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I’ve written before about visual interpreting service Aira more than once. In case you missed those brilliant pieces of my wisdom (read: my personal opinion and experience), I pay Aira a monthly fee to provide visual information and assist with inaccessible apps. But Aira is by no means the only spare pair of eyes I can call in a pinch. But when I ask someone to Be my Eyes, I use that service for different tasks than Aira.

Early Be my Eyes Marketing

I’d be remis if I didn’t address the initial marketing strategy of Be My Eyes. When it first became available late in 2015, it had a really icky message. “Help the blind see!” or “Do a good deed!” The exact wording of their slogan at the time isn’t something I can recall, but it made me reluctant to use the service until such a point as they cleaned up their marketing and made blind people feel less like a charity case. Thankfully, they’ve now changed their slogan to “See the World Together”, and their outward marketing is more of collaboration and mutual benefit to both sighted and blind alike.

Universally Accessible

Be my Eyes is a free service. Basically, if you have a smart phone, you can use it. If you speak more than one language, you can use that language to request or provide assistance. I’ve primarily spoken to volunteers from my home country of Canada, but there have been times where my “eyes” are located in England or South Africa. If I just need a quick check of when my yogurt expires, or how many kilometers I’ve ridden on my exercise bike workout, I’m more likely to reach for Be my Eyes, rather than Aira.

Corporate Partnerships

One of the handy things about Be my Eyes is their partnerships with global companies in technology, blindness services, and personal care items. These partnerships use the Be my Eyes video platform to connect a blind person to an employee from (for example) Google, Guide dogs for the Blind, and ClearBlue. So if you need a hand with your Google Doc, or want a trainer to take a look at your guide dog’s behavior, or are concerned about pregnancy or fertility, there’s someone who knows the product specifically and can provide an extra bit of information without a crash course in tech or guide dogs or whatever.

A few Drawbacks

The quality of volunteers – and the information they provide – can definitely be hit or miss. I’ve had amazing volunteers who have spent half an hour with me going through all the swag in a race kit. I’ve also had volunteers who were unable to provide directions so they could better see what I was needing help with (“Bring your phone up. No… not up, but UP!”) Volunteers have been at home watching TV, or out at a club. Volunteers have been in their sixties, and I swear I’ve had more than one who couldn’t have been older than twelve. Overall, however, my experiences with Be my Eyes have been generally positive. Now, if only they could fix their bug that messes up my phone’s speaker after every call…

The Bottom line

I don’t use Be my Eyes for confidential information, or for anything that requires a third party to log into my computer to work through an accessibility glitch (I still use Aira for that). but for another tool in my toolbox – which means I’m not relying on friends and family – it’s a welcome addition. Adding their useful corporate partnerships, and it’s an app that’s sticking around. I can’t wait to see where it goes next.