In an ever changing technical world, where app prominence ebbs and flows, one particular app continues to unite the sighted and the visually impaired, whilst opening up the world to its sight impaired users.
Be My Eyes launched in January 2015, and now four years on the app has over 2 million sighted volunteers from across the world.
The app simplicity [and the fact it is a free app] is no doubt behind its success. Whenever anyone with a visual impairment literally needs ‘some eyes’ all they need to do is open the app and click the call a volunteer button. The smartphones rear facing camera is then used to show the sighted volunteer the situation with which assistance is required. This could literally be something as simple as help identifying the colour of an item of clothing, identifying a product from a label or locating an item that has been misplaced in the room. Sighted volunteers could literally expect to be asked anything and although they will obviously speak to the app user during the call the callers anonymity is maintained as no details are given out in regards to location and the use of the rear facing camera means the user will not appear to the volunteer.
More recently a growing number of international companies have also got involved with the app to provide product specific help and support. One example recently highlighted in the news was the apps partnership with a producer of pregnancy tests so that a sight impaired user could use the app to ask one of the companies designated staff members what result was indicated on their pregnancy test.
There are a few limitations…Users are talking to a complete stranger who has not been vetted by any governing body so assistance with any activities of a personal nature should be avoided, such as help reading a bank statement-document reader apps such as Seeing AI or Voice Dream Scanner should be used for this purpose instead. And the app is primarily designed for people with sight loss, requiring the user and volunteer to communicate orally, so any users who have additional sensory loss may find the app problematic.
But let us focus on the positives…
The app is free to purchase and use.
It makes the world infinitely more accessible to anyone with a visual impairment.
Sighted volunteers don’t have to give up hours of their time to make a difference and can do so from the comfort of their home or workplace.
And four years after its inception the app continues to be used by avid followers and attract more and more users, some what of a rarity in this ever updating world.