Have you heard of the Be My Eyes app? It helps sight impaired people receive free visual assistance! If you or a loved one are blind or have low vision, this mobile app may be a great aid.
What is Be My Eyes?
Be My Eyes is a free mobile app that you can download on your iOS or Android device. It connects you with a sighted volunteer or company representative through video call so that they can help you. The service is 100% anonymous, other than your voice, your volunteer’s voice, and your surroundings. You can make calls at any time of the day, and you can make as many calls as you want.
It is compatible with common accessibility settings. As of October 2021, there are over five million sighted volunteers from 150+ countries. There are 180+ languages supported on the app, so it is very likely that you will be able to have the app and your volunteer speak in your preferred language.
What can I use Be My Eyes for?
Be My Eyes can be used in a lot of different ways. Examples include matching colors, reading labels and letters, checking expiry dates, reading off computer screens if screen readers are inaccessible, describing pictures, finding lost items, locating and cleaning up spills, and looking at care instructions on clothes.
The app can also assist people with dyslexia, color blindness, and other visual impairments. It is not only for blind and low vision people – everyone who needs help with seeing something better can use it.
When should I not use Be My Eyes?
While a vast majority of the volunteers on Be My Eyes are honest and only want to help, it is best to avoid using the app to read confidential documents or financial information that can be stolen. It is also advised that you not use the app for outdoor navigation or crossing the street, since there can be a video delay. Be wary of using Be My Eyes in public restrooms, since it can be illegal in some areas.
How does Be My Eyes work?
When you call for a volunteer to help you, they receive no information except that someone is requesting their assistance. Volunteers can choose when they accept calls, which means that when someone connects to you, they are willing to help and not bothered by your needs. You are able to end a call at any time.
There are two call options available through Be My Eyes: “call first available volunteer” and “specialized help”. The first one is the “call first available volunteer” option. When you select the “call first available volunteer” option within the app, a sighted volunteer or company representative will be video called to help you. It will usually take about 5 to 30 seconds to connect with your sighted guide.
Once you connect with your volunteer, you should briefly explain what task you need help with to the volunteer so they know what to look for. The volunteer will be able to see whatever your rear-facing camera is pointing at. The rear-facing camera is the camera on the back of your phone or device. Be My Eyes only has access to the rear-facing camera, so if you want to film yourself, you have to turn the back of the phone towards you. If the room is not bright enough for the volunteer, they are able to turn on your device’s flashlight during the video call.
Follow the directions that your volunteer gives you as best as you can so that they can accurately help you with your task. This may mean moving the device up and down to adjust the camera or coming closer to the item you are trying to have the volunteer see. Try not to be in a noisy environment, if you can help it. This will help you and your volunteer communicate better.
The second call option is “specialized help”. If you select this option, you can reach technical support from specific companies. For example, you can call Microsoft if you need assistance with a Microsoft product that an everyday person may not be familiar with. The specialized help call works like a regular volunteer call, but you are connected with a company representative instead.
How do I sign up for Be My Eyes?
Once you select the first option, “I am blind or visually impaired”, you can choose whether you are a new user or sign in to a previously existing account. Once you select the new user option, you have three options: sign up with Facebook, Google, or your email address. If you sign up with Facebook or Google, Be My Eyes will use your information from those accounts for your profile on the app.
If you select the option to sign up with your email address, you’ll enter your first and last name, email address, and a password. You will need to then go to your email and click the link they send you to verify your email address. After you have done this, you will be taken to a screen where you will select your primary language. If you want to add secondary languages that you speak, you can go to the Settings section. Finally, you will have to allow Be My Eyes to access your microphone and camera and send you notifications so that you can receive calls.
What happens after a call?
After your video call with your volunteer has ended, you will be taken to a screen that asks you how your call was. There are two options: “problems” and “good”. If you experienced no issues with your call, you can select the “good” option.
If you did experience problems, you can select the “problems” option to tell Be My Eyes more about the issue. There, you can select options for whether you had technical difficulties, experienced inappropriate or abusive behavior from a volunteer, or if you need to contact a support team member.
Are the volunteers for Be My Eyes screened?
Currently, there is no screening process for the Be My Eyes volunteers. However, most visually impaired users of the app are happy to say that the volunteers that have helped them are kind, enthusiastic, and professional. Volunteers go through a similar sign up process by creating an account.
It would be difficult to join Be My Eyes as a volunteer with malicious intent. Volunteers often say they have to wait days or weeks before receiving their first call since there are over five million people willing to help. When a volunteer does receive a call, they have to respond quickly, or another volunteer will accept it. This would be a long and tedious process for someone who is only using the app to be rude.
If you do have a rare experience with a malicious volunteer, you can end the call at any time and report the volunteer afterwards. Be My Eyes will investigate your report and block the malicious volunteer. It should be quick and easy for you to reconnect with another volunteer who can help you with your task.
How else can Low Income Relief help me?
Thank you for asking! We have this article on how to get a service dog if you need further help with finding resources for blind and visually impaired people.