Towson Technology Aims To Help The Blind with CAPTCHA

From time to time, we at the business = desk are=20 pleased to bring you articles that can help you to deal more effectively = and=20 efficiently with the wide world of technology.  If you are = struggling to=20 keep up or are a bit lost when it comes to being able to do things on = your own=20 without having to ask or pay for help then we invite you to read = on. =20
Today we have a great little article for you;
Towson Technology = Aims To=20 Help The Blind with CAPTCHA

The business desk team
Follow us on = Twitter=20 @accessibleworld
A Gaston Bedard = contribution=20
Towson Technology Aims To Help The = Blind with=20 CAPTCHA
By Carrie Wells, The Baltimore Sun, = April 27,=20 2014.
While blind people can browse the = Internet through=20 a variety of means, there
is often one thing that stops them cold – a = security feature known as a
CAPTCHA that’s designed to distinguish = human=20 users from robots.
CAPTCHAs, in which a user must identify = the letters=20 in a distorted image,
are commonly used to block automated bots from = grabbing=20 up all the tickets
for an event, signing up for thousands of email = addresses=20 in a short period
of time or unfairly swaying the results of an = online=20 poll.
They have drawn criticism from advocacy = organizations for the blind for
being too difficult to use, but last=20 month,
Towson University secured a U.S. patent for a new kind of = CAPTCHA=20 that’s
intended to be easier for those with limited or no=20 eyesight.
With Towson’s SoundsRight CAPTCHA, = users listen to=20 a series of 10 random
sounds and are asked to press the computer’s = space bar=20 each time they hear a
certain noise – a dog barking, a horse neighing = – among=20 the other sounds.
The developers say it is superior to
Google’s = current=20 audio alternative CAPTCHA, citing studies showing that
version’s = failure rate=20 of 50 percent for blind users.
“Blind people are capable of doing = everything that=20 a visual person can on
the Internet,” said Jonathan Lazar, a Towson = professor=20 who has led a group
of graduate and outside researchers on the = project. “We=20 just try to come up
with some equivalent features that make it=20 easier.”
“Some people are unaware that blind = people can use=20 the Internet,” Lazar
The SoundsRight CAPTCHA is still in a = “beta”=20 version, Lazar said, and the
developers are hoping a real-world = rollout will=20 help identify any necessary
The Towson researchers worked closely = on testing=20 with the National
Federation of the Blind, which is headquartered in = the=20 Riverside
neighborhood of Baltimore. Anne Taylor, the federation’s = director=20 of access
technology, said there are several types of software = available for=20 blind
users to read the text on a Web page aloud.
Taylor, who is blind, said not being = able to use=20 visual CAPTCHAs could
impede a blind person’s ability to enjoy the = benefits=20 of the Internet and
hurt their ability to hold a job.
A sighted person could help a blind = user with the=20 visual CAPTCHAs, she said,
but the blind want to be independent on = the=20 Internet. Further, since many
CAPTCHAs are on web pages that ask for = personal=20 financial information, she
has concerns about privacy.
“The Internet is such an important and = integral=20 part of our daily lives
now,” Taylor said. “Just think of how many = hours you=20 spend on the web as a
sighted individual. Would you really want to = have=20 someone with you all that
CAPTCHA, which stands for Completely = Automated=20 Public Turing test to tell
Computers and Humans Apart, was introduced = as a=20 concept by computer
scientist Alan Turing in 1950.
The term was coined in 2000 by = researchers at=20 Carnegie Mellon University who
developed an early Web page test = program for=20 Yahoo.
The CAPTCHAs protect from automated = hacking=20 programs that can also leave
spam comments on blogs, attack protected = passwords and send junk email.
Tim Brooks, the chief software = developer on the=20 SoundsRight project since
2010, said the audio CAPTCHA can be = embedded into=20 any Web page and
customized by the webmaster.
Brooks said its script could be tweaked = to be used=20 in any number of
different languages or have users identify any = number of=20 sounds. An
organization for train enthusiasts, he said, could = potentially=20 have users
identify the sounds of different types of = trains.
The SoundsRight CAPTCHA is just as = secure as the=20 traditional visual
CAPTCHAs, he said. Sighted users can use the audio = CAPTCHA=20 as well, or a Web
page could give the option of either a visual = CAPTCHA or=20 the SoundsRight
CAPTCHA, he said. The only potential downside to the=20 technology is that it
takes about 30 to 40 seconds to complete, = versus less=20 than 10 seconds for a
visual CAPTCHA, Brooks said.
“A lot of people don’t have that kind = of patience,”=20 he said.
The Towson CAPTCHA project was the = brainchild of=20 then-undergraduate student
Jon Holman in 2007 as a class project, = Lazar said.=20 In a 2007 focus group,
blind users identified visual CAPTCHAs as the = biggest=20 impediment to their
using the Internet independently. Several other = students,=20 faculty members
and outside researchers have assisted in developing = the=20 technology since the
project began.
“We’ve always done the evaluation with = blind users=20 at every step,” Lazar
said. “This was research that was done because = blind=20 users were telling us
this was important.”
The project was partially supported = with a $50,000=20 grant from the Maryland
Technology Development Corp., Lazar said. The = researchers went through
several different prototypes, rejecting = those that=20 weren’t found to be
secure enough.
The SoundsRight CAPTCHA is in use on = the National=20 Federation of the Blind’s
website, and the organization is working to = encourage various groups and
businesses to adopt it.
“We are all one step away from a sudden = disability,=20 so why not make the
Internet an inclusive place for everybody?” = Taylor=20 said. ities/towson-uni
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