Flying High on the Internet: One Story of Accessibility Well-Implemented

Photo of Scott Davert, standing on the sidewalk with his white cane and assistive technology

Guest blogger Scott Davert, M.A., VRT, (at left) is a Senior Instructor in the Adaptive Technology Department and Communications Learning Center at the Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults (HKNC) in Sands Point, New York. This week, Scott reviews Gogo Inflight Internet.

Scott’s prior reviews include Apple’s recent iOS 6 release and RoboBraille: Enhancing Document Accessibility.

Two Years Ago: In-Flight WiFi Accessibility Frustration

In 2010, when I took a three-hour flight from Detroit to Denver, I was told that WiFi was available for a small fee during our flight. How cool would that be? I could browse my email on my laptop, send out messages bragging about my ability to do this over social networks, check out what my friends were up to, and maybe even get some research done for a technology article I was writing.

With a great degree of anticipation, I connected to the in-flight WiFi network and began the sign-up process, using my web browser. And then, at the end of the page, I discovered every braille and screen reader’s least favorite part of registering for services online: a CAPTCHA.

The CAPTCHA Frustration

For readers who are unfamiliar with the term, a CAPTCHA is a type of testing/verification process that many websites use to protect automated systems from creating accounts and exploiting the website/service in any number of ways.

Essentially, a CAPTCHA is a test used in computing to verify that a response is generated by a human user and not an “Internet bot” or “web robot.” A commonly-used type of CAPTCHA verification requires the (human) user to copy/type letters or numbers that are presented on the screen as a wavy or distorted image.

The images, as I understand it, are not very clear. While some services offer an audio solution, the audio is nearly impossible to understand. And even if it were easy to understand, this process is not accessible to persons (such as me) who are deaf-blind and use braille to access the web.

You can probably guess the end result of my WiFi anticipation: disappointment. I was denied access to the WiFi service because I couldn’t solve the CAPTCHA the system presented to me.

There are web services that can assist with the solving of pesky CAPTCHAs, but these services require the user to already have an Internet connection to communicate with the server. I did have WebVisum installed on my laptop, but because I couldn’t access the Internet, I couldn’t get the service to work for me.

So – sadly – I had a nonproductive flight that day.

Two Years Later: In-Flight WiFi Accessibility!

Earlier this month, I took a Delta flight from New York to New Orleans. Again, there was mention of a WiFi connection, and because I’m a nerd, I decided I’d try accessing the system with my iPhone.

Expecting no results, I filled out the form and found the CAPTCHA I had encountered two years ago. This time, however, I was presented with a (hopefully) accessible option: “Click here to answer a question instead.”

I did just that, and was prompted with the following question: “What is 5 plus 4?” One would hope I could add up to 9, which I did. I gave the answer, submitted the requested information, and within 30 seconds, I was online! That posting and emailing I was looking forward to doing two years ago was now finally happening!

I was able to access location services to determine our approximate location, read my email, brag on Twitter, browse some news articles, and even send some iMessages to others who have Apple devices. Within no time – or so it seemed – I was ready to power down, since we were landing.

Equal Access Provided by Gogo

It was wonderful to have equal access to the web just like everyone else, and I commend Gogo Inflight Internet for embracing the principles of universal design by providing an accessible CAPTCHA alternative for passengers who cannot see images or understand audio.

It was extremely satisfying to be able to use the WiFi just as effectively as my sighted and hearing counterparts on the flight that day, and I hope that Gogo will continue to provide this accessible CAPTCHA method as an option.

I also hope that Delta keeps Gogo Inflight Internet as an Internet Service Provider for in-flight services so that I can continue to enjoy using the Internet while in the air. Gogo received my money twice so far, and I plan to use the service again when I travel later this month if the aircraft is equipped accordingly.

Thank You, Scott

We thank Scott for his review and look forward to more Scott reviews in the future. For more information, you can contact Scott at