Be My Eyes - The App That Is Almost Single Handedly Bringing Sight To The Blind
Imagine you are blind, you live alone, you just got off the phone with your family, and you realize, “shoot, I really want vegetable soup for dinner tonight!” There is just one problem, you have five cans in your cupboard and they are all the same size and weight. What do you do? Mom and Dad just went to bed! Now think about if you need to buy a meal, but you are very allergic to peanuts, and there is no one to ask if there are peanuts in the salad you just picked up. What do you do? How about if it is your daughter’s wedding day and you want to make sure you look just perfect before going out, but you can not see. What do you do?
This is what founder of Be My Eyes, Hans Jørgen Wiberg, asked himself as he slowly started losing his sight. There are only so many times you can call your family and friends to help you. Wouldn’t it be perfect, if there was a group of happy and willing volunteers who he could quickly reach out to for these types of questions?
Well, there are now, over a million of them! With Be My Eyes, a blind person can be in contact with a volunteer any hour of the day all over the world. On top of this, Be My Eyes is the first organization to work with companies to create an easy platform they can use to better aid their blind clients. They help organizations set up an easy to use customer service platform, very similar to what they do with their general Be My Eyes app. This can be used through Be My Eyes, and lets the blind reach out to a representative with a video call, making the support more geared to what the visually impaired need. If you are a company who is interested in expanding your assistance option, or if you just want to learn more, please click here.
To learn more about Be My Eyes please read the below interview.
And sign up! This writer is a registered volunteer!
Foreword by Kira Bucca, Editor and Chief of Jejune Magazine.
We love the idea of your app, Be My Eyes, where it connects blind people to seeing people who want to temporarily be their eyes. Can you please tell us what inspired you to create Be My Eyes?
The Be My Eyes story started in Denmark in 2012 with Hans Jørgen Wiberg, a Danish furniture craftsman, who is visually impaired himself. Through his work at ‘The Danish Association of the Blind’, he recognized that blind or visually impaired people often needed a little assistance to solve everyday tasks. However, it wasn’t until a blind friend told him that he used video calls to connect with family and friends, who could help him with these tasks, that Hans Jorgen got the idea for Be My Eyes. He believed that the technology of video calls could be used to visually assist blind or visually impaired individuals, without them having to rely on friends and family, but using a network of volunteers.
In April 2012, Hans presented his idea at a Danish startup event, where he got connected with a team that was ready to make Be My Eyes a reality. On January 15th 2015, the Be My Eyes app was released for iOS, and within 24 hours the app had more than 10,000 users. Since the release of the iOS app, an Android version has been in high demand. The Android version was finally released on October 5th 2017. In December 2017, Be My Eyes was chosen as Google Play Best Apps of 2017 in the categories; “Most Innovative”, “Best Daily Helper” and “Best Hidden Gem”, and in May 2018 Be My Eyes won the Google Play Award 2018 for “Best Accessibility Award”.
Since our launch, on January 15th 2015, more than 1.6 million sighted volunteers have assisted 95,000 blind and visually impaired. The app is used in 150+ countries and can be accessed in more than 180+ languages. This makes Be My Eyes the biggest global online community for the blind and visually impaired, as well as one of the largest micro-volunteering platforms in the world. Every day, volunteers lend their eyes to solve tasks big and small to help the blind and visually impaired lead more independent lives.
Be My Eyes is a free mobile app with one main goal: to make the world more accessible for the blind and visually impaired. The app connects blind and visually impaired individuals with sighted volunteers and companies from all over the world through a live video call.
How long have you been around?
We launched January 15 2015
Does Hans Jørgen Wiberg, the originator, use the app?
What changes have you noted Be My Eyes make for blind people? How about their seeing volunteers?
Unfortunately, we live in a world that is poorly designed for people with visual impairments, and we believe that technology can help change that. With Be My Eyes, blind and low vision people can lead more independent lives.
I think it is very human to want to help someone, but on a busy day, it can be hard to find the time. The simplicity and flexibility of Be My Eyes makes it works so well — with technology it is very easy to have a big impact on another person's life.
How do you get blind people to know about this app?
Word of mouth, press and through blind organizations.
How does a blind person navigate a smartphone, or the app, for this matter?
Blind and low vision people use built-in accessibility features. Good accessibility features on the devices are essential in order for blind and visually impaired people to use technology. You can argue that Be My Eyes is an extension of the foundational accessibility features.
Editors Note: Here is a link to a YouTube video that goes into more details.
Can two people be paired together or is the blind person always given someone new?
The matching is random.
Your site says you have 1M volunteers happy to help, that’s amazing! How many blind people are you servicing these days?
Today (Oct. 1st, 2018) we have 1,630,626 volunteers and 95,008 blind and low vision people using the app.
Are you worldwide? Do you find some countries are more eager to help?
We operate in more than 150 countries.
Can someone help someone in another country?
It is very reliable, users can request help at any time of the day or night. We match based on language and time zone - meaning we only contact volunteers during their daytime hours. For example, if the blind user speaks English, is based in the US, and needs assistance in the middle of the night, we will connect them to an English-speaking volunteer in Australia, for example, where it is daytime. Our volunteer network is so large that no matter when they call, it is almost certain that there is a volunteer who speaks your language, for whom it is daytime.
What is your favorite story that has come from Be My Eyes?
Here are 10 common ways people are using Be My Eyes:
1) Finding lost or dropped items
For example: Where is the earring back I dropped on the bathroom floor? Where did I put that sports cap?
2) Describing pictures, paintings or other pieces of artwork
For example: What does this sculpture depict? What are the colors or mood of this painting?
3) Matching or explaining colors
For example: Does this shirt match my jacket? Which pair of shoes are the black ones?
4) Reading labels on household products
For example: Is this window or bathroom cleaner? Shampoo or conditioner?
5) Reading on computer screens if websites are inaccessible or screen readers are not available
For example: My laptop restarted unexpectedly – can you walk me through the login screen?
6) Shopping in supermarkets
For example: Which kind of crackers am I buying?
7) Identifying the expiration date on perishable food packages
For example: Is this milk still good? What is the expiration date of my bread?
8) Familiarizing yourself with new places
For example: Is this the street I’m looking for? Where is the power outlet in this hotel room?
9) Distinguishing between food items
For example: Black beans or green beans? Paprika or Cayenne?
10) Finding out when public transportation (busses, trains, etc.) are departing or arriving
For example: How many minutes does the screen say I have until the next train arrives?
Some of the favorite stories are:
-We had a woman who got her wedding dress checked for stains by a volunteer before walking down the isle.
-We have blind parents who can do homework with their sighted kids
-We had a woman who saw her son’s first basketball game through the eyes of a volunteer who narrated the game.
Be My Eyes is always looking for more volunteers! It is a fun easy way to volunteer from anywhere at anytime. Maybe you can turn a lunch break into so much more!
If you are interested in learning more about Be My Eyes, please follow them via their website and social media here:
YouTube: Be My Eyes