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Google reCAPTCHA Purchase Boosts Accessibility Potential

The purchase by Google of reCAPTCHA, the most widely used ‘CAPTCHA’ system on the internet, could lead to significant improvements in the system’s accessibility, a leading analyst has told E-Access Bulletin.

‘CAPTCHAs’ are tests used to block ‘robots’ or automated tools from accessing websites by posing a task that only humans can complete. These tests are usually visual, such as interpreting and keying in distorted letters and numbers, but audio CAPTCHAs – where letters are read out for the user to input – are crucial for visually impaired users. The reCAPTCHA system includes audio tasks.

Lainey Feingold ( ),
a disability rights lawyer in the US, told E-Access Bulletin that with its considerable resources, Google – which itself already uses audio CAPTCHA tests on some features – have a prime opportunity to improve reCAPTCHA’s accessibility. “There is no excuse for the company not improving the reCAPTCHA audio features and making this the most accessible CAPTCHA on the internet today. Google also knows how to harness public opinion and end-user expertise, which they definitely should do here”, she said.

To make these improvements, Google should create a focus group of end users who cannot use a visual CAPTCHA, said Feingold. The company should “get extensive feedback from this group and implement the feedback – then get more feedback and implement that,” she said.

In a joint statement on the official Google blog, Luis von Ahn, co-founder of reCAPTCHA and Will Cathcart, Google product manager, said: “Improving the availability and accessibility of all the information on the internet is really important to us, so we’re looking forward to advancing this technology with the reCAPTCHA team.”


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