Facebook Improves Accessibility Of Mobile Apps

By Justin Lafferty 

Facebook is a wonderfully picturesque site, and the company wants those who are visually impaired to be able to experience that, as well. The social network posted recently about the work it has done to improve the accessibility of its mobile applications, including verbal descriptions of photos.

Facebook posted a video showing the accessibility aspects of its mobile apps, which includes a screen reader that says aloud things like, “cover photo,” and a description given by the person, such as where the image was taken.

In a blog post on the Facebook Design page, Project Manager Jeff Wieland explained the company’s focus on accessibility for all:

One of the challenges with Facebook from an accessibility perspective is that a lot of our content is user-generated. Most websites have a lot of static images that don’t change, and so if they want to make their content accessible to visually impaired people, they can label those images with an alt tag — “windmill” on a picture of a windmill, for example — that the screen reader can read aloud.

But since almost all of Facebook’s content is user-generated, we don’t have the control to name every single picture on the site. So we’ve done a few things over time to make it easier. If the person’s photo has a caption, for example, we’ll put that caption in the alt tag for the screen reader to read aloud.

Now, that’s helpful in some cases, but the caption isn’t always the best explanation of the image. And so the biggest change we’ve made is to try and provide more structured information about the photo to give it more context. If we know it has people tagged in it or a location associated with it, for example, we can read that information back. This enhancement is currently deployed to a percentage of our mobile site, and will hopefully move over to the rest of our products in time.

Readers: Do you take advantage of the accessibility features within Facebook? What else could be improved in that area?

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.