How Apple and Facebook bring tech accessibility to the masses

According to CNET, a world leader in tech product reviews, news, forums and videos, two billion photos are uploaded onto Facebook every day. It’s a very visual tool, but not so useful for users who are blind or visually impaired. That was the case up until May 2016 when Facebook engineer, Matt King, designed a tool which generates a colourful list-like description of every photo using object recognition.

King, who went blind while he was a student at Notre Dame University, was eager to create a better experience of the social networking portal for people who are blind, and is an example of how tech giants like Facebook and Apple are thinking outside the box. These social media juggernauts are hiring people with different perspectives to bring their product to a broader customer base, which includes people with disabilities.Many improvements are just waiting to be discovered in the accessibility section of the settings menu.

According to CNET, image-recognition can make a huge difference to visually impaired Facebook users.  Similarly, on the iPhone 7 and the Apple Watch, the built-in taptic engine, which vibrates to deliver tactile responses to the user, is a major part built into every feature in Apple’s Watch OS software. The Apple Watch Series 2 is operational straight out of the box and a feature called Taptic Time informs users of the hour and minutes using a series of vibrations. Ian Macrea, a journalist who is visually impaired, was impressed with the new gizmo from the get-go, especially the extra-large digital face and the simple analog face, as well as the dictation feature which allowed him to reply to messages directly from his wrist.

Increasingly, tech companies like Facebook, Apple and Microsoft are enveloping themselves in a culture of inclusivity. These principles ensure their designers, and engineers like King, think holistically with both able-bodied users and those with disabilities in mind. “We’re getting closer and closer to that world where we can make everyone feel much more included,” said King.

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