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Instagram announced today that it is adding two new features for visually impaired users of its photo and video-sharing service.

The first is “automatic alternative text” that will give audio descriptions of photos that users come across in Feed, Explore, and Profile. The description will be based on a list of items that appear in the photo, generated by Instagram’s object recognition technology. Users can also create their own custom text-based descriptions of their photos that will be read to users when they scroll through or click on the photo.

Other social media sites, including Facebook and Twitter, have already had alternative text descriptions available for visually impaired users for a couple of years. It’s noteworthy that Instagram is adding these tools, though, because its service is entirely dependent upon visual images — so this may open up the app to users who have never registered for Instagram before, thinking that it would be impossible for them to use an entirely image-based service.

For more reading on how object recognition technology and other forms of AI are improving accessibility, check out this feature from our own Kyle Wiggers earlier this year.


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