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Updated: Yahoo makes accessibility progress, but CAPTCHA remains inaccessible

Posted Aug 11 2008 9:12pm
While the opening of this post might sound negative, this is actually a post to acknowledge Yahoo for some advances in user accessibility which were recently added to their email operations.

Its been a while since I wrote about the inaccessible process which


Has in place for setting up new accounts. In the past, I’ve aired publicly my problem with

Yahoo’s inaccessible CAPTCHA verification process,

And later added to that, when I wrote about

Yahoo’s acknowledgement that it was inaccessible.

Those two previous posts were about only the problems blind people have using Yahoo’s set up procedures. Once the account was set up, the account was accessible enough to read one’s mail and delete unwanted mail. It was also fairly easy to press the “Create New Message” button, then write and send mail.

However, there were still some problems I didn’t write about in using some of the various buttons on the site, such as those to reply and forward selected messages. It was often a hit-and-miss process on whether these buttons would work when activated with the JAWS screen reader. Most often, though, it was miss as nothing would happen. I have to think that this was a problem with the web site, because executing button commands on other web sites has never been an issue for me.

Today, I’m back to give an update on some progress the Yahoo Mail site has made on usability by users with screen readers. Unfortunately, that is not relating to the CAPTCHA situation. That problem still exists.

I use a Yahoo Mail account for my contact information on this blog. It allows me to freely give out my email address online and not worry about my home email inbox getting inundated with spam. (Yahoo Mail does seem to have a pretty good, although sometimes inconsistent spam filter.) For the most part, I use the Yahoo account to receive news alerts to which I subscribe. But I also receive email via my blog contact information to which I’d like to reply. That is where the problems used to arise.

In the past, When I would hit the “Reply” button, it would do nothing. The next option I had was to forward the message to my home email, but when I hit the “Forward” button, it was equally impotent using a screen reader. The only option I had left was to copy the message sender’s email address and paste it into a message using my home mail client.

This entire process was both frustrating and cumbersome, and seems like such a ridiculous concept in this technologically advanced age. After all, isn’t the purpose of advancing technology to make life’s tasks simpler?

The good news is that Yahoo Mail has worked out the button bugs. It is a fairly simple task today to use all of the button commands on my account. This slight shift in accessibility was silent and implemented without any fanfare a few months ago. I would think that Yahoo would want to bang its drum when it enables accessibility, so it is beyond me why they didn’t make any announcement on this technological advancement. It had to be an intentional fix, because the Yahoo developers definitely changed something.

So, congratulations to Yahoo Mail for making their web site more accessible and usable to their visually impaired clients who rely on screen readers to access their accounts. And, another round of applause for addressing an issue which I’ve not noticed much negative press about on the web.

This is a good start. Now, if Yahoo could just show such effort in incorporating an accessible CAPTCHA solution. (Hint to Yahoo developers: accessible solutions already exist. Email me at my

Yahoo account

And I’ll be happy to reply to you with more information!)

Update 08/11/08

I am appreciative of the submission of an anonymous commenter for his/her shared observations on Yahoo! mail. I believe these thoughts echo the complimentary nature of this post and feel compelled to share these insights. Screen reader users pay attention to the first point about these changes only relating to the "Classic" version of Yahoo! mail.

One thing I would point out to the readers is that many of the changes that you talk about are in the "Classic" version of Yahoo! mail and not the "New" version.

My personal favorites are alt plus 3, alt plus 6, and alt plus 7 for compose mail, reply, and reply to all respectively. The addition of headings at important parts of the page makes navigation a breeze. JAWS users will appreciate the ability to use table reading keys to move up and down within folders of messages.

I have been a Yahoo! mail user for almost ten years both before and after I started using a screen reader. It is a great service made even better by the addition of these keystrokes.

The lack of an alternative to a visual CAPTCHA is another story and one that I just cannot grasp. This really needs to be addressed by the entire industry.

Thanks for that added perspective!
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