Be My Eyes App Combines Technology With Spirit of Volunteerism
Turning a disability into dynamic technology
Hans Wiberg himself was diagnosed with Usher Syndrome at age 25 – a hereditary condition characterized by retina degeneration, leading to hearing impairment and progressive vision loss. At a startup weekend event in Denmark, Wiberg pitched an idea for an app called Be My Eyes. The app connects visually impaired people with volunteers who help app users read and interpret anything from food labels to directional signage. At the conclusion of the weekend, Wiberg and a team of developers received an award for the most innovative idea of the event.
That was April 2012. Since the app launched on January 15, 2015, Wiberg and his team have grown the app to 120,000 sighted volunteers and 11,000 visually impaired users. You might be wondering how Be My Eyes works.
Your elderly grandmother has almost lost her sight. She’s in her kitchen trying to cook a simple meal but isn’t able to see the instructions for a new recipe. Using the Be My Eyes app, she could request help from a sighted volunteer, which establishes a direct video call through an iPhone. The video connection allows the volunteer to see through the phone’s camera and help assess the user’s needs. (Many of you may wonder how the visually impaired operate an iPhone…the VoiceOver and Dictation features, along with Siri, allow people to type and hear information from their phones.)
For the visually impaired, having an on-demand “seeing assistant” is something most couldn’t afford, but certainly need. Wiberg heard from fellow visually impaired people that FaceTime is an easy way to connect with family members and friends, but they felt as if their constant questions inconvenienced their loved ones. Be My Eyes has solved that problem, and can now connect users with volunteers that speak 35 different languages!
Be My Eyes is one of many apps available that aid the lives of the visually impaired. Wiberg hopes that number continues to grow and that many, many more people can benefit from this technology. If you are visually impaired, be sure to not only sign up for this great service, but talk to your closest America’s Best optometrist about other resources out there that may help improve your quality of life.
Are you interested in serving as someone’s eyes and ears? It is certainly an easy way to help out and know you made a difference in someone else’s life – even if it was just saving them from drinking expired milk! If you’d like more information about Be My Eyes, or would like to download the app, visit BeMyEyes.org.