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Be My Eyes App Brings Sight to the Vision Impaired
By: Jennifer Graber
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One can only imagine the challenges faced by an individual who is vision impaired. Simply navigating daily life presents a plethora of obstacles not even considered by a non-impaired person. Tasks like cooking, shopping, clothing oneself, checking expiration dates, studying a map for directions, and more, all become significantly more complex when one is visually impaired. And that is just the most basic of life tasks. That does not even begin to take into consideration the tasks associated with the digital world in which we live in. But no one should feel alone in their daily lives, visually impaired or not. A new app is connecting our daily lives to the digital world in an effort to make things a bit simpler.
 
Be My Eyes gives sight to the vision impaired. Well, in a sense. The app connects vision-impaired users with sighted volunteers via live video chat. The vision impaired use the app by activating an iOS device’s VoiceOver feature. The user requesting connection can then receive assistance with tasks such as checking expiration dates, confirming or correcting directions, reading labels, differentiating between objects, and other related tasks. Once the live video chat is complete, each user, the vision impaired and the volunteer, have an opportunity to rate the experience and report any abuse.
 
Currently the app is only available for iOS devices. Be My Eyes’ developers have said that though there is application for use in the Android system, it is not possible right now. Their system in use cannot handle the load of video beyond iPhones and iPads. There are plans to develop the app further and make it available on a wider scale. Aside from fine-tuning the app, this seems like it would be a top priority to aim for a wider release.
 
Users can download Be My Eyes at no cost right now. However, the app’s developers have stated that their funding will run out in September of this year. At that point they will need to create a business model that will cover the costs associated with operating a non-profit. This will actually provide Be My Eyes' developers time in which to determine the success of the app. They will be able to work out any kinks. And they will be able to figure out how to get the app into the future and beyond.
 
Be My Eyes is a wonderful opportunity. In times when technology is so often misused, it is nice to see altruism still in place. Also, integrating a digital application into the life of someone who is vision impaired can help build a sense of normalcy and community. Everyone, no matter how different, wants to belong. We want to live our lives. And so what if that means we need to get by with a little help from our friends?
 
My only concern regarding Be My Eyes is regarding its safety and security. At the present time there are no background checks or security measures in place, aside from the rating system. If a user is poorly rated a certain number of times, or misuses Be My Eyes, he or she will not be allowed to use the app. But there is nothing to stop some misguided soul from taking advantage of others, young or old. It takes just one creep to ruin it for everyone. I would like to see the success of the app bring about security measures designed to protect all parties involved. Other than that, Be My Eyes is a welcome change to some of the, um, interesting apps in the marketplace.


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About the Author
Jennifer Graber is a Business Development Manager and marketing enthusiast. Her specific interests include branding, consumer behavior, development, integrated marketing communications, and new & social media.
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