TU research team named a 2009 Innovator of the Year

Daily Record to honor group that developed Web-based security feature equally accessible to people with disabilities

Pictured, from left, are Harry Hochheiser, Jonathan Lazar , Jinjuan Heidi Feng and doctoral student Graig Sauer. The fifth member of the team, Jon Holman '08, is absent.  Photo credit: Kanji Takeno

TOWSON, Md. (September 9, 2009)—A TU joint project led by Jonathan Lazar, professor of computer and information sciences, has been recognized by The Daily Record as a 2009 Innovator of the Year.

The team, which includes TU faculty members Jinjuan Heidi Feng and Harry Hochheiser, along with doctoral student Graig Sauer and Jon Holman ’08, developed and extensively tested HIPUU—the Human Interaction Proof Universally Usable—from 2007 to 2009.

The Daily Record will honor the group and other award recipients with a ceremony on Oct. 14 at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore.

HIPUU is designed to improve the CAPTCHA experience for all users—those with disabilities as well as those without disabilities. Most Web users have encountered CAPTCHAs, a form of human interaction proof (HIP) which consists of challenge-response tests (typically an obscured sequence of letters and digits, or twisted text) designed to determine whether the user is human.

Web-based registrations usually require users look at garbled text, and identify the text, to continue. “While these features are frustrating for people without disabilities, they are impossible to complete for many people with disabilities, especially those with low vision or who are fully blind,” says Lazar. “This type of security feature stops blind people, and those with other disabilities, from accessing Web-based e-mail, registering for services, paying bills and purchasing online.”

HIPUU, in contrast, is an interface prototype that combines a clear, unique and obvious non-textual picture (such as a picture of rain) with an equivalent sound clip (such as the sound of rain). HIPUU does not use text—instead, it uses images and sounds easy to recognize by humans, but harder for automated software programs to recognize, such as a dog barking. Lazar says HIPUU allows for security and equal access, with equal rates of success.

“Our tool is the first integrated tool that works equally well for multiple different user populations,” he says. “Both blind and sighted test groups were able to successfully complete the security features more than 90 percent of the time.”

Government agencies, as well as companies that sell technology products to the federal or state government, are required to follow laws requiring equal access to technology for people with disabilities. HIPUU can help local companies comply with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act at the federal level and comply with the Information Technology Nonvisual Access Regulatory Standards at the Maryland state level.





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