New technology helping to increase social media accessibility

By Adam Forster, Technology

Technology has been changing the way people interact with their environment for years. Our world has become increasingly connective and digitally enabled, so that everything from our work to our health and fitness is facilitated by various tech developments.

However, one of the most groundbreaking results of innovation is the impact it can have on accessibility for the disabled. Facebook's recent announcement of automatic alternative text for describing images to blind people illustrates how important technology jobs are for advancing quality of life on top of general efficiency.

Visually impaired people engaging with social media
Digital technology is useful to many different people for a variety of reasons, the blind included.

The World Health Organisation states that there are about 285 million visually impaired people around the globe. Many of them are making use of digital media like social networking sites to complement their daily life, just like sighted users.

According to a survey by Facebook and Cornell University on how visually impaired people interact with social media, all of the respondents claim to use Facebook at least once a week. Additionally, 60 per cent of respondents said they use LinkedIn and Twitter, followed by Instagram at 22 per cent.

Interestingly, these platforms all contain visual content which has been previously inaccessible to blind people, but Facebook's new developments have changed that.

Interacting with images out loud
In a blog post on April 4, Facebook announced that it will be utilising Artificial Intelligence to aid blind people in interacting with visual features on the platform. The automatic alternative text function is being rolled out for people using screen readers to access Facebook on an iOS device. The function 'reads' an image, and then generates a verbal description of possible elements it contains so the user can get an idea of what it is depicting.

The implementation of this development will significantly change the way visually impaired people relate to social networks, giving them access to more digital elements than ever before.

This is an excellent example of the way careers in technology can not only improve business operations and promote digital advancement, but have a lasting impact on the independence of disadvantaged groups. Overall, working in the technology industry means shaping the way people navigate the world around them, both now and in the future to come.


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