Equal Access to Information: Facebook

Meet the Blind Engineer who is Helping the Visually Impaired “See” Photos on Facebook.

I’ve written before about Facebook’s attention to accessibility for people with disabilities. Here, once again, I’d like to give them a shout out for their work in creating technology that will audibly describe photos for people with visual impairments.

This initiative is good business. Through it, I believe Facebook understands the importance of inclusion. They’re not going to leave a huge portion of the population behind a wall, unable to fully participate in the conversation and community. They hire talented people who have disabilities and the natural motivation to perform the rigorous testing needed. These people are automatic ambassadors, sharing the news through word of mouth.

Soon this technology will be perfected and copied into other products. Soon we will take it for granted. Eventually, people with vision will derive benefit from this technology, and we will probably forget the reason why it was developed, and who played an important role.

But in addition to learning about “the technology,” we should also pay attention to what happens when a company listens and seeks to address a real need. We should pay attention to the benefit of having people who are actually experiencing the need be part of the solution. They add experience, expertise, perspective, urgency, and purpose to the task at hand.

Kudos to Facebook, and to the people who are working to break down the walls of accessibility, and encourage community and opportunity.