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 the user. It is not the genuine visitor’s problem if spammers also access to your forms and send junk mail. The user should not be held to ransom.

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 very bad example of the use of CAPTCHA. As people age they loose 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 CAPTHCA illegible to a great many people,  the link next to it is 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 spam bot by looking at their browser history. I do not know if text-to-speach 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.

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