Instagram launches automatic captions for IGTV to promote accessibility


Instagram is adding automatic captions to IGTV.


Instagram on Tuesday launched AI-powered automatic video captions for IGTV, part of an effort to make the platform more accessible to all users. The feature is currently available in 16 languages. 

Users will automatically see the captions if their volume is turned all the way down. They can turn on captions via settings, or from an in-video dropdown menu. This feature can be helpful for people with hearing loss, which impacts around 466 million people around the world, according to the World Health Organization.

“Audio within Instagram videos is unique in that there are a variety of different languages, topics, acoustic conditions, cultural slang and accents,” a Facebook company representative said. “Auto-captioning videos requires cutting-edge research and engineering to power the artificial intelligence that we use in the process.”

This is the latest step Instagram has taken to promote accessibility in its products. In 2018, the company introduced automatic alternative text, which allows people with visual impairments to hear descriptions of photos through their screen reader while using Feed, Explore and Profile. Instagram also simultaneously rolled out custom alternative text, allowing users to add stronger descriptions of their photos when uploading, which people using screen readers are then able to hear.

Facebook, Instagram’s parent company, has also launched a handful of accessibility features lately, including scalable font sizes and contextual headings. More tech companies are launching accessibility features as organizations and advocates point out the need for greater tech accessibility, especially in light of the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act this year. The coronavirus pandemic has also shed light on the urgency of disability accommodations.

Instagram launched IGTV, its standalone app for videos from creators, in 2018. The service is also embedded within the main Instagram app. As Instagram continues to compete for users’ attention against the likes of TikTok, the company last month unveiled Reels, its short-form video feature.

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