Blind Bargains

Nearly Three in Four are Unable to Decipher Google Audio CAPTCHA

Nearly three out of four people are unable to use Google’s audio CAPTCHA service, according to research conducted by Blind Bargains. The audio CAPTCHA is intended for use by persons who are blind or visually impaired and is a requirement for accessing several areas of Google’s website, including creating accounts on the Gmail service and resetting account passwords.

To perform the research, participants were asked to listen to an audio CAPTCHA provided by Google and type in the numbers they heard. They then were asked to report whether or not they successfully completed the CAPTCHA. 73 percent of respondantts reported they were unsuccessful in solving this CAPTCHA.

Participants were also given an opportunity to give comments concerning the study. Below is a sampling of these comments:

  • VERY difficult to hear letters/numbers very jumbled.
  • Too jarbled to understand, unclear if numbers work. Can't remember all the numbers I typed & are unsure what was being said
  • horrible audio. Did not match the display and could not understand what the gentleman was saying.
  • Lots of background noise. I dont' think anyone would be able to use this.
  • You can't hear the numbers well at all. warbling sounds and background noise is ridiculous
  • Too much background noises, can't tell the voice from the rest of it.
  • the voice had an accent that was difficult to understand.
  • I don't know if it was specifically me, but it was incredibly difficult to determine which numbers were being said, if they were being said at all.
  • This HIT is a wonderful idea. I would not have known just how terrible this system was without it. There were two audio streams running at once, one English, the other I think Japanese. The man kept saying something that sounded like yow to me. I tried that both as 2 and as 0 but neither was accepted. I attempted this proceedure 7 six times and never got in.

The survey included 63 respondants and was conducted using online services. CAPTCHA stands for for "Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart" and is used by many websites to prevent spamming and malicious attacks. Sites who do not provide a functional accessible alternative to the CAPTCHA are often rendered unusable by blind and visually impaired computer users.

Category: Articles
Displaying 4 comments.
AKJ Wednesday, 16-Jun-2010 09:10 AM ET:

This is why something like should be adopted as an industry standard. It's more accessible and usable for everyone, not just the blind.

Ron Graham Wednesday, 16-Jun-2010 09:44 AM ET:

I wasn't part of your study, but echo the sentiments of it. I've had to use Google's audio CAPTCHA on several occasions and each time, it is a daunting challenge. It is often difficult to discern what the speaker is saying because of whispering effect countered with ongoing background noise. I understand the reason for the CAPTCHA, even why they think they need to mask the audio with background noise, but there are better alternatives out there. ReCaptcha and CAPTHA with logic solutions are great alternatives in use on other sites.

Steve W Wednesday, 16-Jun-2010 09:49 AM ET:

I can't stand those things either. I appreciate that Google is making the effort, but it's awful and there has to be a better way. I can generally solve them, but I find it's quicker to not bother with them and use Webvisum instead.

jaybird Wednesday, 16-Jun-2010 10:17 AM ET:

I have to echo what others have been saying here. I think I once had to try solving the CAPTCHA five or six times before I finally got it. Although ReCaptcha is much better, even that isn't all sugar and roses, as I've several times gotten audio that was of such bad quality that I could not understand the words, sometimes I doubt any human could.

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J.J. Meddaugh is an experienced technology writer and computer enthusiast. He is a graduate of Western Michigan University with a major in telecommunications management and a minor in business. When not writing for Blind Bargains, he enjoys travel, playing the keyboard, and meeting new people.

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