During my senior year of high school, I was researching assistive technology apps and found a Be My Eyes review. I was interested in the concept of having a sighted person available to help me whenever I need them. I didn't really use the service until I started college several months later and I was living on my own for the first time, and I realized how helpful having a sighted guide can be. Today, I will be sharing my Be My Eyes app review and how I use the Be My Eyes app as a user with fluctuating eyesight.
What is Be My Eyes?
Be My Eyes is a free smartphone app for iOS and Android. Be My Eyes connects blind and low vision users with sighted volunteers or company representatives for visual assistance through a live video connection. In more basic terms, it allows users to have a sighted person on demand through video chat. There is no limit for how often a user can access Be My Eyes, and the service is free to use. The app also can be used from anywhere in the world, with no language restrictions.
About Be My Eyes Volunteers
Be My Eyes uses sighted volunteers to power their service. Anyone can become a sighted volunteer by signing up for the app as a volunteer. Volunteers receive no background checks or formal training to help the blind and vision impaired, which is not necessarily a negative thing as many of the tasks are simple. When a user needs assistance, a notification is sent out to several volunteers, and whoever answers the call first is the one who gets to help. Volunteers remain anonymous during calls and do not appear on video, their voice is the only thing that transmits.
Be My Eyes volunteers in numbers
- 150+ countries represented
- 180+ languages available
- 1,842,812 volunteers as of publication time
- 16 volunteers available for every 1 blind/low vision user
- 24 hours a day, 7 days a week access
Be My Eyes Interface
The Be My Eyes interface is very simple. There is a large button that says "Call first available volunteer" at the top of the screen. For users that need specialized technology help, there is a smaller button underneath that says "Specialized Help." We'll explore the "Specialized Help" option in a later section.
When a call is in progress, the screen shows a full display of the live video, defaulting to the rear view camera. On the bottom of the screen, there is a button to end the call, which is similar to a phone or FaceTime call. Users are asked to confirm that they want to disconnect the call before the call actually disconnects.
Since the app is developed specifically for the blind and vision impaired, it is compatible with common accessibility settings as well. VoiceOver, TalkBack, and Select-to-Speak all work great as screen readers. Magnifier and Zoom can also be used for magnification. Be My Eyes also supports large text and large displays.
How to use Be My Eyes
- Press the appropriate button to make a call- "Call first available volunteer" or "Specialized Help"
- Wait to be connected to a volunteer. In my experience, it takes five to fifteen seconds
- Tell the volunteer what you need them to help with. Do you need to read a label? Locate objects? Navigate an unfamiliar area?
- Move your phone camera as directed by the volunteer
- When finished, click the "end call" button
If you can make a phone call, then you can use Be My Eyes!
What to expect from a Be My Eyes call
In my experience, Be My Eyes volunteers have always been great at helping me with different tasks. They are very professional and enthusiastic to help.
Sometimes, volunteers are sitting in busy areas, so there may be some ambient noise in the background. I have never found the noise to be a problem though and it has never impacted call quality.
Be My Eyes calls are often short. Many of my calls last a minute or less. For longer tasks, I tend to break them up into several parts and call Be My Eyes as needed. Be My Eyes volunteers are happy to help with longer tasks as needed, but I don't like holding my phone for long periods of time.
The Specialized Help section is for users that need free technical support for their various electronic devices. These are professional, paid staff members that are trained to work with the blind and vision impaired. The Be My Eyes technical support is only available during specific hours, however the Microsoft Disability Answer Desk is available 24/7.
So far, I have only used the Microsoft Disability Answer Desk option, and it's really helpful. I called them after my Microsoft Word software wouldn't open no matter how many different things I tried. The staff member helped me troubleshoot my computer and discovered Microsoft Word had been dragged to my external monitor, which had been turned off. I was very excited to have my Microsoft Word back up and running on my main monitor!
When I Use Be My Eyes
- Finding an object in a room
- Helping me locate and clean up spills
- Reading over-the-counter medication labels
- Locating care instructions on clothes
- Reading handwriting on paper
- Reading handwriting with technology
- Reading medication labels with vision impairment
- How to do laundry with vision impairment
When I don't use Be My Eyes
- Checking when to cross the street (video delay)
- In a public bathroom (illegal in the US)
- In the airport (I use Aira instead)
- Checking product information (I use Google Assistant instead- more convenient on Android)
Should I download Be My Eyes?
Be My Eyes is a very helpful app for people with blindness and low vision. I appreciate having access to a pair of eyes on demand, and have had very positive experiences when using the app. Even if you already use another service for remote assistance, I recommend downloading Be My Eyes as a backup in case something happens. So go ahead and download Be My Eyes and take advantage of their awesome free service for blind and vision impaired users to connect to a sighted volunteer- whenever, wherever.