Tag Archives: Inclusion

I love you Facebook! Thanks for including me by adding image recognition software!

Today I’m so excited it’s ridiculous. Because today, I am one big step closer to being fully included in the full Facebook experience.

 

I loved Facebook in its infancy. All statuses were chronological and even though there were photos, they didn’t clog up my newsfeed to the point where I felt more frustrated than informed. Then, things started changing. And by 2011, I was seriously sick of Facebook because I could no longer choose not to get photos in my newsfeed on a permanent basis. I don’t know if people also started to post more photos, but to me they seemed to increase.

 

Eventually, I learned to live with it. I’m a minority group and accept that most people cherish photos. It’s not that I don’t, but I much prefer a video with good audio or just audio because it’s the best way for me to relive saved memories.

 

But captions on photos help a lot. They don’t have to be longwinded, but something like “My cat fell asleep on my newly ironed work suit” is enough for me to understand and click like.

 

But not everyone writes good captions all the time. Even I am guilty of this. See, I’m conforming to the majority, so I was excited when I heard that soon, Facebook would have recognition software that could describe photos for blind people.

 

And today, it has finally happened. I was browsing through my newsfeed as usual when I heard Voiceover on my iPhone read out a description of a photo someone had published. I couldn’t believe it at first, so I kept scrolling. And sure enough, there were more image descriptions.

 

The biggest smile you can imagine crossed my face and I did a little dance, in my feverish flue state.

 

The image recognition today is very basic and will only describe in general terms. “This image may contain one person and tree outdoors.” An Interview with the blind engineer, I think his name is Matt King, who is the main man behind this great development said that it could potentially recognize a lot more, but that it would take some more testing and developing before it’s possible to get more detailed descriptions. He added that some are raising concerns about data protection safety. But as he pointed out, we only want the data that’s already there.

 

I hope that soon I’ll be able to hear descriptions like “Jane and John at outside table drinking coke,” but for now I am happy. Because this is an extremely important step towards including blind people into the vast visual world of social media. I already feel more included and I can’t wait till this feature also comes to Instagram. And perhaps Twitter soon will see the sense to not just to rely on users writing good captions for their images. Captions are not dead though. Because even though it’s possible to see an image, or hear it, a caption can still tell a good story.

 

Well, that’s me off to look at some more Facebook photos. Laters! Xx

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the Blindtrap

I don’t think I know a single blind person who has escaped the “blindtrap”. Not entirely anyway. What is the blindtrap? It is variations on thinking that you’re somehow inferior because you’re blind. This feeling of inferiority can be manifested in many ways and some of them are extremely subtle. It can be obvious things from passing comments such as “You’d be so much more attractive if you could make eye-contact” and not getting jobs because of employers attitudes, to sighted people excluding you from helping out on communal cooking and decorating because they may think it’s difficult for you to join and being more efficient at many practical things because they can see.

 

I am sad, but not ashamed to say that I too am caught in this trap more often than I like at times. And I have to remind myself that sighted people are not better, sexier, more intelligent, and more capable than me just because they’re sighted.

 

I remember having a conversation with a good friend of mine whom I also used to work with. I couldn’t work out what I’d done for my team leader to dislike me so much. I felt like an annoying insect she wanted to smash against the window every time I had to speak to her.

“I think she sees you as competition. She’s pretty and blond like you, but you’re twenty years younger and fit. So maybe you remind her of what she used to be,” my friend said.

I was astonished to hear this. How could anyone see me, a blind girl as competition? “Don’t be ridiculous,” my friend said when I pointed out that since she was sighted, she’d always be a lot more attractive than me anyway.

 

I’ve talked with this particular friend a lot about my inferiority issuex. And he has made me understand that I am just as sexy, intelligent, capable and resourceful as someone who can see. I’ve

even had men, both sighted and blind, asking if I’d have their kids because they’d want to make sure their kids got well brought up by a capable woman with strong ethical principles. And that’s a huge compliment.

There are many small and easy steps sighted people can take to avoid giving their blind friends or family members feelings of inferiority .

  • Involve them in communal activities. Not sure of their abilities? Ask. “Can you cut these onions?” If the answer is no, suggest something else, or let the blind person tell you what he/she can do
  • Expect them to pull their weight. If you’re having a party where everybody is bringing stuff, make sure everybody is bringing stuff. Last time I checked, blindness doesn’t interfere with ones abilities to bake a cake or buy a bottle of wine. This is also important for parents who have both blind and sighted kids. I was expected to do housework just like my brother was. Different chores yes. But I had no excuse not to do them.
  • Unless asked for, don’t take over a blind person’s chore because you can do it quicker. If you do something regularly, be it house work, cooking or gardening, you’ll get good at it no matter how well you see.
  • Don’t pick up objects to be helpful. My friends often pick up my handbag or cane when we’re leaving a restaurant without telling me, only for me to spend ages feeling for it on the floor. It makes me feel a little stupid. I know it comes from a good place, but….. Just leave it for me to pick up.

This list could include more points, but I can’t think of any right now. But as long as you use your common sense and ask questions you should be cool.

What blind people can do? Soul searching, living and learn to recognize that it is possible for a sighted person to sometimes feel inferior to you because of who you are or what you can do. I still fall into the blindtrap, but not as frequently as when I was younger, or for different reasons. I probably always will in some cases. But having sighted people around me who just treat me like a normal person and don’t act like my blindness is an inconvenience for them or a reason to exempt me from daily life, does a lot to make me feel as valuable as them.