CAPTCHA: A Barrier to Accessibility

CAPTCHA’s are a common security measure used on websites to verify a user is a person not a bot. The acronym stands for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart (CAPTCHA). They are often used to control spam and are composed of an image file of letters and/or numbers that the user has to type in correctly to post online or create a new email account. They are an inexpensive and effective way to control spam – but they also prevent people with disabilities from using many websites.   CAPTCHA pose many accessibility problems. The image file used to disguise the characters cannot include alternative (ALT) text as bots can read ALT text. Additionally, some images are so distorted to prevent bots from recognizing them that people with cognitive and vision impairments cannot read the characters correctly. In answer to accessibility concerns, CAPTCHAs have been paired with audio. These can still create problems with screen readers unless there is a pause at the beginning of the audio recording. However, this is not helpful for people who are deaf-blind.   So what can you use instead of CAPTCHA to control spam on your website? One alternative is to ask rotating questions such as “What colour is the sky?” or simple math equations using words instead of numbers to ask the question. Filters can be used to detect natural language or pose questions to flagged IP addresses.  If your site has light traffic, could assign a moderator to control web content. If you use CAPTCHAs, take a moment to consider what may work best for your organization to reduce the amount of barriers people with disabilities face while trying to access information or contribute to your organization.


CAPTCHA by Accessibility & Usability, Penn State U. Inaccessibility of CAPTCHA by Matt May, W3C.

New Publications:

Accessible Communications & Marketing Handbook

Accessibility Ontario has complied a list of best practices and resources on creating accessible documents, websites, presentations, and more within your organization. Concise and easy to understand, the handbook has relevant information for everyone involved in communications and marketing. Save yourself the time in researching and going through the trial and error of making accessible material and order your handbook today!

Guide to Accessible Formats & Communication Supports

Every organization and individual has unique needs. Your organization can help accommodate diverse needs by having communication aids on hand. Accessibility Ontario’s guide to Communication Aids is designed to help you decide on what assistive aids to use at your organization to enable and improve communication between yourself, employees, and clients. The aids and services included in this guide are either free, low cost, or are things that you may already have around the office. Alternative communication maybe easier than you think! To learn more or to purchase any of these accessibility resources, visit Accessibility Ontario’s website.

Workshops + Webinars

Top 20 Best Practices for Accessible Communications

Date: Monday May 26, 2014 Where: Online webinar Time: 11:00am-12:00pm Cost: $70 Register for 20+ Tips for Accessible Communications   Want to make your communications and information more accessible to people with disabilities but don’t know where to start? Need a handy reference guide of best practices for your print, digital documents, website, and PDFs? Accessibility Ontario’s 20 Tips for Accessible Communications webinar will walk you through 20 simple and practical ways that you can make your organization’s communications more accessible. Webinar fee includes Accessibility Ontario’s new Accessible Communications and Marketing Handbook and our new Guide to Accessible Formats and Communication Supports (Total value of $150).

InDesign Accessible PDFs: A Hands-On Workshop

Date: Thursday, May 22, 2014 Time: 9:00am-4:00pm Where: CSI Spadina (215 Spadina Avenue, Toronto) Cost: $295 – ONLY 3 SPOTS LEFT! Register for the InDeisgn & PDF workshop The workshop is designed specifically for graphic designers and professionals working within marketing and production. We will introduce you to the fundamentals of digital accessibility and show you the steps and best practices accessibility experts take within Adobe InDesign CS6/CC and Acrobat 10 to create accessible PDFs. The workshop will cover many important areas such as document tagging and image descriptions to save you time in exporting documents. Maximum 10 participants. Workshop fee includes instructional handbook.

Maximize the Accessibility of Your Website

Date: Tuesday, June 3rd Time: 11:00am- 11:30am Where: Online webinar Cost: FREE Register for the BrowseAloud webinar   Join us for a free 30-minute webinar demonstration of easy website accessibility solution called BrowseAloud. You will be introduced to this powerful, multilingual screen reading tool featured on over 7,000 websites worldwide, including the cities of Toronto, Ottawa, and Waterloo; the Ontario Trillium Foundation; Ontario libraries; government ministries; and nonprofits.

Contact Accessibility Ontario:

  • via email at
  • via telephone at (647) 502-7047
  • via their website at