will not be limited by one type of interface.

LG OLED ROLLABLE TV

Last year LG demonstrated a prototype rollable OLED TV, but this year it’s ready for the shops with a likely release in late 2019. The rollable TV could potentially have many benefits for people with a vision-related disability as the giant screen can be put away when not needed, but provides a large screen display when required such as reading text from a smartphone message or using a smartphone to take a photo of text which could then be blown up on the TV. Aside from the TV itself, we’re seeing more displays being able to use the bendable OLED technology with prototype smartphones already being foldable, so the possibility of having a giant display screen in your pocket for those times that seeing things on a large display is needed is not too far off now.

GOOGLE INTERPRETER

Another highlight of CES 2019 that I personally found really exciting is Google Interpreter. While Google has had translation features in its smartphones for some time, this is optimised for conversations between two or more people with the results being both in audio and visually shown on the screen.

A big issue I have when travelling to other countries is that I don’t have many options when it comes to languages – due to being vision impaired I can’t easily point to something or even read an English translation. The potential of being able to fluently have a conversation with someone when I arrive at a shop that has something like this available would be incredibly helpful.

HTC VIVE PRO EYE-TRACKING VIRTUAL REALITY

The last thing that has great potential is the improvements to eye tracking found in the latest version of the HTC Vive Pro Eye Virtual Reality system. Eye tracking itself is not particularly new with a number of games and even Windows 10 supporting eye tracking products. However this allows eye tracking to occur in a 3D virtual environment meaning that someone who has limited movement can step into virtual worlds to engage with games, interact with productivity applications or even potentially interact in a blended mode as Augmented Reality systems are developed with the same technology. This could be the start of significant new opportunities of people with mobility impairments limited only by the imagination of the virtual world being created.

These are just a few of my personal favourites on display. If you’d like to read more about all the products at CES 2019, please visit the CES section of the CNet website.

Domino’s Pizza USA required to make app and website accessible

Using food delivery apps can be a frustrating experience for people who are blind or vision impaired. From personal experience I’ve found this is generally due to missing alternative text or the screen reader being hijacked by a pop-up special offer that prevents the order from being completed. However the challenges of online food purchasing is about to change with a landmark legal case in the US against Domino’s Pizza.

The complaint was brought forward by Guillermo Robles, a blind Domino’s customer who said that the iOS based app on the iPhone did not work effectively with the VoiceOver screen reader. As a result, he was unable to change pizza toppings, complete the order or use coupons.

The case began in 2016 with an argument based on the belief that not being able to complete an order placed Domino’s in breach of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990. Specifically, the Act states  it is unlawful for businesses to deny individuals with disabilities access to their goods and services unless the effort involved places them under an “undue burden”.

Supreme pizza from Domino's

Supreme Pizza (Copyright © Domino’s Pizza)

While the case was initially lost, Robles was successful on appeal and Domino’s Pizza USA is now required to fix its website and app.

The accessibility issue featured in the case primarily revolves around the lack of alternative text for images, a common complaint faced by blind and vision impaired users of fast food apps due to the rapidly-changing nature of special products often resulting in alternative text being skipped over in the rush to promote items. As a result, a future Domino’s online store is now required to ensure that its website and app are compliant with web accessibility standards and compatible with VoiceOver on iOS devices.

While Domino’s Pizza USA is a separate trading entity to Domino’s Pizza Australia, the ruling is likely to spark other online food providers to take notice and update their content to more effectively support the needs of people with disabilities.

Additional information on the case can be found on the BBC News website.

Registrations open for 2019 Perth Web Accessibility Camp

The time has come again when the Perth web accessibility community comes together for its annual web accessibility camp. The event will be held on 12 February at the VisAbility Victoria Park premises and registrations are now open.

Celebrating its sixth year, the Perth Web Accessibility Camp (PWAC) is a one-day event featuring a variety of presentations and other things relating to disability and technology.

I’ll be presenting on the day about my work with the W3C Research Questions Task Force as it relates to our updated W3C Note on the use of CAPTCHA. Other organisations presenting include Web Key IT and Intopia.

Additional information on registering can be found on the Eventbrite registration page. If you’d like to get a better understanding of how the day works you can also read my highlights article from last year’s PWAC event.