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To be or not to be CAPTCHA

I guess I am not the only person who gets annoyed when I have to enter a string of virtually illegible letters and numbers into a box before submitting a form. CAPTCHA is an example of putting the website owner’s problem on the user. It is not the genuine visitor’s problem if spammers also access to your forms and send junk mail. Do not hold your users to ransom by using inaccessible CAPTCHAs on your contact form.

A lot of people have problems with CAPTCHAs. They can be a total barrier for some people with disabilities. Below is a picture of a bad example of the use of CAPTCHA. As people age, they lose the amount of contrast in their vision. There is not enough contrast between the writing and the background for many people aged over 60 years to read this CAPTCHA. There is no audio alternative. Not only is the CAPTCHA illegible to a great many people, but the link next to it is also unreadable because there is not enough contract.

capture field with green writing on brown background

Some Captchas provide a voice alternative but often this is so indistinct, it is unusable especially for people with hearing problems.

The definition of CAPTCHA is “… [A] program that protects websites against bots by generating and grading tests that humans can pass but current computer programs cannot” from CAPTCHA website. The problem is that these programmes do not identify Text-To-Speach software as humans. I tried to submit a form that had a reCAPTCHA field while using the JAWS program. It failed every time.

The I Am Not a Robot field

reCAPTCHA by Google appears to be a simple alternative to most computer users,

ReCAPTCHA Picture view

but this is what is presented to the JAWs user. The user has to identify ALL the pictures that have bridges in them. It is not easy to navigate to the audio icon or even know that it exists.

Fortunately, Google has decided to do away with reCAPTCHA and determine if a visitor is a real person or a spambot by looking at their browser history. I do not know if the text-to-speech software will pass the test but it should. Google changed reCAPTCHA because they found that robots don’t always tell the truth. If you don’t believe me, you can watch the YouTube video: Robot beats “I am not a Robot” Captcha

The WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) recommends the use of other means of detecting spam bots including using the Akismet plugin for WordPress. The plugin checks the comments and contact form submissions against a list of known spammers. Of course, it will not cut out all spam but it will reduce it to a manageable level. You can read about other suggestions at Captcha Alternatives and thoughts.

Spam emails are annoying, but is the use of CAPTCHA is worth making your contact form inaccessible for many of your users and annoying others? Remove CAPTCHA from your forms and find another way to keep the bad guys out. Otherwise, read your spam and get a laugh from it.

Read Accessible Contact Forms for WordPress.


  • 29 December, 2019
    Chris van buijten

    Wauw at last

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