Using Captcha on epetitions.direct.gov.uk

Recently, I complained to the Government’s epetitions about the use of Captcha and whether it was necessary especially when we are providing our home address. I brought this up as I am aware that Captcha are a bugger to use for people who are blind/deafblind/usher. So I fired off a short but concise email – hoping that it will makes some difference.

Here’s their reply:

Thank you for your message regarding e-petitions.  I am sorry that you are experiencing problems with the site, and for the slight delay in responding to your e-mail.

We have recently introduced new anti-spam ‘captcha’ software, following the previous software used on the site becoming more difficult to read.   Any ‘captcha’ software is necessarily somewhat difficult to read, as it is intended to reduce the risk of automated systems being able to fraudulently add signatures to the site; however, we do monitor the software and will consider alternative options if this too becomes too difficult for users to read or listen to.

If you are continuing to experience problems with the captcha software, the following solutions may help.

  • If the text box is not visible, you may find that forcibly refreshing the page (Ctrl+F5 on Internet Explorer, for example) will ensure it displays.  Alternatively, if you use advert blocking software in your browser, you may find that disabling this will allow the text to be visible.   Our technical team are looking into reports that some browsers are not displayed the captcha, however this does not appear to be happening routinely with any specific browser.
  • If you are unable to read the text, links below the text box allow for alternative combinations to be displayed.  In many cases, errors occur when users may misread the letters L, I and the number 1, or the number 0 and the letter O for example.
  • If the text is too obscured for you to read, an audio version is also available.
  • If none of these options work, you can respond to this e-mail with details of your name, address and a link of the petition you wish to sign, and I will be able to manually add your signature.

Finally, in some cases, individuals have contacted us, believing to be having problems with the captcha software where in fact they had already signed the e-petition and the error messages normally reflect this.   These cases are especially frequent for e-petitions backed by large organisations who send repeated e-mails to members/customers/supporters to sign their e-petition.   If you are attempting to sign an e-petition as a result of an e-mail sent to you in this way, you may wish to check your previously received e-mails from the e-Petitions website to check you have not already signed the e-petition.

I hope this information is helpful.

Yours sincerely

Ben Sneddon
Assistant Private Secretary- Office of the Leader of the House of Commons