Facebook has come up with a way to help blind English-speaking users understand what kind of images appear in their News Feeds. The tool is called “Automatic Alternative Text,” and it basically provides a simple description of a photo’s contents for anyone who is using a screen reader. Screen readers usually give limited information, meaning that they only inform the user that there’s an image in a status update without actually describing it. The Automatic Alternative Text tool makes use of Facebook’s object recognition technology in order to make sense of an image and inform the user on what it contains, such as a boat, a mountain, ice cream, eyeglasses, smiles or jewelry.
It certainly makes sense for Facebook to implement this feature, as people usually rely on image posting for status updates these days, which means that browsing through the News Feed is visually intensive. It’s definitely not hard to install an app that can read text out loud for the visually impaired, but describing an image is a much more complex and more useful task. Apparently, the tool is only available in English for iOS for now, but Facebook does plan to adapt it for other operating systems and languages in the near future.