[Ohio-talk] Fw: [NFBAffiliatePresidents] American, Delta, United, Virgin America Discriminate Against Blind - Captcha In The Unfriendly Sky's With GoGoInFlight

Dr. Smith jwsmithnfb at verizon.net
Tue May 5 13:54:53 UTC 2009

Read on and stay informed because we still have miles to go before we sleep!


Dr. J. Webster Smith
President National Federation of the Blind of Ohio
P.O.BOX 458 Athens, Ohio, 45701-0458
Phone Number - 740-592-6326
"Changing What it Means to be Blind"
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Mika Pyyhkala" <Mika_Pyyhkala at nhp.org>
To: "NFB Affiliate Presidents List" <nfbaffiliatepresidents at nfbnet.org>
Cc: <ataylor at nfb.org>
Sent: Monday, May 04, 2009 6:45 PM
Subject: [NFBAffiliatePresidents] American, Delta, United, Virgin America 
Discriminate Against Blind - Captcha In The Unfriendly Sky's With 

> Greetings,
> In March 2009 I traveled from Boston To Los Angeles on Virgin America in 
> order to attend the CSUN technology conference.  I was especially excited 
> to take this flight, because Virgin America offers a service through
> http://gogoinflight.com
> http://aircell.com
> which provides in flight wifi or wireless internet service.  Essentially 
> this GoGoInFlight service, being deployed on several major US airlines, 
> allows passengers to access the internet through their laptops or other 
> mobile devices.
> However, on board the flight, I found that the GoGoInFlight service uses a 
> "visual only captcha."  This means that the user must fill in the 
> characters in a visual image in order to access the service.
> Such visual only captcha inherently  discriminates against the blind, and 
> also would preclude a blind person from using a mobile device that does 
> not have a screen such as a PACMate, BrailleNote, Icon/BraillePlus, 
> Braille Sense, etc.
> I immediately contacted the company via its Twitter page:
> http://twitter.com/GoGoInFlight
> As you may know, Twitter is a social networking tool used by individuals 
> and organizations including the NFB.  I requested that the company have an 
> executive or technical subject matter expert contact me so that we could 
> discuss alternatives to their visual only captcha.  Such alternatives 
> abound with other web sites including Google, Paypal, Annual Credit 
> Report, etc.
> The parent company, Aircell, kept sending me vague messages which were not 
> substantive.  For instance, they told me to call the customer care 
> department, which obviously lacked the authority to make changes to the 
> technical details of the service.  They told me my idea was a good one, 
> but gave no indication on even an approximate time frame for 
> implementation.  They also did not provide any short term remediation plan 
> to allow blind or print impaired people to access the internet while 
> flying.  One such remediation plan may have, for example, been one where 
> they disabled the captcha requirement on customer accounts  of blind 
> users.
> Then, this past weekend, I received a message from a director inside the 
> Aircell organization.  Here is part of what he had to say:
> "Each image, as you well know, can be associated with alternative text. 
> This alternative text is then read by web page audio readers.  When a user 
> places his mouse over the "submit" button on our CAPTCHA puzzle page, we 
> will respond with the following alternative text:
> "A note to visually impaired users: A security requirement, unique to our 
> service, requires us to use a challenge image (CAPTCHA image).  We request 
> you ask a flight attendant or neighboring passenger to tell you the 
> alphanumeric code, which you should input in the dialogue box on this 
> page."
> One of the benefits of our CAPTCHA puzzle page is its simplicity.  It's 
> the only page on our site that contains no additional or extraneous links, 
> graphics, or content.  As a result, it should be as minimally-confusing as 
> possible for visually impaired users."
> He also stated:
> "Due to a variety of law enforcement and government regulations, we must 
> use CAPTCHA puzzles as a part of our network's security infrastructure. 
> As always, the safety of all passengers is our first priority, which is 
> why this puzzle is in place."
> Interestingly, a competitive wifi service provider called Row 44 , which 
> provides limited  service on Southwest Airlines does not use a captcha:
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Row_44
> Perhaps they are not subject to the same " law enforcement and government 
> regulations," as is GoGoInFlight?  Why do you suppose that is?  Rest 
> assured, I called out GoGoInflight for using the 2 S words, safety and 
> security, in an effort to justify their discriminatory practices against 
> the blind!  I informed them that the S word has been used for decades if 
> not longer in an attempt to justify unwarranted disparate  treatment of 
> the blind.
> I also informed the gentlemen from GoGoInFlight that, regrettably, his 
> proposed solution essentially put us at square one where we left off.  The 
> solution does not add any value or mitigate the design flaw.
> How You Can Help
> 1.  If you are on the Twitter service, send what is called an @reply to
> GoGoInFlight
>>From your Twitter account.  Ask them when they will make the service 
>>accessible to people who are blind.  You can refer to their visual only 
>>captcha, or put this in your own words.  If you have people in your 
>>affiliate on Twitter, you can delegate this task to such people.  This 
>>will intensify public relations type pressure towards the company since 
>>all of your Twitter followers or friends will also see these messages.  I 
>>can provide further instructions on how to do this if that would be 
> 2.  Please use any contacts you may have particularly in the travel, 
> blogging, internet, or old or new media.  Again such queries may help 
> pressure the company to come up with a better solution than what they have 
> proposed above;
> 3.  Stay tuned.  This is a fluid situation, and I am confident there will 
> be further updates.  I have been or soon will be in contact with our 
> people in Baltimore as well as the Department of Transportation.  One 
> issue we have is that these next generation services, like in flight wifi, 
> are not directly written in to laws and regulations like the Air Carrier 
> Access Act and 14 CFR Part 382.  This does not mean the law does not apply 
> to the issues, but the technology came along after the laws were written; 
> and
> 4.  Keep in mind who in your affiliate is a frequent flyer, or who would 
> be most directly affected by an issue like this.
> Thank you.
> Regards,
> Mika Pyyhkala
> President
> National Federation of the Blind of Massachusetts
> Tel/SMS: (617) 202-3497
> Twitter: http://twitter.com/pyyhkala
> Affiliate Twitter: http://twitter.com/NFBMA
> _______________________________________________
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> NFBAffiliatePresidents at nfbnet.org
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