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Facebook’s “Empathy Lab” gives the company’s employees a taste of what it’s like to use various technologies include those that people with disabilities use to navigate the website. Pictured is “Braille Display” for users who are blind. Photographed at the Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park on Nov. 5, 2015. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group)

The social media giant Facebook has taken steps to engage visually impaired users with a newly-launched image recognition program that will describe photos in a voice-over for the visually impaired.

The director of policy for Facebook in Australia, Mia Garlick, said the innovation came about after the company conducted research with users who were vision impaired about how to improve the platform.

“The idea for the automatic photo captioning system really came about because we were doing interviews with people within the community who have visual impairments,” she said.

“When they’re using readers, the readers will tell them who’s posted a photo and that there is a photo, but it wasn’t actually telling them what was in the photos.

“There’s more than two billion photos that are shared across the Facebook family of apps, so across Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp.

“There’s millions of people who are either blind or they’ve got a severe visual impairment.

“We’re really trying to give them a richer way to engage across all of these different communications devices so they can see and hear the world the same as the rest of us.”

Accessibility