This is a real eye-opener. I just had to re-blog it!
App lets you be eyes for the blind
ByBIGAD SHABAN CBS NEWS
Whether he’s making his way down some stairs, or down the block, Julian Vargas can find his way just about anywhere. The 45-year-old has been blind most of his life and enjoys being independent, but says there are moments when he — and others who are visually impaired — need help.
“When we are trying to get some information or detail that’s only available visually, we’ll joke around and say does anyone have a pair of eyes I can borrow right now?”
A new, free app for smart phones, called Be My Eyes, aims to solve that problem. Using a phone’s already built-in accessibility features, blind users can run their fingers over their phone to pull up the app, which then uses the phone’s camera and microphone to get instantly connected to sighted volunteers.
Vargas spent an afternoon with CBS News correspondent Bigad Shaban to demonstrate how it works.
After entering his local pharmacy, Vargas used his phone to access the app, which then started calling volunteer Elvira Medina.
“How can I help you today?” Medina said over the phone.
“I’m not as familiar with the aisles here, so I was thinking you could maybe be my eyes and help me find some things I need?” Vargas replied.
He then pointed his phone’s camera in front of him, as Medina navigated him through the store.
Since the app launched last month, Medina has helped blind users locate medicine, figure out expiration dates, and even learn about art.
“Just someone curious walking the hall, touching a frame and wondering what the picture is,” Medina said. “A guy called me up to see how his sunglasses looked, one day. So I told him he looked great and he rocked them. So, it’s small things like that.”
The idea for Be My Eyes came from a 50-year-old furniture maker in Denmark who started losing his vision.
The service is available in 80 languages. So far, more than 115,000 volunteers have signed up to help the roughly 10,000 visually-impaired people who have enrolled.
If a sighted volunteer happens to be busy when they get a call from the app, they can simply hit a button on their phone so that another volunteer is contacted instead.
Vargas says it’s making an impact you don’t have to see to believe. And as for the volunteers: “They’re giving us something that we need the most at that given second — a pair of eyes.”
To learn more about the app, you can visit
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