Google has added a new feature to Chrome that can identify the objects in an image, and describe them for users with sight impairments.
The new tool uses the same tech as Google Lens and Google Photos to analyze pictures and generates a description that can be read aloud by a screen reader, or shown as characters on a braille display.
Ideally, all images online should have alt text, a short descriptive text. This appears when an image fails to load, and can be read by accessibility tools to tell people with sight impairments what the picture shows.
Unfortunately alt text isn’t always provided, and screen readers will simply say the word ‘image’, which isn’t very helpful.
Chrome’s new feature, called Image Descriptions, will attempt to identify the contents of the picture and say ‘Appears to be…’ followed by its best guess. For example, it might say ‘Appears to be a bicycle’, letting you know that the site probably contains a picture of a bike, but that the description was AI-generated and may not be entirely accurate.
How to activate it
The new Image Descriptions feature is available for anyone who uses a screen reader or braille display. To activate it, just go to Chrome Settings > Advanced > Accessibility and select ‘Get image descriptions from Google’.
It’s great to see Google putting an emphasis on accessibility. The company recently updated Google Maps to add super-detailed walking directions so you can find your way around unfamiliar places with confidence – whether you have a sight disorder, or just want to keep your phone in your pocket.
Hopefully we’ll see even more tools on the way soon. Such is Google’s dominance, any new accessibility features it introduces can make a real difference to millions of people.