Facebook's Innovative Tool Helps the Visually Impaired "See"

Facebook has become a key social media platform to connect billions of users all over the world and for the most part is all visual. So what is Facebook doing to break down barriers in attempt to help the blind “see” what is actually happening on their newsfeed? For starters, they have a team completely dedicated to people with disabilities and are looking to take Facebook to a whole new level.

As of now, the blind and visually impaired have access to a “screen-reader” which identifies what is in posts displayed on the screen. It reads aloud what each post says, but it does not tell what is actually in the photos. After continuously looking for ways to go above and beyond to make their platform helpful for every user, the Facebook accessibility team is currently working on a photo tool described as “an artificial intelligence-based object recognition tool to help blind users get an idea of what’s in all of the photos people share on Facebook.” Whereas now, the screen-reader only reads the post aloud, it will soon be able to tell how many items are in photos along with a description. By allowing these users to “see” images, Facebook hopes it will not only ensure that people with disabilities will be able to use their product, but also hopes to open several doors of opportunity in all aspects, especially job wise.

Hopefully, this product will be released by the end of the year. Teamleader of the accessibility team, Jeff Wieland, tells TechCrunch that he is excited about their progress. "It's a way of giving dignity to every person with a disability in the world by helping them get connected to everybody else." Further stating, "We want to make sure that the concepts we deliver, we feel strongly that they are in the photo... We don;t want to get that wrong. So we need to continue investing in AI to make this great. We're optimistic we can ship this in the relatively short term."