[Ohio-talk] Fw: [NFBAffiliatePresidents] How GoGoInFlight When From No To Yes On The Blind Having The Right To Access Web In The Sky
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>;
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<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*
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> I also engaged with Chris Brogan, a social media evangelist
> 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:
> Christopher Elliott, a famous travel blogger:
> Mike Spollen, of the DOT's Aviation Consumer Protection Division
> 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:
> I began discussions with Bill Cuttle an attorney in Boston about writing a
> demand letter, and considered buying the internet domain
> 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
> 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.
> Mika Pyyhkala
> National Federation of the Blind of Massachusetts
> Google Voice/SMS: (617) 202-3497
> NFBAffiliatePresidents mailing list
> NFBAffiliatePresidents at nfbnet.org
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