WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Facebook for the Visually Impaired

Apr 21, 2016

The world’s largest social media site is becoming more accessible to the visually impaired.

Facebook is filled with pictures and life updates. People can read and see those posts as they go. But for some, Facebook is more difficult to use.

Western Illinois University student Bryce Weiler is blind. He said because he can’t see, he doesn’t use Facebook.

“Facebook has always been harder for me to use with my screen reading program and secondly, I really don’t want a multitude of individuals knowing what I’m doing every single day,” Weiler said.

The screen reading program Weiler uses would only tell him who wrote a post. Facebook is going beyond that by using artificial intelligence to help blind and visually impaired people “see” pictures. Facebook announced this month it has launched a new program that allows people to use an IOS screen reader on apple devices that describes the picture when a user scrolls past it.

This IOS screen reader sounds like:

After describing the picture, it would then provide the user an option to react or comment.  

However, Weiler said he doesn’t think this will make him want to use Facebook.

“I might use it in the case of sports teams and things like that but the fact that it’s describing pictures and things like that, that might not make it easier to post pictures and content,” he said.

Facebook said it will continue to improve the screen reader as technology advances and it will continue to make its site more accessible to everyone.