How One App Helps Blind & Low-Vision People See
Be My Eyes is a Visit.org partner organization that offers a free mobile app dedicated to making the world more accessible for blind and low-vision people. The app connects blind and low-vision individuals with sighted volunteers and companies from all over the world through a live video call.
How does it work? You just need to download the Be My Eyes app in the App Store or Play Store. If you are busy when you receive a call, the app will find the next available volunteer to connect the person who needs assistance to. One call request is sent to multiple volunteers at a time to ensure that those who need assistance can get in touch with someone as quickly and efficiently as possible.
In this Q&A, Alexander Hauerslev Jensen, CCO at Be My Eyes, discusses the impact that this organization has on the lives of millions of people around the world.
What’s the story behind Be My Eyes?
The idea for Be My Eyes started in Denmark with a Danish furniture craftsman, Hans Jørgen Wiberg, who is visually impaired himself. In his spare time, Hans Jørgen was volunteering with the Danish Association of the Blind, where he noticed that many folks he interacted with needed some assistance to solve everyday tasks. When a blind friend told him that he was using video calls to connect with family and friends for help with these tasks, the idea for Be My Eyes was born. Why rely on friends and family over and over when any sighted person could help, if they had a way to lend their eyes?
Since we launched in 2015, more than 2,800,000 sighted volunteers have signed up to assist blind and low-vision users, making the app the largest online community for blind and low-vision people, as well as one of the largest micro-volunteering platforms in the world. Be My Eyes users can request assistance in over 180 languages, 24 hours a day.
We recently expanded the community to also include companies. Be My Eyes’ “Specialized Help” is a way for companies to connect with their blind and low-vision customers, and to provide them with improved, more accessible customer support. The “Specialized Help” feature connects blind and low-vision customers with customer support centers directly through a live video call. Microsoft, Google, P&G and Lloyds Banking Group where the first companies to join the community and we are expanding the list of companies on the platform in the coming months.
Why did you decide to get involved with this organization?
I personally got involved as it was a way to utilize technology for good and work on something that can enable people to do more and lead more independent lives. Be My Eyes enables small acts of kindness that have a global impact on accessibility and inclusion. This very special combination of technology and human generosity is something that we trust is here to stay. Technology is a tool that can make societies that everybody has equal access to opportunities to thrive in.
Tell us one of your favorite impact stories.
You can find many inspiring and interesting stories on our website, but I particularly like this one: “Diane came home one day and realized her cat was nowhere to be found. She was extremely worried and started to stress about how to go tackle the problem. Diane decided that Be My Eyes was best suited for the job, so she opened the app. A friendly woman answered her call and helped Diane stay calm. Together they searched for the cat; The two of them combed through nearly the entire house until finally discovering the cat’s hiding place – in the corner underneath Diane’s bed. Diane was so relieved to find her beloved pet, but it was the volunteer’s willingness to console her that she appreciated the most.”
What’s your favorite story from a volunteer?
Probably Jon, from California. As you can read on our site, “Jon has now been connected with more than 10 Be My Eyes users and has helped with everything from reading prescription bottles to reading out an entire table of content from a book. But one particular call, even though the task was quite simple, made a great impact on him. An elderly lady, who was alone in her house, called him up. She was in the middle of making herself a cup of tea but didn’t know if the milk in her fridge was still good. Very easily, Jon was able to read her the expiration date. The simplicity of the task gave Jon a wider perspective of life and the things we take for granted”.
How do you imagine Be My Eyes in the next few years?
Our main priority is to grow and nurture the community, which means getting the word out to even more blind and low vision users around the world who will find value in the product. We are also focused on expanding Specialized Help so that companies can provide more accessible customer support. It is our belief that when societies are designed to be inclusive and accessible, everyone benefits.
For more information on how to volunteer with Be My Eyes, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cover photo credit: Be My Eyes