For a number of years now I have been hearing from other blind and visually impaired (BVI) people about the benefits of ‘Be My Eyes’.
If you haven’t yet come across it, ‘Be My Eyes is a free app that connects BVI people with sighted volunteers who can provide visual assistance with everyday tasks via a live video call.
With nearly 4.5 million sighted volunteers lending their eyes to about 300,000 BVI people in more than 150 countries (and 180+ languages) it’s a truly international community that is helping people with sight loss lead more independent lives. And it operates 24 hours-a-day, every day.
In fact I’ve got a couple of friends who are volunteers and they’ve been telling me to get with the programme for ages. So, if it’s that good why haven’t I got round to joining? The answer is partly laziness, partly a touch of technophobia and partly experience; it is extremely rare to find a hassle-free ‘solution’ to the problems thrown up by visual impairment, and few things work for a majority of BVI people.
However when I heard that In Your Pocket came with Be My Eyes pre-installed, my qualms were swept aside and curiosity got the better of me.
Registration was easy, and a one-off process. I pressed the ‘home’ key and said ‘Be my eyes’. Immediately Pocket told me it was connecting to Be My Eyes and gave me a list of 4 options, the first three of which were: Terms & Conditions, a Privacy Notice, and How the service would use my data. These all turned out to be standard for online services when Pocket read them out (if you are so minded it takes 50 minutes), so I selected ‘Register’ which is option 4 and was then connected to a video call that was answered within 10 seconds.
The volunteer at the other end was extremely helpful and patient. I explained that I needed to cook some cous-cous but that it was a brand I had not used before and I needed help reading the cooking instructions. I held the packet up to the camera and the volunteer guided me so that the back of the packet was facing the camera and all the writing was in shot.
As it turned out the writing was tiny and the cardboard packaging had been damaged, so the volunteer asked me to turn the packet round so she could see the brand and flavour, which she then Googled. Within a minute she had read out the instructions, checked I was happy and had got all the info and we ended the call.
As I was thanking the volunteer, she said that it really was no trouble and a pleasure to be able to help. I headed back to my kitchen feeling I had had a really positive experience with a kind person, rather than disturbing my wife or one of my neighbours when they were busy with work or something else. And I also had a profound sense of relief, because the first packet I had reached for and held in front of Pocket’s camera for the volunteer to look at had turned out to be Paxo stuffing mix!