Local blind man calls new Facebook tool a "dream come true"

Posted by on Apr 12, 2016 in Voice-Over | 0 comments

A Macon, Georgia man says a new Facebook feature for the blind makes him feel more connected to the world.

Christopher Mattox, 38, has been blind since birth.  He has light perception and can see shadows when they are close.

Mattox has used Facebook for years, but had to use his imagination on things when it came to the pictures his friends posted. His iPhone and iPad are equipped with an audible feature called VoiceOver, which helps him navigate the Facebook app by reading all the text and descriptions—with one exception.

“It would just say ‘photo,’ and I could never tell what it was,” says Mattox.

That all changed this week, when Facebook rolled out a feature that describes what is in photographs its users post.

Mattox was stunned to be scrolling his News Feed on Tuesday and hear something new. Instead of just speaking the word “photo,” the app was detailing what the picture showed.

“It would say, ‘Image may contain two people smiling, shaking hands,'” says Mattox. “I was like, ‘Wow, you’ve got to be kidding me!'”

Mattox describes it as “a dream come true,” saying he had actually imagined there being a feature that would tell him about the photos people put online–yet he never thought it would happen.

“I’ve heard some of the images that people took photos of the sky, photos of people wearing nice shoes, smiling–all kinds of great stuff in there,”says Mattox. “It’s a blessing to have this out there for me and other blind users out there.”

Right now, the Facebook descriptions are confined to a 100-word vocabulary, but the company has plans to expand that, making descriptions more precise and perhaps being able to answer questions users might ask about the pictures. The feature will also be expanded to Android phones, and the web.

Already, however, Mattox says that he has been happily spreading the word to his friends, and finds himself able to interact and be involved more–and in another way.

“My friend put a photo up there and I said, ‘Nice photo,'” Mattox says. “I really love it.  I hope they keep it that way.”

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