ShareVision Blog

Conversations on technology for community service providers

Be My Eyes

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You know, technology in the care space can be a really funny thing. Sometimes it helps. Sometimes—no matter how well intentioned—it just makes things more complicated. We’d like to think that ShareVision is in the former category, and as such we have a particular interest in other technologies that do what they’re supposed to do without getting in the way: help people help other people.

That’s why my eye was caught (no pun intended) by a very unique app called Be My Eyes. This is an app built to help those who are blind or vision impaired. It’s a brilliantly creative solution that connects sighted people who want to help with those who have problems with their vision and need assistance with an everyday task.

Blind people who live on their own sometimes need help with visual tasks, anything from sorting socks to finding their way around a grocery store, reading ingredients or counting money. Doing a quick video call with a sighted person can make these tasks far easier. Anyone can sign up as a volunteer and be on deck to “be the eyes” of someone who is visually impaired. Essentially, it’s crowdsourcing a group that’s willing and available to help and connecting them with those who need help.

I signed up as a volunteer about a year ago. I installed the app on my phone and waited. Nothing happened for a while. Then one day my phone emitted a funny sounding ring. I leapt for it, hoping it might be a call for help, and lo and behold, it was.

As soon as I answered, I was in a video chat with someone in Spain whom I’d never met. “Hello?” she said uncertainly. “Yes, I’m here!” I replied. Her phone wasn’t pointed at her face, so I had no idea what she looked like, but she had a thick European accent and sounded like she was older.

“I’m in Spain, and today I am trying a new restaurant,” she continued. “I would like to know what it’s like in here. I find the ambience of a place really adds to my meal experience. Can you please describe it?”

“Oh…okay!” I replied, a little uncertain but eager to help. “So, you mean you want me to describe how things look in there?” “Yes dear,” she answered, settling in and slowly panning her phone around the bistro. “Tell me where I am.”

“Well, it’s dimly lit. There is some art on the walls, it looks like oil paintings in thick ornate frames. And the table you’re at is really pretty—it’s like oak maybe? Old worn wood. There’s a hanging lantern over your table. Oh and over there.. wait stop panning? Yes there, there is a little fountain in the corner. It looks very cozy and a bit upscale in there. The whole place has sort of an orange glow to it, and it isn’t very bright, but in a nice cozy way you know?”

“Perfect,” she replied. “That’s very close to what I was actually imagining. Now I can have my lunch. Thank you dear.”

And with that, as quickly as it began, our connection ended. But I walked through the rest of my afternoon feeling a certain way. Feeling light. I’d just had such a pure moment. I’d helped someone halfway across the world, shared a real moment with her, and her vulnerability and willingness to ask for help had been touching. After the call, I felt like a little part of me was having lunch in that bistro with her.

What’s so unique about my experience of this technology was how darn HUMAN it was. I wasn’t thinking about how the app worked, how to use it, or about software or versions. The technology fell into the background and let me connect with someone. And I think that’s pretty beautiful.

If you’d like to check out Be My Eyes yourself, you can download it in the app store or here (https://www.bemyeyes.com/). And if you have other examples of technology that helps, we’d love to hear your experience.

Fast Facts About Be My Eyes

5,662,386 - volunteers
389,825 - BLIND & LOW-VISION PEOPLE
150+ - COUNTRIES
33% increase in users during the early stages of the pandemic

Topics: Technology adpative technology community