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November 06, 2003
W3C Working Draft on Anti-Robot Tests
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has been one of the leaders in ensuring the web is accessible to everyone despite disability (Web Accessability Initiative). Now, C|Net News reports that the W3C is concerned about access for the visually impaired being hindered by so-called "robot tests" (W3C criticizes antirobot tests). These tests, which are frequently used by websites for registration purposes, require a visual verfication of text and numerals obscured in an image so that a computer cannot decipher the text, but a human (with our awesome text processing capabilities) can. If you've recently signed up for a Hotmail account or for eBay or something, you've run into one of these tests. The tests have been fairly successful at preventing spammers and other bad actors from accessing protected services. Problem is, the visually impaired are also prevented from accessing these services.
This is a tough problem and I sympathize with both sides. The W3C has put forth a working draft in an attempt to develop some solutions (Inaccessibility of Visually-Oriented Anti-Robot Tests: Problems and Alternatives).
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