A new Facebook tool has been created to help those who are visually impaired ‘see’ photos by describing things they contain. The automatic alternative text will be read to people on devices using screen readers –so you’ll hear the list of items contained in a photo, say, a coconut tree, beach, two people, smiling. When scrolling the News Feed, a person will only hear that their friend has posted a photo. Screen reader software is essential in this instance as it turns photos and text into synthesized speech that can be understood by those who are blind or visually impaired.
With over 2 billion photos shared every day on Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp, the flooding number of images on the web means that blind people have a hard time getting to understand what’s going on around them. This automatically leaves them out of the conversation.
With the Facebook automated photo captioning tool still in its early stages, more descriptions are expected to be added to the current ones that only identify rudimentary things like football, person, car, and house, among others. The tool needs to be also developed for other languages and should work on all screens –at present, it is being tested on iOS devices where readers have set English as their language.
Facebook’s latest step is a major one given that growing web has been leaving out those who are visually impaired and the blind. It is often difficult for such individuals to do things such as apply for jobs or colleges, shop online, get health information, or even read the news.
With Facebook having adopted that crucial step and aiming to make it accessible to all its apps and devices, a lot of tech giants are expected to follow suit. Facebook also plans to use the power of artificial intelligence to improve the online experience of people who have disabilities.