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Oops: White House Website Glitch Keeps Blind People from Signing Petition for...the Blind


"The White House should implement a better audio CAPTCHA."

The National Federation of the Blind has launched a White House petition using the "We the People" tool but says that the people it is advocating for -- the blind -- can't even sign it.

Politico reported NFB's spokesperson, Chris Danielsen, saying the organization has been receiving emails from blind people saying they can't sign the petition, which seeks to gain support for a treaty that would give more blind people around the world access to books specialized for them to read.

The problem is a CAPTCHA code that must be inserted to sign the petition. These slightly obscured letters are a security measure meant to ensure a real human is generating a response -- not a computer.

Example of a CAPTCHA code (Image: Wikimedia)

Given that the letters must be viewed in order to type them in, there is an audio feature to help those who have trouble reading it or who can't see at all. But Danielsen told Politico the audio is not understandable for those relying on it to accurately input the letters.

NFB wants the requirement of reaching 100,000 signatures to merit a White House response to be waived because of this issue. The Huffington Post also reported Danielsen giving an alternative idea.

"The White House should implement a better audio CAPTCHA," he wrote. "That or a different kind of CAPTCHA, such as one that requires the user to answer a simple mathematical or logic question like '3+6=' or 'If today is Friday, what day was three days ago?'"

The White House, on the other hand, told Politico the website is compliant with the requirements of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, but it is looking into improvements.

The petition states that less than 1 percent of printed works are accessible to the blind "because laws around the world bar printed material from being turned into formats useable by the blind and visually impaired, or for such material to be shared across borders."

Representatives will be meeting soon to finalize a treaty that could change this.

The petition asks the president to "compel US negotiators to fight for a strong Treaty that gives blind people equal access to books and doesn't burden those who want to provide them."

Here is more about the core principles NFB believes the treaty should include:

1. Support a legally-binding access Treaty which will allow more published works to be converted into accessible formats used by the blind and print disabled.

2. Allow those accessible copies to be shared across international borders.

3. Take account of countries' level of development, in line with existing international provisions.

4. Ensure that the treaty will be fully consistent with international copyright norms.

5. Avoid addressing extraneous copyright issues not directly related to creating greater access to published works for the blind and print disabled.

As of the time of this posting, the petition has more than 7,700 signatures of the 100,000 it needs by June 22 to receive an official response.

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