Accessibility & Technology

The Benevolence Of Be My Eyes

Oct 4, 2019

The Benevolence Of Be My Eyes

Volunteerism is alive and well as demonstrated every day in the Be My Eyes app.  The concept was conceived in 2012 by furniture craftsman Hans Jørgen Wiberg, who began losing his vision twenty-five years prior.  It was his idea to provide access to sighted assistance for people with low vision or blindness.  The app name leaves no doubt about its purpose.  I recall being incredibly impressed in the early days of BME, when there were 150,000 volunteers, today there are nearly 3 million volunteers, helping more than 150,000 people with vision loss.  The fact that so many are interested in lending their eyes to a total stranger, is a testament to humanity.

Volunteers are able to offer their service, at times that are convenient to them.  BME creates an opportunity to give back in a sort of micro-lending kind of way, in small increments of time, free of rigid scheduling commitments.  The visually impaired user is able to call for help whenever it is needed, without feeling they are imposing.  The volunteers are logged in because they are ready and willing to help someone, possibly you. 

The app, available for iOS and Android, is designed with a fittingly friendly user interface.  The two main options on the uncomplicated homepage are “Call First Available Volunteer” -or- “Specialize Help.”  Expert company representatives can be accessed through Specialized Help for technical support from both Microsoft and Google.  Haircare advice is available from Pantene and Herbal Essence, and BME is working to grow these options.

The service is active in 150 countries and available in 180 languages.  When you “Call First Available Volunteer,” BME sends out the request to the nearest available volunteers by location and language.  There is no limit to the amount of time a volunteer can spend on a call, but it is best to say, from the start, if you expect the call to be lengthy.  The app provides a rating system to register feedback about your experience, good or bad.

I have used the app for assistance reading a thermostat, setting the oven temperature, reading hand-written notes and product directions.  All these encounters with BME volunteers were pleasant, constructive and successful.  There is a “Stories” tab at the bottom of the homepage, offering inspiring accounts of experiences through the lens of both volunteers and users, which should not be missed.

And, by the way, all Be My Eyes Services are free.

Blue and white Be My Eyes logo with white text on black background.

Download the apps and learn more at BeMyEyes.com.

 

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About the Author: Dorrie Rush

Dorrie Rush is the Chief Content Officer and Visual Accessibility Expert at Ophthalmic Edge Patients (OE Patients), an online resource, presented by the Association for Macular Diseases, providing practical information and empowering advice for living a full and successful life with vision loss.

She is the former Director of the Grunwald Technology Center and Information Resource Service at Lighthouse International 2001 to 2016. Dorrie is known to have an eccentric view, which is particularly useful in compensating for her central vision loss from Stargardt Disease.

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