Be My Eyes expands help function to connect businesses to blind and partially customers

Post date: 
Monday, 6 August 2018
Woman using smartphone camera to look a label on food product in a supermarket

Be My Eyes, the free app that connects blind and partially sighted people to sighted volunteers for visual support, has added a service that lets users contact businesses with enquiries about their products and services.

Since launching in 2015, nearly 90,000 blind and partially sighted people have signed up as users on Be My Eyes, which is available on both iOS and Android platforms. Users can connect to more than 1.5 million sighted volunteers around the world at any time in the day or night for support, by pointing their smartphone camera at the object they need help to see.

Specialised Help

With a new feature called Specialised Help, users can also make calls directly to partnering companies. The call works exactly like regular Be My Eyes call, but instead of being connected to a random volunteer, users with sight loss are connected to a company representative, who can assist with requests concerning their specific products or services. 
 
Microsoft has been the first of the companies to join this service. Customers can now connect with the Microsoft Disability Answer Desk, which offers free technical support for customers with disabilities.

Hear our podcast on Be My Eyes

The award-winning app recently featured on RNIB Connect Radio’s Tech Talk show. Listen to an interview with Alexander Hauerslev Jensen from the Be My Eyes team and hear our radio hosts discuss how they use the app in real life. 
 

Listen to the Tech Talk podcast

Note: The segment on Be My Eyes starts at 11 minutes 16 seconds into the recording.
 
 

“There are lots of time when something's got a font that is not quite standard – a cursive font or ‘pretty’ font on a package or whatever, and there's where Be My Eyes makes a huge difference. The volunteers have always been polite, friendly and helpful – what more could you ask from an app that's free? It's programmed and coded really well and so useable. I think if you're visually impaired, you should always have an app like this on your phone.” - RNIB Connect presenter Shaun Preece

More on Be My Eyes

How does the app work?

When a blind or partially sighted person requests support through the app, Be My Eyes sends a notification to several volunteers. The first volunteer to answer the request will be connected to that specific user. If no volunteers answer the notification, the request will be forwarded to other volunteers until answered. Calls are connected within 30 seconds 90 per cent of the time. 
 
Be My Eyes matches the participants based on language and time zone. For example, if a blind or low vision user in the UK requests assistance in the middle of the night, they would be connected to an English-speaking volunteer in another part of the world. 
 
Once the connection is established between both parties, the volunteer gains access to the feed from the rear-facing camera on the blind or partially sighted user’s smartphone. The feed also establishes a two-way audio connection, so the two participants are able to talk to each other. Using the camera feed, the volunteer is able to offer visual help with the task at hand. 

What do people use Be My Eyes for?

Some common uses of the app are:
  • finding lost or dropped items
  • describing pictures, paintings or other pieces of artwork
  • matching or describing colours (e.g. clothing)
  • reading labels
  • fixing computer issues
  • shopping for groceries etc
  • identifying the expiry date on perishable food products
  • familiarising yourself with new surroundings or navigating in a new place
  • distinguishing between different items
  • determining public transportation arrivals and departures.

How can I access the Specialised Help feature?

From the Be My Eyes home screen, users can access the Specialised Help menu, from where users can see the companies available in their region. From the company page, users can make a call directly to a company representative. 

What can’t be My Eyes Be used for?

When making a call or receiving one through Be My Eyes, each participant remains anonymous. Volunteers do not receive any information that the blind and partially sighted user doesn’t choose to disclose and vice versa. To ensure your privacy and security, please don’t disclose any sensitive information during a Be My Eyes call, such as:
  • credit card, bank or other financial information
  • identification documents, such as passport or driving licence 
  • letters or documents containing personal addresses
  • documents showing your National Insurance number 
  • medical or other health-related information.

Further information

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