Spam-bot tests flunk the blind

An increasingly popular technique for preventing e-mail abuse is frustrating some visually impaired Net users, setting the stage for a conflict between spam busters and advocates for the disabled.

Many companies have recently begun requiring users to pass a verification test in order to access their services--typically by typing into a Web form a few characters that appear on the form in a guise that prevents a computer or software robot from recognizing and copying them. The technique, now used by Web giants Yahoo, Microsoft, VeriSign and others, seeks to block software bots from signing up for Web-based e-mail accounts that can be used to launch spam and from scraping e-mail addresses from online databases.

The scheme is winning high marks in the battle against unwanted junk e-mail. But it is also increasingly hindering the progress of Web surfers with visual disabilities--raising the ire of advocates for the blind, spurring plans for alternatives from a key Web standards group, and eliciting warnings from legal experts who say that the practice could expose companies to lawsuits brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

News source: news.com

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