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White House Makes It Impossible For The Blind To Sign Petition Supporting Copyright Treaty For The Blind

from the well-isn't-that-convenient? dept

Last week, we discussed a recent We The People petition at the White House, asking the administration to support the treaty for the blind, which would make it easier to access creative works for the blind by creating a few small “exceptions” to copyright law (i.e., returning rights to the public) for the sake of sharing formats that are accessible to the blind across borders. However, some blind advocacy groups have discovered that, if you happen to be blind/visually impaired, it’s basically impossible to sign the petition.

The glitch, the group says, is in those often annoying tests that require users to type in a set of numbers and letters to prove they are human. On the White House web site, blind users can select an audio version of the test, but the audio is incomprehensible, according to federation spokesman Chris Danielsen.

And if users want to send email notifying the White House about the problem, well, that also requires a computer-human test with garbled audio, too, he said.

That’s certainly convenient for an administration that has increasingly moved away from its earlier stance that it supported this treaty. Now, making it almost impossible for the actual stakeholders to express their opinion really should drive home why increased accessibility is important. Hopefully the White House will quickly fix this bug, but more importantly, it would be nice if they actually supported the damn treaty.

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Comments on “White House Makes It Impossible For The Blind To Sign Petition Supporting Copyright Treaty For The Blind”

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BlindEnthusiasm says:

Re: Re: Hmm...

I think what people are asking for here is empathy. How would you like it if you had to get someone to help you every time you had to fill in a form? Inconvenienced, even disenfranchised? People are getting mad at you because you’re implying blind people shouldn’t expect to have independence. It may not seem like a big deal to you, but that is because you aren’t blind. Imagine you had to put up with this stuff every day.

Imagine how you would feel if someone on here said “I don’t get why we have to explain it to him, couldn’t he just get a less ignorant friend just write his comments for him?”

Anonymous Howard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Hmm...

because you’re implying blind people shouldn’t expect to have independence

Oooookay, here’s the plan:
1. read silverscarcat’s comment again.
2. read my comment again.
Because if you read it and understood it, you wouldn’t wrote something THAT stupid.

Here’s some hint: “No one implied that “It’s good as is, because others can help them out””

In other words: it’s not ok, to have this bug, not ok, to expect blinds to have help around them all the time. He said they should get help to report this bug to the govt, so it can be fixed. I can’t explain more simple to you.

124 says:

Re: Hmm...

Yes they never go anywhere alone ever.

They use a program that reads out whats on the page, so they can usually use computers independently and well. However it doesn’t work on the tests because the letters are purposefully made so machines don’t recognize them.

Also the whole point is that blind people should not have to rely on anyone, everyone deserves independence.

anon says:

Re: Hmm...

no, computers are accessible enough to be used by a blind person on their own. it takes a little while, as all navigation is done by the keyboard and the computer has to read out loud what the user has selected currently, but it’s possible and there are professionals who are blind and use computers all day

Alice says:

Re: Ignorant

This is the most ignorant comment I’ve seen. Don’t assume that people who are blind or with any disability have people always around to help them with everything. Websites should be created so that they are accessible with screen readers – blind people shouldn’t need friends to read everything for them!

James (profile) says:

Re: Hmm...

I LOVE THIS comment…

In one sentence you say “… this is a dick move by the administration..” and with only a comma and 1 word between that and “… shouldn’t blind people get their friends who can see to help them out…” DICK move indeed.

I like where your head is at… while were at it…

People in wheelchairs should have someone with them to carry them up stairs and you, should have someone smarter sitting with you when you comment on things like this.

Anonymous Coward says:

given the way this administration has backed tracked on other things that it was so in favor of, whilst trying to get elected, i wouldn’t count on it. as soon as it was elected, this administration proved to be an even bigger liar than those that went before it. to openly do something like this shows the lack of respect it has for a section of the population that is severely disabled . if that were not the case, the idiot that put the website together would have checked that it worked for those it was supposed to be trying to support!

mudlock (profile) says:

e-mail address filter is broken too

Whitehouse.gov (and, actually, a lot of other places too) uses a broken regex to “check” email addresses for “validity.”

It disregards any email address with a hyphen (‘-‘) in it. Both my primary email addresses (work and personal) include my last name… which includes a hyphen.

(It turns out, determining valid email addresses is really hard. For instance: ValidEmail?”Yes it is!”@AB:CD:EF:00:01:02:03:04 is a valid email address. Really people, other than checking for a ‘@’, it’s easier to not filter at all.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: e-mail address filter is broken too

determining a valid email adress programaticaly: not too hard

figuring out how (?:[a-z0-9!#$%&’+/=?^_{|}~-]+(?:.[a-z0-9!#$%&'*+/=?^_{|}~-]+)|”(?:[x01-x08x0bx0cx0e-x1fx21x23-x5bx5d-x7f]|[x01-x09x0bx0cx0e-x7f])“)@(?:(?:a-z0-9?.)+a-z0-9?|[(?:(?:25[0-5]|2[0-4][0-9]|[01]?[0-9][0-9]?).){3}(?:25[0-5]|2[0-4][0-9]|[01]?[0-9][0-9]?|[a-z0-9-][a-z0-9]:(?:[x01-x08x0bx0cx0e-x1fx21-x5ax53-x7f]|[x01-x09x0bx0cx0e-x7f])+)]) works will however cause permanent damage

Brandon Rinebold (profile) says:

Re: e-mail address filter is broken too

Actually, it i remarkably easy to do. All you have to do is check for an @ symbol and if it has one, look up MX records via DNS. If there isn’t a mail server for that lookup, you refuse to take the address because obviously it isn’t going anywhere.

It’s not rocket surgery and it’s actually easier than trying to parse the address based on a set of static rules but nobody does it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Captcha

You clearly have no idea what you’re talking about
Captcha isn’t about security it’d about a cat and mouse game of fighting off spammers and in a lot of cases is damn well effective

To whoever created this site fuck you
Being anonymous doesn’t make you a coward just no one wants to sign up for another shitty blog/news site to make a post or two and never return

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Captcha

yes, i DESPISE them…

relatively normal vision, with above-average ability to puzzle stuff out, but those dog damn captchas are insane…

at some levels, it is IMPOSSIBLE to make out what looks like a tenth generation copy from a bad machine that is overlaid with obscuring crap, and you have to re-try a dozen before you get one readable…


special-interesting (profile) says:

Yes it callous and unthoughtful of the White House staff/support-team for allowing this to happen. Its tempting to go off on another rant on how the Blind are left out of normal life but this type of behavior is quite normal. Who cares about such a small group? Not many.

Its logical that anyone posing a question about the Blind would actually make the process available/functional/easy to use. Such an effort when done successfully looks very good and adds a professional level of good execution that few can do.

Technology has come quite a long way but with patent and copyright law the way they are now don’t expect any growth in the Blind adaptive devices/services industry for about 18 years or more. Like many medical breakthroughs the patent term delay diminishes the lives of the ill and handicapped alike.

It would be interesting to see how many Blind actually sign the petition. Don’t expect a lot because of many issues that often overwhelm Blind people.


silverscarcat. Yes there is almost always one or more ‘helpers’ for every Blind person. However its normal that the blind person has several other medical problems (often the cause of blindness) which keep them so busy that outside world/concerns/important-issues seem almost irrelevant.

SkUrRiEr (profile) says:

I signed it

As I see it, there’s two issues here:
1. whitehouse.gov isn’t 508 compliant / usable by blind people. A technical issue that must be fixed. I believe there are captcha implementations that are blind accessible, surely it’d be an afternoon’s work to swap their current implementation out for a better one.

2. Because of 1, it’s not getting the signatures it should.

I’m sure they’re aware of #1 – and promoting this piece and others like it will help raise awareness of the issue and prompt them to action.

As for #2, solving that is simple: you’ve already signed the partition, right?

Mirjam Eikelboom says:

Caphta's for the blind

The companies that produce the audio-caphta’s are to blame- not the White House.
If they buy a product that is supposedly an alternative for people who cannot read, doesn’t function, but is used nevertheless everywhere – they cannot be blamed for not knowing that is doesn’t function.
I think the Society for the Blind and the White House should join forces and go after the producers of badly tested audio-caphta’s together.

BryanR says:


To all the people complaining that the Captcha’s audio is distorted-it’s for the same reason as the image itself being distorted. So the computer can’t read it for you, similar to Siri, if the letters were easily understandable in the audio, the computer could just listen to the recording and fill in the captcha using text to speech.

Atleast they used a captcha that supports audio.

Michael Tunnell (user link) says:

This is absurd but quite common

this is a problem for CAPTCHA systems and should be corrected by them this has nothing to do with the decision of the White House to use a CAPTCHA system.

Of course this is messed up for the White House to do but this article implies that it was some malicious act on behalf of the White House…that is absurd because EVERY CAPTCHA service that provides audio option is almost impossible to understand.

reCAPTCHA by Google is one of the most used and best made CAPTCHA systems that I know of and it too suffers from this impossible to understand audio option. I have yet to find a CAPTCHA solution that has recognizable audio.

This is unfortunate and needs to be fixed but to blame the White House site for it is absurd…EVERY site that allows user input MUST have some kind of anti-spam measure because Spammers are EVERYWHERE. Even small sites with only a handful of users will be bombarded with spam so OF COURSE the website for the White House will have an insane amount of spam.

This sucks but it needs to be addressed by the CAPTCHA maintainers not the White House.

Site Note- White House uses reCAPTCHA though the funny thing is they removed the copyright of reCAPTCHA which is against the TOS of reCAPTCHA.

Mike Gifford (user link) says:

Spam is a Real Problem - As is Accessibility

The petition site is using code like:

It’s definitely got known accessibility problems. It’s also worth stating that spam is still a real problem too.

Ultimately though it’s going to take active collaboration between people with disabilities and people who are developing anti-spam measures.

The simplest ones are most easily hacked by computers, but still there are better approaches than simply sticking on reCaptcha.

Prathik Raj says:


I don’t think the government intended to prevent blind from signing the petition, spam bots are a big issue and they are getting as clever as the captcha technology itself, so they make it more and more difficult. Some captcha cannot be understood by people with normal sight too!

Government websites, especially the ones with features like petition signing should make it especially difficult for spam bots to function.

We have limited technology that separate human being from machine, OCR is one technology where we beat machine, also in speech recognition, so the use of the two to differentiate. It is a challenge that needs to be looked at, for now, I think better audio is the solution.

DivideBy0 says:

techdirt article dirty

Well, the political leanings of the author of this “article” are certainly obvious now, and that he will twist reality to try and force something to be a nefarious plot by the current administration at any cost, even truth.

It is a shame that the editors of this site allowed such a blatant hack piece to be published.

Why not just write the article to point out the deficiencies in the captcha system in general, letting everyone know that it sucks that such a thing happens, and it needs to be fixed.
Oh, wait, we all know why… page views and political wingnuts spouting misinformation.

Jason Bratcher (profile) says:

Seriously Josh and others like you?

I’m sitting here at a Win8 Home Premium 64-bit laptop, complete with Mozilla’s FireFox and ThunderBird. Before I go a step further, I REALLY AM TOTALLY BLIND SINCE BIRTH due to six months prematurity. I’m using a screen reader known as NVDA (NonVisual Desktop Access) to read every last site I wanna surf.
Quick question: How many of you think I’ve got zero addons for FireFox or ThunderBird?
Probably most of you, right?Dead wrong! Try 33!
And one for FireFox literally helps me solve CAPTCHAs.
And for ThunderBird, Tonequilla adds a filter action to play a sound upon a single message/message cluster’s arrival.
Can’t believe you all insist I have someone here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week just to read my laptop screen to me.
Besides, wouldn’t i’ve already had to establish a payment plan for their service since this’d be so regular, lol?
I prefer to do ALL OF MY COMPUTER WORK AS SOLO as possible.
Even my mom can’t help me with everything!
I write in all caps just so people like Josh can get the message.
He’s probably smirking at me in disbelief now, lol…

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