Be My Eyes is a free smartphone app that connects people who are blind or have low vision with sighted volunteers and companies through live video, supporting them in daily life.
Be My Eyes was founded by Hans Jørgen Wiberg, who’s visually impaired himself. Through his work for the Danish Association for the Blind, he met many blind individuals who utilized video call services to call friends or family members for visual assistance. Impressed by this creative use of technology, Wiberg saw a major flaw; you always had to select one specific person to call. He believed that it would be possible to create a network of volunteers, who’d be willing to offer visual support. Wiberg presented his idea at a startup event in Aarhus, Denmark in 2012, and was able to gather a small team that would help Be My Eyes become a reality.
With an unemployment rate of around 70% for people who are blind or visually impaired (varies depending on country), and a fairly high price on most accessibility tools, there’s a major gap in the market for affordable accessible technology.
Technical details & Operations
Joining the community is easy – if you need visual assistance or want to volunteer, simply download the Be My Eyes app from the App Store or Play Store and create a user. After creating their account, blind users can choose whether they want to connect to a volunteer or one of the many Specialized Help partners through the app. When initiating a call to a volunteer, the caller will be connected to a volunteer speaking the same language. The volunteer will get access to the feed from the caller’s back-facing camera, which they use to provide visual assistance. Blind users can connect with volunteers for a wide variety of tasks such as:
- Checking expiry dates on food items
- Matching or distinguishing colors
- Reading small print
- Finding dropped or lost items
- Distinguishing different products
- Navigating unfamiliar surroundings
As a volunteer, you will receive a notification on your device if a blind or low-vision user is looking for support. The notification is sent to several volunteers at once, so you don’t need to worry if you’re not able to pick up the call – the first volunteer to answer the call will be connected to the caller. 90 % of all calls are shorter than 2 minutes, so it’s a fast, easy and casual way for you to volunteer, while still being able to make a direct difference for another individual.
If you work for a company or organization and wish to support your customers or employees who need visual assistance please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org
Deployment & Impact
First launched exclusively on iOS devices in 2015, and for Android devices in 2017, the Be My Eyes community currently consists of more than 350,000 blind users and 5.3 million volunteers worldwide. With the expansion of the Specialized Help section in 2018, companies and organizations are able to offer accessible customer support through the Be My Eyes app. The Be My Eyes community now also counts industry leaders like Google, P&G, Microsoft, Spotify, RiteAid, LinkedIn and many more.
Besides Specialized Help, Be My Eyes offers a variety of solutions for businesses.
Be My Eyes for Work: Support blind and low-vision employees with work-related tasks, by giving them access to a closed group of sighted colleagues.
Corporate Volunteering: Engage employees through a corporate volunteer program with Be My Eyes and make a difference for the blind community.
Be My Eyes Experiences: Offer on-demand personalized visual description for events, demos and experiences.
Be My Eyes Careers: Recruit and support prospective employees with vision challenges.