‘In this Recommends piece, Pooja Bhatia, Editor, The Blahcksheep introduces you to ‘Be My Eyes,’ a free mobile application that connects visually impaired people with sighted volunteers around the world.
With the vision to make the world more accessible for blind and low-vision people,Hans Jørgen Wiberg, a Danish furniture craftsman, who is visually impaired himself, launched a free mobile app called ‘Be My Eyes’ in 2015. You can listen to his TED Talk here:
At 25, I was diagnosed with an eye disease, so I gave up my plans to take over my family’s farm. Instead, I studied for a degree in philosophy and went on to restore chairs. I was going blind myself and was working for the Danish Blind Association as a Consultant. Some of my blind friends were reaching out to their friends and family via video calling services to ask for visual assistance but they always had to decide exactly who to call – this sparked the idea of Be My Eyes and a community of volunteers who could step in.Hans Jorgen Wiberg
Hans believed that the technology of video calls could be used to visually assist blind or low-vision individuals, without them having to rely on their friends and family, using a network of volunteers instead. The app helps them recognize objects and cope with their everyday situations:
A visually impaired person starts a live stream showing their view from their cellphone camera. They are assigned, through a phone call or chat, a random volunteer who speaks the same language and who is in the same time zone. This allows the volunteer to describe an object and assist the visually impaired person, such as guiding the person to move their camera, read instructions, or clean up a spill. Through speech synthesis, content can be read out loud. This process encourages a more independent life for low vision/blind person.
Today, Be My Eyes has turned into a global micro-volunteering platform that not only makes life easier for the visually impaired but also affirms one’s faith in the world. The most heart-warming fact about the app is that the number of volunteers, which runs into over 55 lakhs, far outnumber the 3.73 lakh blind or low-vision people using it.
I think that one of the coolest parts about Be My Eyes is that it’s not just an application that helps the visually impaired or non-sighted. It has the opportunity to have the sighted or people with great eyes, have that opportunity to help that community, all from a mobile device. So I think that’s something that is so powerful. I remember calling a volunteer and they helped me find my gate, and I was just like, that was so simple. And it didn’t make me feel vulnerable to having to ask a stranger that was around me and having to explain that I am visually impaired.Excerpt from Tucker, one of the users of Be My Eyes, shared as part of the app’s community stories
You can also download the Be My Eyes on Google Play. The app is currently available for both Android and iOS users.
Pooja Bhatia is the Co-Founder and the Editor-in-Sheep of The Blahcksheep. She is a public policy and advocacy professional who tweets at @theblahcksheepx You can find all her writings on The Blahcksheep here. If you’d like to discuss a story idea with her or just say hello, drop her a mail at firstname.lastname@example.org