May 21, 2024

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See through the eyes of 7.3 million volunteers – an app that changed their lives

See through the eyes of 7.3 million volunteers – an app that changed their lives

the Criscilla Lajaria He lives and resides in Athens, more specifically in Koukaki. He was born blind and sees very little light and shadows. As she herself says, “In essence, in everyday life, I am completely blind.” As one of the founders of Black Light, a social enterprise founded by blind people that trains stores and businesses to recognize blind customers, technology is an integral part of her life. “I consider myself a smartphone user since 2010,” she tells K.

In 2015, Chrisella downloaded the app on her mobile phone Be my eyes, Which connects blind or visually impaired people with visual assistance volunteers to carry out simple daily activities. “The process is very simple,” he explains. “I make a video call and am automatically connected to the first available volunteer. The first call I made was for help with my washer. I live alone and wanted to use a program that I wasn’t familiar with. So I asked the volunteer who picked it up if I had set it up correctly and at what point he showed how to finish the laundry.”

“Save me from hypothermia”

But the most important call she made came one night when it was snowing in Athens. The gas boiler in her home was damaged and wouldn’t work and she didn’t know how to set the air conditioning to hot air. “The call I made around 12 midnight was answered by a young man living in London. Fortunately for me, he was familiar with electronic devices, and my air conditioner had a very complex menu that we could not figure out. My interlocutor did not just give up; Instead, he went to the particular brand’s website, downloaded a similar guide, read it and instructed me on what to do. It’s no exaggeration to say he saved me from hypothermia. No matter who I knew at the time, there’s no way he could have had the same amount of ingenuity Showed by this unknown man.

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The app was created in 2015 by Hans Jürgen Wiberg. As mentioned, he himself suffers from poor vision and the idea came to him as an evolution of Facetime, which would allow its users to be more independent and not have to rely solely on their personal relationships.

“I didn’t want to share this information with anyone else.”

See through the eyes of 7.3 million volunteers - an app that changed their lives-2Music Mariana Xenakis, who became blind at the age of three, no longer remembers the first call he made to Be My Eyes. “It was many years ago, around seven. It coincided with the time I decided to leave my parents’ house and live on my own, so it was very helpful. I made calls to check everything from my makeup to the expiry date of the food I was eating in my kitchen,” he says. For “K”. For Mariana, one of the most important calls she’s made over the years was about a pregnancy test she needed to take.. “It was something very personal. I didn’t want to share this information with anyone else, I wanted to deal with it myself.” With Be My Eyes, I can get the result without having to submit to intrusive questions».

Mariana now lives in the same house as her partner, who is also completely blind. In total, the calls they make through the app are about five a week. “From checking if we have any lights on, to making sure our four cats are in the house and no one is locked out on the balcony! And of course the everyday things, like colours, expiry dates or some documents we need to scan.”

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Young people, most of whom are women

the Giannis is a journalism student He lives alone in the bedroom. He’s been using Be My Eyes for the past four years, and as he commented, it has freed up his hands. “The volunteers who answer the calls may not be trained, but most of them are young people who want to help. I would say I mostly meet women.”

It would be inconvenient for me to ask someone I know to answer my call, so I prefer to talk to people from outside.

As he says, he chose English as his language of communication for privacy and security reasons. “When I’m in a public place, I’ll prefer to ask for help from someone who’s already close to me, and I’ll only use Be My Eyes at home. I think it would be embarrassing for someone I know to answer my call, so I prefer to talk to people from outside.” The last call John made was last week when he was eating with a friend, who is also blind, and a piece of food fell on the floor. “We felt the ground, but we couldn’t find it. We made the relevant call and the problem was resolved in seconds!”

7,386,550 volunteers for 635,600 blind users

The platform’s volunteers far outnumber blind users, so the chances of someone answering the call are somewhat limited. More specifically, the number of volunteers at this moment is more than 7,386,550, while the number of blind people is 635,600. the Despina Caponis She recently received her first call, and as she tells K, “I was thrilled! I didn’t have enough time to answer and that meant there were literally so many volunteers helping out. On the other end of the line was a guy who had just eaten and wanted to make sure… His shirt is not dirty.

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Be my AI

For a few months, I have been using the app artificial intelligence It provides users with the service Be my AI. Both John and Chrysella use it more frequently than live video calls. “I personally use AI a lot. For my podcast series, my visual partners send me an image for each episode. I upload it to Be My AI, it describes to me exactly what the image shows and then I add the description to social media.”

If technology involved us in the design of devices and products from the beginning, our requests for visual assistance would be reduced even more.

Chrysella, in addition to being a big fan of artificial intelligence, uses an additional feature of the application, which is… Closed groups, where people with or without vision can participate, so that sensitive content such as documents, IDs, or accounts can be shared. “This possibility can also help in work integration for blind people. This is an added value for the application. Not only does it promote the independence of young people or even older people who may have recently become blind, but it also shows people that a blind person only needs visual aid for very specific things.. Of course, if technology involved us in the design of its devices and products from the beginning, our requests for visual assistance would decrease even more.