Tech4Good Accessibility Award 2018: Be My Eyes harnesses the power of 1.5 million volunteers to help blind people in 150 countries

Vicky, a mum of three in Edinburgh has been blind since birth. Her husband Robbie has very limited vision. They mostly manage as a family independently. But Vicky says that sometimes she just needs someone with vision to help her with tasks such as matching her children's socks or in situations such as checking the expiration date of food in her fridge.

This is where Be My Eyes comes in. The free app, created by Hans Wiberg, has more than one and a half million volunteers who are available day and night via live video link to help a blind person in such instances. It's currently being used in 150 different countries with help provided in 180 different languages and is a finalist in this year's AbilityNet Tech4Good Accessibility Award.

"We live in a world that is poorly designed for people with visual impairments, and I believe that technology can help change that," says Alexander Hauerslev Jensen, community director at Be My Eyes.

"I believe that Be My Eyes is a very powerful tool as it can help people lead more independent lives. The simplicity and flexibility of Be My Eyes make it works so well for both our blind users and for our sighted volunteers, and I really believe that Be My Eyes harnesses the power of generosity, technology, and human connection. We hope to win the Tech4Good award 2018 so we can get a step closer to making the world more accessible for people with disabilities,” he adds. 

Now in their eighth year, the AbilityNet Tech4Good awards are supported by BT and celebrate some of the amazing people who use tech to help make the world a better place.

Connecting users to corporate customer service teams

The Be My Eyes team has recently launched a new feature called Specialized Help that enables companies to support disabled customers via video link. Microsoft is one of its first customers. Users can connect to the company’s (Microsoft) Disability Answer Desk and can get help with such tasks as setting up Microsoft Office or checking an internet connection, for example. This means the company becomes more accessible to blind and partially-sighted people.

Robin Christopherson, head of digital inclusion at AbilityNet says of the app: “Be My Eyes combines the smarts of your phone, crowdsourced help from around the world and pure simplicity to address the everyday needs of blind people that, as yet, no AI can reach. This is one to watch.”

This Microsoft Be My Eyes short film shows the amazing story behind this app:

 

AbilityNet Tech4Good Awards

The awards celebrate the technology innovations that are improving lives across society. Categories include the BT Connected Society Award, BT Young Pioneer Award and the Digital Skills Award, as well as the Accessibility Award. Winners across all categories will be announced on 17 July in London at BT Centre.

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