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November 27, 2015

Facebook developing a tool for blind people

Social media is all about sharing images of family, friends and travels and now blind people might be given the chance to ‘see’ these pictures on Facebook. Currently, apps designed for blind people can read text from screens, offering the same experience as anyone browsing online.

But the barrier to accessibility means people living with visual impairment may miss out on the pictures.

The leader of the accessibility team at Facebook, Jeff Wieland, plans to offer its 1.5 billion users a new device or tool in-built app which will also describe the image for those who can’t see it. Matt King, Facebook’s first blind engineer, told Tech Crunch: “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 will say something about it when they post it, but they won’t really tell you what is in the photo.” That’s where the new software comes in, and it will describe what’s in the picture in some generic words – people, scenery, buildings, and so on.

For example, an image of a beach at sunset like this one below could be labelled: “nature, outdoor, cloud, foliage, grass, tree”, so give the ‘viewer’ more of an idea of what’s in there.

A family holiday shown below picture might be described as: “four people, outdoor, swinging, smiling”.

King also added “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 per cent to at least 50 percent of what you might get.”

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