I currently use an iPhone 8 and access it using the built-in ‘Voiceover’ (https://www.apple.com/accessibility/iphone/vision/) screen reader. Using a range of taps, swipes and gestures, I can access pretty much all of the phones built-in features as well as many apps including banking, shopping and social media apps.
I also have a folder that contains several apps specifically created for vision impaired people including Microsoft’s Seeing AI (https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/seeing-ai?SilentAuth=1) and Soundscape (https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/product/soundscape/), Be My Eyes (https://www.bemyeyes.com/), KNFB Reader (https://knfbreader.com/) and TapTapSee (https://taptapseeapp.com/) to name just a few.
Although I use a couple of these apps frequently (they all do a slightly different job), it was the Be My Eyes app that I used recently and the one that I wanted to share my experience of.
The Be My Eyes website describes the app as: Be My Eyes is a free app that connects blind and low-vision people with sighted volunteers and company representatives for visual assistance through a live video call.
And that is exactly what happens… a few days ago, whilst working at home, my laptop started playing up before it stopped responding completely. Similar to my phone, I use a screen reader called Jaws on my laptop but when the screen reader stops talking to me I have no idea what is on the screen or where I am. With no-one else in the house, I tried some of the other apps mentioned above to see if I could work out if there were any error messages on the screen but they just didn’t work. Finally I resorted to the ‘Be My Eyes’ app and called up one of the sighted volunteers.
I was quickly connected to a lady (apologies for not getting your name if you ever read this) in Swansea. She was able, using the video connection, to direct me to point the camera to the screen and inform me that there was nothing on my desktop that was obviously causing my Jaws software not to speak. She was then able to escort me through shutting down the laptop using verbal prompts so that I could re-start it and continue with my work. The call took about 2 - 3 minutes and this included a short amount of ‘social’ chat where I found out that I was her first Be My Eyes volunteer experience, joked about her telling me that she had just got out of the shower (she quickly told me that she was dressed - not that I would have seen anything anyway) as well as me thanking her for her help.
This wasn’t my first experience of using the app but this was by far the most important time I have had to use it. Previously I have tried to get someone to read the bill in a restaurant or read a label on a tub of herbs but these were really for testing purposes to see how the app worked.
Currently there are 2,090,032 sighted volunteers who have downloaded the app and have signed up to be a sighted volunteer and just 124,087 vision impaired people who have signed up and use the app. This means that the chances of a sighted person actually being called up is slight but without the volunteers the app just wouldn’t work at all!
If you want to be a volunteer, then just download the app and register. The app is available for the iPhone (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/be-my-eyes-helping-blind-see/id905177575?mt=8)and Android (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.bemyeyes.bemyeyes) platforms.
If you have a vision impairment and feel that you would benefit from using this app, then download the app (as above) and follow the steps for registering as a vision impaired person. Once registered you’re just 30 seconds away from getting sighted support! :-)
Read more about this amazing app at: https://www.bemyeyes.com/
We’re always interested to know about other people’s experiences and thoughts. Please share these by commenting…
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