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Be my eyes - could you help the partially sighted to read?

David Storey
24 Jun 2019 · 2 min read

David Storey has been thinking about humans before technology and how the internet can be used as a force for good. He’s been looking a number of altruistic sites and testing them to see if they actually deliver on their promises. In this short article he looks at Be My Eyes. You can read the main article here.


Be My Eyes garnered a lot of attention when it launched a few years ago and rightly so.

The concept is wonderfully simple. If a partially sighted person is struggling to read something, they can launch an app and point their camera at the text. A sighted volunteer registered with the app then receives an alert and through a video conference can read the text for the other person, or describe what is in front of them. In the video example I saw, the volunteer is identifying which of two cardigans is red.


Waiting list

Having never tried the app before I installed it on my phone and registered myself as a volunteer.

The app’s home screen informed me that there are currently 131,486 ‘blind’ users of the app and 2,157,057 volunteers. I was then told to await notification for when someone needed my help.

A few days later and the app didn’t appear to have done anything. I looked into it and discovered it can take up two weeks before you receive your first request due to the huge number of volunteers. After a few weeks I still haven’t received any alerts, though the app does appear to be running in the background. Ironically in this time period I have now also received multiple marketing emails from Be My Eyes about the great work that I’m now part of.

So this perhaps isn’t one for an immediate ‘moral fix’ but to leave on the backburner. I’ve certainly left the app installed in case someone does need me one day.

The lesson I’ll be sharing with my AmazeRealise colleagues from Be My Eyes is that good intentions are just not enough. You need to consider the user experience and manage their expectations to have an impact.

It didn’t quite work out this time but discover here what happened when David volunteered to be a Listener for those with mental health issues. And talk to us using the form below if you’d like to discuss using technology for human advantage.

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