Instagram has announced it will roll out features to make the app more accessible for users with visual impairments. The app will allow screen readers to describe photos, either automatically using AI or using custom descriptions added by users.
The descriptions, known as “alt text,” are already widely used online and are now being built into Instagram. Users will now be able to enter their own photo descriptions allowing those users who use screen readers – software that describes the elements displayed on a screen – to hear the description of the photo as they browse their feed, explore a page, or a profile.
The magic occurs when there is no description available.
Instagram will use AI to to identify what’s in a photo using object recognition technology, which will then read aloud the automated description when a user scrolls by the photo. The “alt text” won’t be visible to users, who will have to go into a photo’s “advanced settings” to include one.
Though a first for Instagram, parent company Facebook has been using AI to describe photos to blind users for years. To give you an idea of what its been like for people with visual impairments to use Instagram, this video best explains it all and why this feature is truly needed to allow more inclusiveness to its app:
Below is a screenshot of what the new “alt text” feature will look like: