Discussion: Captchas and Accessibility

Hi y’all,

The question of captchas and accessibility has come up in a few different places recently so I thought it’d be a good one to raise here.

Basically, there are a few spots where LiveWhale needs to filter out human from bot activity, namely submissions and things that trigger emails:

  • Form submissions
  • Event RSVPs
  • “Share this via email” links

For logged-in LiveWhale users, we bypass the captcha since we can be pretty sure you’re human. :slight_smile: What we’ve found is that leaving any of the above captcha-less for logged-out visitors can cause problems, namely spam submissions that clog results sets and (more worryingly) result in spammy-looking notification emails that can compromise email trust ratings for our and your email servers—in extreme cases potentially, being blocked from ISPs for looking like a spam server.

All that to say: we see ourselves still needing captchas. But what kind of captchas? LiveWhale currently supports setting manual text captchas (your own customizable “1+1=2” type thing), and we also integrate with reCAPTCHA v2 (the “I’m not a robot” checkbox with occasional secondary test), that’s the most common.

It’s been asked a lot over the years, “does reCAPTCHA fulfill WCAG requirements,” and it seems the answer is something like “Yes, probably, but it can still present hurdles for some users.” We’ve looked into adding support for the “invisible” reCAPTCHA v3, but I’m not sure quite what we ought to do in the case where an invisible test fails (are we certain you’re a bot in that case)?

Basically, I’m curious—what’s the discussion around accessibility, captchas, and Google reCAPTCHA been with your campus stakeholders and experts? Is there another free captcha solution we should explore integrating with that’s better for accessibility? Is there a paid solution we should consider endorsing?