CAPTCHA tests have been annoying many internet users for some time now, but one disabled Australian has finally had enough, starting a petition to encourage major companies to get rid of the tests. Wayne Hawkins is a blind resident of Sydney who is sick of having CAPTCHA tests prevent him from easily accessing the web, and is calling for it to be killed "once and for all".
Hawkins highlights how CAPTCHA tests are not only inaccessible for disabled citizens, but also frustrating for all internet users. They can't be read by screen-reading software by design, which prevents blind people from using their usual tools to fill out CAPTCHA-protected forms, the audio versions are often completely incomprehensible, and the words displayed are often ridiculous or illegible for sighted people.
CAPTCHA - which stands for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart - was designed to prevent spam bots from automatically creating thousands of accounts on various services. The test is used on a wide variety of websites during the sign up process, including when creating Google and Microsoft accounts, as well as when using contact forms for government offices.
Despite AVG suggesting CAPTCHA is an "inevitable safeguard" against "criminals", the test has drawn criticism from a range of organizations, including Able Australia, Blind Citizens Australia, ACANN, Media Access Australia and even the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The latter already suggests that CAPTCHA excludes people with disabilities, and points to a wide range of other anti-bot tests including simple maths equations, trivia and the use of sound files.
Hawkins says that CAPTCHA tests "fundamentally fail to properly recognise people with disabilities as human".
The petition is calling for 10,000 signatures to support killing CAPTCHA tests, and has just a few hundred signatures at the time of publication. If you want to throw your support behind the removal of CAPTCHAs from the internet, head here to sign the petition.