26 June 2020

Deafblindness, web accessibility and captchas

Línia braille

What is deafblindness?

Deafblindness is a very little known sensory disability. It does not consist of the sum of deafness and blindness. Deafblind people have their own specific characteristics and needs.

It has many possible causes. It can affect people of all ages and no two people with deafblindness are alike.

There are many people who are not completely deaf and blind, most have a visual or auditory rest. A number of people with deafblindness have additional physical, mental and intellectual disabilities.

Depending on the degree and time of onset, it can be a very limiting disability and can lead to a significant degree of dependency.

Day and week of deafblindness

June 27 marks the “International Day of Deafblindness”, the date that marks the “International Awareness Week on this disability, with the celebration of visibility and dissemination activities worldwide.” For this reason, the entity considers it important to celebrate in Catalonia the "Helen Keller Week of awareness on deafblindness" since:

  1. Helen Keller was one of the most successful, respected and recognized deafblind people in the world.
  2. The combined loss of vision and hearing is one of the most serious of all disabilities. It affects an estimated population of more than 38,000 Catalans, many of them still to be detected. In Spain there are about 20,000 deafblind people who, for their contact with the environment, need the constant presence of a guide-interpreter through whom any visual or auditory stimulus must pass.
  3. It is in the interest of the whole society to encourage the full participation of people with deafblindness in the economy by promoting employment and the promotion of housing and leisure options, thus maximizing the opportunities for a productive life in the your community.
  4. Today, many people with deafblindness can attend college, participate in social activities, manage their daily lives, and actively participate in their communities through work and civic activities.
  5. It is appropriate and necessary to raise awareness of the skills and potential of our fellow deafblind people, and to recognize Helen Keller as an example of guidance, courage, hope, determination and success for other deafblind people.
  6. Proximity Social Services play an essential role in detecting, notifying, addressing, and caring for people with special vulnerability.
  7. People with deafblindness can have a full and fully integrated life in society as long as they have access to services and resources appropriate to their disability.

How do deafblind people access information?

Communication is the basis for understanding our environment, relating to others and acquiring knowledge, and is one of the great challenges that people with deafblindness face.

For a person who does not see or hear, access to the communication system used by the majority, such as oral language, is virtually impossible.

Therefore, there are communication systems for deafblindness, alternative forms that suit their sensory characteristics. They are alternative communication systems, sets of resources designed to fulfill the function of the traditional system, based on sight, hearing and speech, in the task of transmitting and receiving meaningful information.

In the case of deafblindness, whether congenital or acquired, the system should be as efficient as possible.

Thus, the deafblind communication system will be closely related to the specific characteristics and circumstances of each person with, and of course, their preferences and ease of use. The selection of one system or another will depend on the existence or not of visual and / or auditory remains, as well as the previous knowledge of the person, and also, on the use of certain technological devices, such as hearing aids. or cochlear implants, among others.

While we can highlight hand-held sign language as the most widely used, there are also other communication systems that people with deafblindness can use. It is also very common to use a main system and one or more complementary ones.

The best known and used alternative communication systems for people with deafblindness are:

  • Oral language and lip reading.
  • Supported sign language or some alternative (bimodal) system in the air.
  • Own signs.
  • Typing and capital letters on the palm.
  • Paper communication (written notes, pictograms, photographs…).
  • Reference objects.
  • Braille.
  • Electronic communication (with Braille output or large format letters).

How do deafblind people surf the internet?

Depending on your level of hearing, some may use screen readers that reach the web content as you see it, but they do not advise understanding. D’altres have enough vision to serve the text enlargers.

But there is a part of the collegiate that only chose to have it from the Braille lines.

A Braille line is a device that is connected to computers or mobiles to access the content by allowing direct reading through the dits.

It is based on an electromechanical mechanism capable of representing Braille characters mitigating the elevation of points through a flat surface with forats per perimeter.

They are accustomed to having buttons to scroll and stop the text or perform other special functions. In some models, the position of the cursor is represented by the vibration of the points and in molts d'ells there is a button for each cell to carry the cursor to that associated position.

Captchas and accessible alternatives: honeypot and recaptcha

The captchas we integrate into websites can be a major barrier for certain groups of people with disabilities. Distorted images cause problems for people with low vision and are impossible for blind people to solve.

For those who also have a hearing impairment, alternatives such as distorted audio are not a valid option.

Distorted letters cannot be read through the Braille line, and if the user has a hearing loss, alternative audios are generally very difficult to understand.

That’s why we need to look for captchas that ensure accessibility for everyone.

Honeypots or the Google recapture option can be very valid options, but keep in mind that the latter could create extra barriers.

If the system considers that the user of the website could be a robot, it will end up showing images such as "How many fruits are in the photo" which, of course, will not be accessible.

A honeypot is a very effective anti-spam module that allows us to protect web forms without causing barriers to accessibility. It is based on the principle of creating a kind of trap for robots and legitimate users do not even realize it. The form contains a hidden field that only a robot would fill. Therefore, if someone fills it out, the module discards the submission as it is considered spam.

Warning: It is very important to hide the honeypot controls with systems such as "aria-hidden = thrue" because if this is not done the screen reader users will find them and will probably decide to fill them and cause errors in the when filling out the form.

In conclusion, when we integrate captchas into our websites, we must make sure that they are accessible to everyone.

We have to ask ourselves if any group of users could have problems solving them because, if we don't take this into account, we would discriminate against future web visitors.

If you need advice on this or any issue related to web accessibility in our company we can help.


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