In 2016, Facebook launched the automatic alt-text (AAT) feature aimed at improving accessibility of its website. The feature makes it easier for the visually impaired to use Facebook by generating a description of a photo by utilizing object recognition technology. We have now discovered that the same accessibility feature might soon become available on the Instagram app.
Automatic Alternative (Alt) Text Feature Coming Soon to Instagram?
We did a teardown of the latest Instagram APK and discovered strings that point to the automatic alt-text (AAT) feature. This clearly suggests that the accessibility feature is likely to be added in a future version of the Instagram app. Once the feature is rolled out, we expect it to work similarly to how it does in the Facebook app. Users will need to open the Instagram app using a screen reader and focus on the image. Once the objects are identified, they will hear a list of items that the photo may contain. Alternatively, they might hear the caption added by the person who uploaded the photo. By adding the automatic alt-text feature, Instagram will be able to provide a more inclusive experience. Unfortunately, however, it is not clear as to how long it might take for Instagram to begin rolling out the automatic alt-text (AAT) feature for both Android and iOS platforms.
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While the alt-text tool will make it a lot easier for visually impaired people to use the Instagram app, Facebook is currently working on further enhancing accessibility by developing an automatic alt-text (AAT) tool for videos. In the near future, the alt-text tool for videos will be able to describe certain kinds of videos on the Facebook app. Similar to the alt-text feature for photos, we can expect the alt-text tool for videos to make its way to the Instagram app eventually. Facebook is not the only tech company that is working on improving accessibility. Facebook has partnered with Google, Microsoft, Oath, and Adobe to launch the Teach Access Study Away: Silicon Valley program, which is aimed at bringing together students, faculty, and industry partners to explore the field of accessibility. Participating Teach Access universities include Michigan State University, California State University Northridge, Olin College of Engineering, and University of Colorado Boulder.