Instagram announced today that it rolls out new features that make the app easier to use for visually impaired people. The changes will allow screen readers to describe images, either automatically using AI or by reading custom descriptions added by users.
These descriptions, known as "all text", are widely used online and are now being built into Instagram. Users will be able to add their own image descriptions so that people using screen readers – software that describe the items that appear on a screen – can hear it read aloud as they browse their feed, explore page, or profile.
If there is no description, Instagram will automatically identify what is in an image using object detection technology, and then read the auto description of an image high when someone scrolls. All text descriptions will not be visible, and users must enter advanced settings for an image to include one.
Although this is a first for Instagram, Facebook has used AI to describe images to blind users for years. This video gives a pretty good sense of how it has been for people with blindness and other sightings to use the app so far. It's not the most seamless experience, and these new features will definitely make it easier and more useful.
Here's what the new alttext option will look like on Instagram: