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AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

CAPTCHAs on MySpace, Facebook, and Friendster Shut Out Blind Users

American Foundation for the Blind Evaluates Social Networking Sites

NEW YORK (November 15, 2006)—A new report from the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) finds social networking sites are impossible to join without sighted help because of CAPTCHAs—a visual verification tool used to keep spam out of sites that provide online services. AFB is urging MySpace, Friendster, and Facebook to offer an audio alternative to their CAPTCHAs through a new web video being released on YouTube.

"CAPTCHAs are a barrier to people with vision loss because they are essentially graphics with no descriptive ALT text," said Jay Leventhal, Editor in Chief, AccessWorld®, AFB's online technology magazine. "With social networking sites being the new way to connect and socialize, blind users must be able to sign up independently."

Social networking sites like MySpace have become the "soda shops" of the digital age. These sites are the places to meet new people, update friends on life happenings, find jobs, network, and discover new music. MySpace, the top social networking site on the web, has now reached 47.3 million members and is growing by 160,000 new users a day according to news reports.

Using JAWS and Window-Eyes—popular assistive technology products that provide access to information on a computer screen—AFB evaluated MySpace, Facebook, Friendster, and LinkedIn to see if a blind computer user, with basic screen reader skills, could independently register, create a standard profile, post photos, and interact with other group members.

The most serious accessibility issue AFB found was the inability to create user accounts on MySpace, Friendster, or Facebook without sighted assistance. Once someone gets through the CAPTCHA barrier, becoming a MySpace, Friendster, or Facebook user is possible because the templates for these three sites are fairly well labeled. LinkedIn, the leading business networking site, was found to be the most user friendly because it is well labeled, and doesn't use a CAPTCHA.

To read a copy of the report, visit www.afb.org/CAPTCHAreport.asp.

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The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is a national nonprofit that expands possibilities for people with vision loss. AFB's priorities include broadening access to technology; elevating the quality of information and tools for the professionals who serve people with vision loss; and promoting independent and healthy living for people with vision loss by providing them and their families with relevant and timely resources. AFB is also proud to house the Helen Keller Archives and honor the over forty years that Helen Keller worked tirelessly with AFB.

Media Contact:
Adrianna Montague-Gray
AFB Communications
Tel. (212) 502-7675
Adrianna Montague-Gray.

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