Currently, people who are blind can use a screen reader to listen to what people are writing on Facebook. In the early days of Facebook, that might have been enough, but Facebook has become a visual medium—a large proportion of posts are accompanied by images.
Right now, there is no way for people with a visual impairment to access the millions of photos shared on Facebook every day. People post photos and others comment about the photos, but unless they provide information about what’s in the photos, users who are blind won’t know what they are.
Facebook’s accessibility team is “working on an artificial intelligence–based object recognition tool to help blind users get an idea of what’s in the photos people share on Facebook.” Matt King, an engineer at Facebook who is blind, explains.
Right now, if he clicks on a friend’s picture with the caption, “Ready for picture day of first grade,” accompanied by a photo, he knows there’s a photo and understands the general nature from the post. But with the object recognition technology Facebook is prototyping, the program will tell him that the image contains one or more people and that one is a child. For another photo, the tool might tell him the image contains nature, outdoor, cloud, foliage, grass, tree.
The tool is limited, but it provides much more information than a person who is blind can get now. King believes this is only the beginning. And he sees levelling the playing field as a human right. “It’s a way of giving dignity to every person with a disability in the world by helping them get connected to everybody else.”
To read more about the image recognition tool, check out the article here.