[Ohio-talk] Fw: [NFBAffiliatePresidents] How GoGoInFlight When From No To Yes On The Blind Having The Right To Access Web In The Sky

Dr. Smith jwsmithnfb at verizon.net
Fri May 8 12:38:01 UTC 2009



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: <dwg at browngold.com>; <dticchi at comcast.net>; <cdanielsen at nfb.org>; 
<aelia at mac.com>; <ms at browngold.com>; <sbooth at nfb.org>; 
<tessah.latson at gmail.com>; <caseybeck at gmail.com>; <ataylor at nfb.org>; 
<wcuttle at verizon.net>; <rwashburn at gmail.com>; <minna at login.cz>; 
<jpare at nfb.org>
Sent: Friday, May 08, 2009 2:07 AM
Subject: [NFBAffiliatePresidents] How GoGoInFlight When From No To Yes On 
The Blind Having The Right To Access Web In The Sky

> *confidential* *do not forward*
> Greetings,
> Earlier this week I sent you a sobering message describing a situation in 
> which people who are blind were locked out of accessing in flight wireless 
> internet services on American, Delta, Virgin America, United, and other 
> airlines due to a visual only captcha.  A captcha of course is a distorted 
> visual image where a user must enter characters from a picture in order to 
> access a service.  Screen reading technology cannot "read" such pictures. 
> Not only were we locked out from accessing the service, but the company 
> refused to engage with us in substantive negotiations about viable 
> solutions.
> After an approximately 6 week delay in responding to me, They proposed 
> insertting text on their web page indicating that if you are blind, you 
> are to try to ask a flight attendant or fellow passenger to read you the 
> visual captcha image.  They felt this was a suitable and viable 
> accommodation to make.  Of course, among other things, this "solution" 
> would not work on mobile devices without screens like BrailleNotes, 
> PACMates, Icon, etc.
> On Monday and Tuesday of this week, I emailed 3 individuals with in the 
> company stating that it was urgent that they work with us.  I essentially 
> read them the riot act in my email.  I also said that in this age of 24 
> hour CNN, and a world of internet and blackberrys, that it seemed like we 
> were communicating at a speed akin to the Pony Express.  In particular, 
> the communication from Aircell to me was moving slower than the Pony 
> Express.
> My telephone did not ring, and my email did not ding.
> I then launched an intense public relations campaign largely on the social 
> networking site Twitter.  You can think of Tiwtter in a number of ways, 
> but one useful way, is to think of it as a virtual water cooler of 
> conversation.
> I found each person that mentioned the GoGoInFlight service in their 
> conversations on Twitter.  It is possible to search for such key words in 
> conversations, even if you do not follow the person who writes such words. 
> I then used a function of Twitter, called an at reply or mention, to 
> engage with each person talking about GoGoInFlight.  I told each person 
> that the captcha was not accessible, and in many cases pointed them to an 
> AFB youtube video about captcha.  My "ask" was that they send an at reply 
> (or message) to GoGoInFlight on Twitter asking that the company make its 
> captcha accessible.
> I used a similar technique to locate anybody on Twitter who reported 
> having a problem with any captcha on the internet.  I similarly engaged 
> these people in conversation, and asked them to think about visual only 
> catpcha in the context of being blind.  I also asked these people to 
> contact GoGoInFlight on Twitter to request that they work on accessibility 
> solutions.
> I also engaged with Chris Brogan, a social media evangelist
> http://chrisbrogan.com
> http://twitter.com/chrisbrogan
> Chris had recently met with GoGoInFlight, and agreed to help us try to get 
> their attention.
> Scott McCartney, the WSJ's Middle Seat airline columnist:
> http://twitter.com/middleseat
> Christopher Elliott, a famous travel blogger:
> http://twitter.com/elliottdotorg
> Mike Spollen, of the DOT's Aviation Consumer Protection Division
> http://airconsumer.ost.dot.gov
> Mike worked on getting me in contact with CRO's at Delta and Virgin 
> America while he was traveling.  I've contacted Mike over the years with 
> ACAA and Part 382 issues.  The funniest time was I once called him form a 
> pay phone in Frankfurt Germany to ask something.
> Plus others on Twitter or off who are either more or less famous than the 
> people I have named :).
> You can see much of this activity here:
> http://twitter.com/pyyhkala
> http://twitter.com/nfbma
> I began discussions with Bill Cuttle an attorney in Boston about writing a 
> demand letter, and considered buying the internet domain
> http://wifirights.com
> and had calls and emails in to several social media consultants who might 
> have helped to intensify the public relations pressure.
> I was also working up plans for consumers to take flights on the affected 
> airlines, and file Part 382 DOT complaints as well as Section 255 FCC 
> complaints while engaging old and new media in the process.
> I contacted a competing in flight wifi service called Row44 which provides 
> a similar service to Southwest Airlines with no captcha, and service to 
> Alaska Airlines with an audio  captcha option.  I was making contacts at 
> Southwest to find out if their inaugural flights at Boston Logan or New 
> York La Guardia would have a wifi equipped aircraft, and drafting plans 
> for blind people to take these flights which often have many 
> representatives from the media on board.
> I had emails in to a photographer, videographer, and artist to help create 
> compelling visual content and imagery.
> I felt it would be faster for us to win this on a PR front, rather than to 
> engage in the lengthy legal and administrative process which we could have 
> also done simultaneously.
> I also spoke to Jim Mccarthy about strategy and writing of resolutions.
> These activities were very time consuming, and required that most all 
> other projects and work take a back seat.
> It will be interesting if I can get a count on how many communications 
> were sent out on this via Twitter, or how many people the chatter may have 
> reached.
> I reached out to a number of blind users on Twitter, and frankly, it was 
> disappointing regarding how few of them sent one of these "reply" or 
> "mention" messsages to GoGoInFlight via Twitter.  I would have thought 
> this would have taken off like wild fire at least with in the blind 
> community on Twitter.  I think we need to educate people about the 
> importance of advocacy, how Twitter is an advocacy tool, and provide 
> technical training on how to send these messages.  Still, we need to 
> understand better why in our own community we're not helping each other 
> out on Twitter better.  The media and I'm sure GoGoInFlight HQ are 
> counting how many of these messages they get.
> This afternoon I received a telephone call from Aircell corporate 
> headquarters.  I expected it would either be their corporate attorney 
> informing me they were going to try to file some kind of defamation 
> action, or that it would indeed be good news.
> It turned out to be good news.  I spoke with the Sr. Vice President, 
> Airline Solutions.  She agreed that the email I received was 
> inappropriate, and she agreed we needed to communicate faster than the 
> Pony Express.  She agreed the company needed to develop both short and 
> long term solutions to address the captcha as well as other accessibility 
> issues with the portals that are used when a passenger accesses the 
> internet.  She also appologized for the way the company had handled my 
> situation, and she advised that the director I spoke with had been called 
> in to the office on this.  She said that they should have escallated the 
> situation to her much earlier on.  She advised me I would shortly be 
> hearing from a technical subject matter expert.
> It was indicated that the break down in communication may also have been 
> because the group that interacts with consumers and who handles the 
> Twitter page is a different business unit than the one which interfaces 
> with the airlines regarding the design of the portal pages.
> Just after 9:00 P.M. the same day (Thursday evening) I received an email 
> from a technical subject matter expert, and we are planning a conference 
> call for Monday May 11 to review the solutions they have in mind.  I 
> responded to this email later on in the evening with requested feedback 
> about the GoGoInFlight portal pages.
> I wanted to tell you this story as I hope it will give you some ideas on 
> how to handle situations you may encounter in the future.  I'm also 
> hopeful some of you may have ideas on how I might have tweaked the 
> response or tactics that were used.
> I hope this also encourages more of you to join Twitter.
> I will keep you updated from time to time on this list as we go forward 
> with working with the GoGoInFlight area of Aircell to ensure that blind 
> people can access the internet on airplanes.  For the most current 
> updates, please refer to Twitter.
> You can feel free to discuss the situation in general with your 
> membership, but please do not forward the message in its entirety at this 
> time.  While we are now working with the company, I am not sure that  we 
> want to have them find this story in its entirety out on the internet.
> Please also have any of your members with any experience with in flight 
> internet services contact me by email.
> best,
> Mika Pyyhkala
> President
> National Federation of the Blind of Massachusetts
> Google Voice/SMS: (617) 202-3497
> http://twitter.com/pyyhkala
> http://twitter.com/nfbma
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