Lilian de Greef

Screen Recognition: Creating Accessibility Metadata for Mobile Applications from Pixels

Xiaoyi Zhang, Lilian de Greef, Amanda Swearngin, Samuel White, Kyle Murray, Lisa Yu, Qi Shan, Jeffrey Nichols, Jason Wu, Chris Fleizach, Aaron Everitt, Jeffrey P. Bigham


Many accessibility features available on mobile platforms require applications (apps) to provide complete and accurate metadata de- scribing user interface (UI) components. Unfortunately, many apps do not provide sufficient metadata for accessibility features to work as expected. In this paper, we explore inferring accessibility meta- data for mobile apps from their pixels, as the visual interfaces often best reflect an app’s full functionality. We trained a robust, fast, memory-efficient, on-device model to detect UI elements using a dataset of 77,637 screens (from 4,068 iPhone apps) that we collected and annotated. To further improve UI detections and add semantic information, we introduced heuristics (e.g., UI grouping and ordering) and additional models (e.g., recognize UI content, state, interactivity). We built Screen Recognition to generate accessibility metadata to augment iOS VoiceOver. In a study with 9 screen reader users, we validated that our approach improves the accessibility of existing mobile apps, enabling even previously inaccessible apps to be used.