'Every day, sighted volunteers and professionals lend their eyes to solve tasks big and small to help blind and low-vision people lead more independent lives.'
People with disabilities experience challenges of accessibility in their day-to-day lives including daily chores. More advanced research and technologies have been used to make the world more inclusive. Be My Eyes is an app that's attempting to build an online community of people to help people who are blind or have low-vision. Launched in January 2015, the free app "connects blind and low-vision individuals with sighted volunteers and companies from all over the world through a live video call." People can receive video support at a moment's notice for "anything from checking expiry dates, distinguishing colors, reading instructions or navigating new surroundings." Since its launch, 6,109,755 volunteers have signed up to assist blind and low-vision users.
A person needing support only needs to launch the app and select "call a volunteer" and "request assistance in over 180 languages making the app the biggest online community for blind and low-vision people as well as one of the largest micro-volunteering platforms in the world." According to the app's website, "Every day, sighted volunteers and professionals lend their eyes to solve tasks big and small to help blind and low-vision people lead more independent lives."
DIGITAL JOVE 2022 | The 'Digital Accessibility & Inclusion' #DigitalJoveAward 2022 goes to @hjwiberg and @BeMyEyes a free #mobile #app that connects #blind and visually impaired people with sighted #volunteers from around the world via live #video connection | #DigitalJove2022 pic.twitter.com/A8LwYLIq8J— Digital Jove Forum (@digital_jove) October 27, 2022
The founder of Be My Eyes, Hans Jørgen Wiberg, a visually impaired person himself, got the idea for the startup in a conversation with a blind friend in 2012 who told him that "he used video calls to connect with family and friends, who could help him with these tasks." Wiberg expanded the idea and believed that the technology of video calls can be used to get support from a network of volunteers. It took three years for his idea to become a reality and within 24 hours of releasing the app on iOS, more than 10,000 users had signed up.
I never heard how Miss Linda’s date went but now we have someone else to root for. Just answered a @BeMyEyes call where a gentleman was looking for his cat, Dominick. We searched the entire house and could not find him. 💔🐱 pic.twitter.com/jvPTMwYFsJ— Gisele Barreto Fetterman (@giselefetterman) October 21, 2022
Gail McNaughton, a resident of Summerville, who has been completely blind for a little over 2 years now uses the app "a lot for recipes, to help me read recipes.” Almost 40 years ago, McNaughton realized that she was almost blind in her left eye and learned she had pseudoexfoliation which is "almost like dandruff in the eye and it clogs up the drain and that leads to glaucoma,” McNaughton explained. But she used to be "very anxious and upset” wondering if losing her sight would prevent her from enjoying her favorite activities. However, thanks to the app she can still cook and bake for her family. In addition to little stickers all over her house that she shares with her husband John, Be My Eyes app on her iPhone serves as her other primary tool. On the opposite side of the screen, sighted volunteers like Charleston resident Angelica Niemiec respond to any kind of help she requires.
When you alt text a picture; when you see someone about to grab me on the street and say "don't touch!"; when you warn me that a seat on the train is empty for a gross reason: these moments of micro-allyship improve my world, and i often think about them for the rest of the day.— Chancey Fleet 🌈👩🦯 (@ChanceyFleet) February 14, 2022
Downloaded an app called "Be my eyes" to assist visually impaired people across the world living alone... Just received my first call, the guy asked me to confirm the expiry date on his bread and what type of bread it is ... OMG!!! 🥺🥲😭😭— Ife Olatunji-David (@IfeODavid) December 4, 2021
Samantha McGovern, a certified low-vision therapist and the Own Your Life program manager at Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired SC (ABVI)—a resource that McNaughton has also found useful—is also a volunteer for Be My Eyes. McGovern says that the app is a good resource but she has to educate her clients to do some tasks independently. “You can learn strategies and techniques on how to put tactile markings on your appliances. Maybe the Be My Eyes volunteer helps you with that initial process, but once you have bump dots or raised lines that you can function with, then you don’t really need to call a volunteer,” said McGovern. McNaughton is able to carry on living her life with all the aids she has. “I’ve realized that you can do just about anything you want to do…other than driving,” she exclaims.