wersm-facebook-accessibility-team

Soon Blind People Will Be Able To “See” Images On Facebook

by • October 15, 2015 • FacebookComments Off on Soon Blind People Will Be Able To “See” Images On Facebook4181

Facebook’s mission is to connect the world. And with 1.5 billion users from all over the world, it is well on its way to do that. But because of its visual nature (think about how many photos you come across everyday on your Newsfeed), Facebook remains a difficult platform to access for the blind and visually impaired.

That’s where Jeff Wieland and the Facebook’s accessibility team comes in.

Also Read: Facebook Finally Lets You Skip ‘Memories’

At Facebook, the accessibility team has the sole objective of providing a seamless experience for everyone who accesses Facebook. Right now, people with visual disabilities can already listen to what others write on Facebook, but they are yet to have a way to make sense of the millions of images that are shared on the platform every day.

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The issue they are facing is best explained by Matt King, Facebook’s first blind engineer :

You just think about how much of your news feed is visual — and is probably most of it — and so often people will make a comment about a photo or they’ll say something about it when they post it, but they won’t really tell you what is in the photo. So for somebody like myself, it can be really like, ‘Ok, what’s going on here? What’s the discussion all about?’

It is true, right? Many of the interactions we have with our friends on Facebook are based on pictures we share.

So Facebook has started work on artificial intelligence object recognition software that will be able to provide keyword description of an image. For example, in the post below, Facebook’s AI screen reader could identify elements of the image and translate those into keywords:

wersm-screen-reader-facebook

Of course, like any AI-based tool, there is a learning curve and it will probably take a long time before it becomes fully operational.

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But, as Matt King, explains, even now, the tool provides a level of engagement blind and visually impaired people could not have had before:

This might not be 100 percent yet, but even if it’s just halfway there, the level of engagement that’s possible, the amount of enjoyment I can get — that’s like going from zero percent to at least 50 percent of what you might get, that’s a huge jump, and it’s only going to get better from here.

If Facebook really wants to connect the world, then this it is certainly on the right path.


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