Last week I started my Waspish Wednesday series where I post something relatively short that I am kinda pissy about, usually something I’d like people to change.
This week’s topic is a phenomenon that has bothered me for a long time, but which reached a tipping point this week, due to Blogging Against Disablism Day (which is awesome, so please go read the posts!).
Also, I will be hosting the Disability Blog Carnival in September, and I want to “put it out there” before then.
I have been surprised and disappointed, when I comment at other disabled bloggers’ sites, that I have to go through CAPTCHA (Word Verification) in order to post a comment. This includes a lot of disability-rights-aware folks, such as people who participate in the Disability Blog Carnival and the BADD blogswarm.
What I have noticed is that (and this is a generalization, please note, not true of all, by any means), is that many bloggers who are blind do not have CAPTCHA, whereas many bloggers who have other disabilities (such as mobility impairments, chronic illness, mental illness, etc.), do. That suggests that in most cases, people for whom CAPTCHA is a barrier are aware of the problem, and don’t use it, and that people for whom CAPTCHA is not a barrier are not aware of the problem. I hate to see our community divided up like that!
I think I have been particularly surprised by the CAPTCHAs everywhere because I think we haven’t had a single blogger for the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival use it since the first edition. (The third ADBC just went up last night! Check it out!) After that, L-squared commented on it, and we raised awareness, and everyone has been so great about getting rid of it!
Here’s the issue: CAPTCHA makes commenting very difficult or impossible for many people with disabilities. Disabilities that might interfere with using CAPTCHA include (but are not limited to) blindness, deaf-blindness, and cognitive and neurological disabilities of many varieties.
**December 2011 Update! I have a short, new post up about CAPTCHA because Blogger has a new version, apparently, which makes it harder to get rid of this “feature.” However, it’s still possible to do, and detailed instructions are included in that post and in its comment section. I also bear witness, now that I have a Blogger blog, that spam is totally not a problem without “word verification,” so issue #2 below really should not be an issue.**
I suspect that people who have CAPTCHA fall into one of three groups:
- They don’t realize it’s a problem (and may not even know they have it) and/or don’t know how to get rid of it.
- They know it’s a problem, but because of their own needs (e.g., fatigue, pain, limited keyboarding ability, cognitive issues, etc.), they can’t deal with moderating every comment that comes through.
- They don’t give a crap that their comments are not accessible to people with disabilities.
If you’re in category #3, you’re probably not reading my blog! But, if you are, and you have no interest in making your comments accessible, then you deserve not to get comments, so phooey on you.
Now, on to what I think is the majority of people, categories 1 and 2.
First, category 1.
* * *
Dear Fellow Bloggers Who Don’t Realize Word Verification Is a Problem,
The problem is that many people with blindness or other disabilities have trouble “deciphering” the “word,” and when they try to play the audio CAPTCHA, it is often completely impossible to understand! (Until Google made CAPTCHA easier, I had a lot of trouble with it, myself — keeping in mind that I am sighted and hearing — and I’d try the visual over and over until I got it right or gave up, and I was never able to understand the audio. It seemed like a cruel joke!) If a reader is deaf-blind or has low-vision and auditory-processing issues, well, forget it! Thus, this feature pisses a lot of people off.
Wouldn’t you like to get more comments? More readers? Wouldn’t you like to contribute to greater access in the world?
I knew you would!
To get rid of this feature (which I think Blogger sets up automatically, so you might not even be aware of it), L-squared told me this is how you fix it: “On the Settings tab, click on the Comments section and then scroll down the page and click the NO option for Word Verification.” Or, you can go to this page on Blogger Help, which walks you through it.
Thank you so very much for making the world a more accessible place! >MWAH!< (That’s me throwing you kisses.) May you be rewarded with many wonderful comments!
* * *
Now, you Category 2 people.
Dear Bloggers Who Are Dealing with Your Own Disabilities and Can’t Handle Eliminating CAPTCHA,
Doesn’t it suck when disabilities conflict? I feel your pain. This happens in my own household on a frequent basis. In fact, many of my own disabilities conflict with each other! It’s hard when you want to be an ally, but your own needs make that difficult.
I admit, I did not realize how difficult it could be not to have some screening system for comments until I got my new WordPress blog (.org as opposed to this one, which is .com), which does not seem to just file the spam in a spam folder, like regular WordPress does. I get about 20 spam comments a day that I have to moderate. Augh!
So, if you want to keep Word Verification, but you still want to provide comment access to people who cannot use Word Verification, here is what I suggest:
Put a note somewhere obvious on your blog, such as on your menu, or a note at the bottom of every post, or a sticky at the top of your blog or something, that says, “I use Word Verification (CAPTCHA) because it’s too difficult for me to moderate all comments. However, I value your input! If you would like to comment and cannot use CAPTCHA, please send your comments to me at blogname [at] isp [dot] com or use this contact form” (and link to your contact form).
It doesn’t have to be that, exactly. Just let people know that you’re aware it’s an issue, and provide them another route. That would be stupendous, and Barnum and I both send you kisses! (Unless you’re not into that kind of thing, in which case we send you distant, cheery waves. Yes, he can do an excellent paw wave. I should put up a video.)
* * *
Oh, and here’s why I am finally writing this post now, even though I’ve been aware of the problem for a long time: So many of the BADD posts (most of them, I’d say), require Word Verification to comment. Plus, I noticed that very few of my favorite bloggers — people who participate in the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival — participated in BADD 2011, which I thought was a shame. I can’t help but wonder if it’s because so many BADD bloggers have CAPTCHA that it just felt like a really painful irony — blogging about ableism and using an ableist feature in your blog!
It’s never too late to try to fix something (just ask Barnum — ba-dump-bump! — he is now out of his E-collar). Please, my fellow bloggers (whether or NOT you have a disability!), make commenting accessible!
Thank you very much!
-Sharon, the muse of Gadget, and Barnum SDiT?
P.S. I forgot a letter!
Dear Bloggers Who Have Already Eliminated Word Verification from Your Blogs,
You are helping to make the blogosphere a better and more accessible place.
You totally rock! Thank you!