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Smartphones & gadgets

Extra time on your hands? Help give sight to the blind

Technology is constantly changing how we interact with each other and spend our time. It’s also what helps us get through tough times, like staying indoors to avoid the spread of the coronavirus.

But while we all enjoy our technology for entertainment, others take advantage of tech for other reasons. Those with vision, speech and hearing challenges are now able to use their smart devices to improve their daily lives. Tap or click here to use your smartphone to make real-time transcribed calls.

Built-in features like magnifiers, voice-overs, speech-to-text, digital assistants and touch accommodations make it easier for people who have impaired senses to operate their gadgets. But what if people need help from other people? Turns out there’s an app for that.

Be My Eyes

Be My Eyes is a free app out that allows sighted people to “lend their eyes” to those with visual impairments through video chat. Here’s a quick introduction to how it works.

The blind or visually impaired can use the app to request assistance from a random sighted volunteer who receives the help notification on their phone.

When a volunteer accepts the request for assistance, the app opens a live video or audio chat between the two parties. Through this chat, an impaired user can then ask the volunteer for help and can provide more detailed information by using their smartphone’s rear-facing camera.

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The free service is available 24/7 and assistance is matched with the requester’s language and time zone.

Practical uses to help the legally blind

Just for a moment, close your eyes and imagine you can’t see. Try to complete basic tasks, like moving around your home, pulling the right amount of cash from your wallet or measuring out the right amount of laundry detergent.

Think of all the questions you might have because you can’t see.

I once connected with a young man who wanted to know the expiration date of the milk in his refrigerator. He positioned his phone’s camera to the top shelf. Looking at the image of the milk carton on my phone, I said, “I wouldn’t drink that if I were you.” He laughed, thanked me and that was the end of our call.

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As you can imagine, the opportunities for helping out a blind or visually impaired person are virtually endless. It goes beyond checking expiration dates and food labels. Volunteers can help out with just about anything — bus numbers, finding lost keys, shopping, handyman help and even matching wardrobe items.

It may just be a short, random act of kindness from you, but it could mean the world to the person you’re helping.

Download the app and volunteer

If you want to join the more than three million sighted volunteers assisting the 206,000+ visually impaired users of the Be My Eyes community, download the iOS or Android app. Follow the on-screen setup instructions and you’re all set to assist.

A lot is happening in the world right now and more people need help. If you have some spare time, all it takes is a few minutes here and there to make a difference.

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