Hi Reddit! I am Hans Jørgen Wiberg and in 2015 I launched Be My Eyes, an app that connects blind and low vision individuals with sighted volunteers and companies from all over the world through live video call. I am visually impaired myself and with this app I wanted to make a difference in lives of blind and low vision people, creating a more accessible environment for everyone. Today we can rely on over 1,900,000 volunteers and over 110,000 blind and low vision users coming from more than 150 countries and speaking more than 180 languages!

We have been really excited to see Be My Eyes trending recently on r/humanbeingbros, thanks to a post by u/taylorbagel14 which reached over 75,000 upvotes and more than 1,000 comments. Today I am here with the Be My Eyes Team, which will assist me answering your questions. We are thrilled to see all this interest in our app, and we can’t wait to answer all your questions! We will be live from 1PM to 4PM EST.

Edit: Thank you Reddit for all the great questions! We really hope you had a good time and you found the answers you were looking for! It starts to be pretty late here in Denmark and we are heading towards our beds, but feel free to keep on submitting your questions, we will have a look at them tomorrow! Thanks a lot, and remember to spread the word! - Hans and the Be My Eyes Team

Verification: https://twitter.com/BeMyEyes/status/1093555896855220226

Comments: 423 • Responses: 49  • Date: 

chuckallah232 karma

I’d just like to say thank you for making this app! I’ve been able to help 3 blind people in the last year and it feels great. What gave y’all the idea to create this network?

hjwiberg255 karma

Being visually impaired myself and working for the Danish Blind Association gave me a lot of insights that gave me the idea for the app. A friend of mine was using FaceTime to get visual assistance, but the problem was that he always had to call someone specific. This gave me the idea for the volunteer network.

And thank you for being a volunteer!

SandyLeeAnn80 karma

I am on the network as well and have received one call. I wasn't able to help them (there was gravy on the receipt so I couldn't see the total and told them they would need to ask their server) but I still felt like a super hero afterwards. So thank you for helping people with vision issues who need a helping hand for a moment, but also for giving others a way to Actually Help another human.

hjwiberg29 karma

Thanks for the kind words!

HungLikeaHorse33203 karma

Great stuff. My uncle uses this and finds it amazing

hjwiberg99 karma

Thank you! And say hello to your uncle.

FunDeckHermit177 karma

Is all data transmitted over an encrypted channel?

BMEAlex171 karma

Yes - everything is fully encrypted.

See-970 karma

Is it end to end encrypted though? What kind of encryption are you using? Do you store any of the video or audio?

Edit: sorry for the 3rd degree, I’m in the tech field. Also awesome app idea! A great cause

hjwiberg93 karma

Yes it is end to end. If you want a more technical answer to your question, please send an email to [email protected] and we can include our tech people :)

cleanshoes30171 karma

I don't have a question, but want to say that you and your team are awesome. Thank you for all that you do!

hjwiberg52 karma

Thank you!

mugazadin21 karma

Came here to say this too. Organisations like this are one of the reasons i believe in humanity!

hjwiberg17 karma

Thanks so much!

Oax_Mike126 karma

Do you make money off this app or is it a non-profit project?

hjwiberg196 karma

We are a for-profit organization but we believe in purpose and profit. The app is totally free for the blind users, and the money we make is used to make the app sustainable

quinncuatro86 karma

How do you monetize it?

BMEChristian249 karma

Great question - Early on we considered low-hanging fruit like advertising or subscriptions, but decided it was against our core belief that accessibility services should be free and globally available. We had a poster at the old office saying “Everybody wins, only when nobody loses.” This simple but powerful statement became our design sentence for creating a full circle business model. It took us a couple of years, but we found that companies were struggling to communicate effectively with their blind or low vision customers – which led to our B2B product “Specialized Help."

Specialized Help is video-customer support from our blind/low vision community to any company's customer support center. It’s a company agent answering the call which enables them to give the blind/low vision consumer the best possible service. It's great because the company actually get to solve their customers’ problem quickly, while simultaneously gain insights into where their products and services are lacking from an accessibility perspective. Our aim has been to build a purpose-profit driven business in an ecosystem where “everybody wins when nobody loses”.

quinncuatro63 karma

That's awesome! But sounds like it requires some serious business buy-in. Are there any accessibility laws on the horizon that require companies to provide some sort of specialized service to blind/low vision customers?

Also, downloaded BME a couple of weeks ago. Anxiously awaiting my first call!

BMEChristian48 karma

Accessibility is becoming a higher and higher priority.

We are working with multiple household name companies who are all very excited to reach our community via Specialized Help.

Here are some links to the already implemented accessibility standards. https://www.section508.gov/ https://www.w3.org/standards/webdesign/accessibility

IncognitoIsBetter24 karma

Some of the companies (banks) I work with are increasingly working at accessibility, and attending to the blind has been a significant portion of that.

I already read below that your app isn't recommended for financial transactions, and that was something I was going to ask because it would have seemed off.

That said, is your company considering how it could provide some workable solutions for financial companies looking to attend to their blind costumers?

hjwiberg28 karma

Yes, we are in dialogue with banking companies. If you know about any banks that would be interested in working with us, please reach out!

Oax_Mike9 karma

Cool. Good luck and keep up the good work. This is an exceptionally brilliant idea.

hjwiberg6 karma

Thanks so much - appreciate it!

cordell-1297 karma

I am a BME helper, but have only gotten one call. The guy I helped had a bunch of family pictures, they were trying to pick and arrange what photos to use for his father funeral. We spent nearly 1 hour going through old photos, his mother was with him and as I described the images she was listening (also she was blind) helping identify. It was neat to help this man, I felt like I had done a good service. I only wonder why I have not gotten another call? How does the app work, random calling of helpers, maybe I got a bad rating from the guy? I sure hope not.

hjwiberg57 karma

Happy to hear you had a good experience with it - that was a beautiful story!

It is completely random, so just be patient. I'm sure you did a great job and didn't get a bad rating!

matt_finder76 karma

Hello, Hans and the Be My Eyes Team! What unique steps do you take in your design process to ensure Be My Eyes is accessible and inclusive to all of your users?

P.S. Thank you for making such a wonderful product!

hjwiberg79 karma

Thank you for the nice words!

I am almost completely blind myself, so we always keep the blind user in mind. Everything is tested to make sure it works with all accessibility features. We also make sure to keep the UI as user-friendly as possible to make sure it's easy to navigate for people using accessibility features.

matt_finder50 karma

Thanks for the response, Hans! That's so great to hear and it certainly shows.

I'm a UX/UI designer and would love to help out in any way that I can. Will you be available sometime to talk about future opportunities to join the design team at Be My Eyes?

hjwiberg28 karma

Thank you for the interest. Please send an email to [email protected]

ISwimWithSharks56 karma

Hello guys!
I'm signed up and waiting for my first call. I think this is an awesome app, because it's so easy to help someone through the phone. I wish you all the best!
Question: How can I, as just a nobody, help out more than just signing up and wait for the call?

hjwiberg75 karma

There’s a few things you can do, if you want to help us spread the word about Be My Eyes.

If you speak more than one language, you can help us translate the app and website. We use the crowdsourcing website Crowdin for all our translations, and all you need to do is to create a free user to get started. You can access our translation projects here: https://crowdin.com/profile

You can take contact to your local blind organization to make sure that they are familiar with Be My Eyes. You can also get involved as a volunteer at your local blind organization. Most blind organizations have a variety of volunteer positions, so contact your local blind organization to hear more about their volunteer opportunities. Also if you meet a blind person on the street, you can ask them if they know about Be My Eyes.

If you’re familiar with any media outlets that might be interested in writing about Be My Eyes, don’t hesitate to give them a tip.

Give us a shoutout on Social Media. We love when people talk about us on Social Media, and the Be My Eyes community benefits greatly from word-of-mouth. Feel free to tag any of our Social Media platforms in your post - We’re on: Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bemyeyesapp

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BeMyEyes

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bemyeyesapp

Mr-Zero-Fucks32 karma

What you think is the reason for having 10+ times more volunteers than users? Accessibility, maybe?

BMEChristian45 karma

Most of our sign-ups come from articles and social media stories going viral and the demographic is simply that more sighted people get exposed to the stories --- And there are simply so many wonderful people in this world eager to help one another.

Mr-Zero-Fucks13 karma

Fascinating, so good to know that so many people are eager to help.

What's your strategy for reaching more users? It must be hard considering how focused in visuals is modern advertising.

hjwiberg17 karma

We're trying hard to cooperate with blind organizations for them to help us promote the app to their members. We also rely heavily on word-of-mouth - both from blind and low-vision users and volunteers

boyscout_0731 karma

What was one of the biggest struggles getting BME up and running?

hjwiberg50 karma

Building something extremely simple can be very complicated. We had a lot of things we wanted to do, so narrowing it down to a simple solution was very challenging! User driven products are often simple at their core.

asiandondraper21 karma

Hi Hans, I recently took my first call and had a great interaction!

I'm curious as what your favorite story from the Be My Eyes app has been so far?

hjwiberg26 karma

We have many great stories! One of them is a guy in Sweden who couldn't find his self-moving lawn-mower. You can read many more stories in our Community Stories section: www.bemyeyes.com/community-stories

ongebruikersnaam9 karma

Forgive me for asking, but if you are too vision impaired to find your lawn mover should you be using one?

seeeeew15 karma

He probably meant "self-moving".

ongebruikersnaam10 karma

Ah that makes more sense than the picture of a blind person on a seat mower that I had in my head.

hjwiberg7 karma

Yes that was a typo, meant self-moving :D

iamjacksliver6619 karma

Can you elaborate on how it works not the tech stuff. Mostly just the sales pitch. Also how dose one volunteer for this and what are the time commitments.

hjwiberg33 karma

When a blind user needs visual assistance, they can make a call from the app. A sighted volunteer will answer the call and will have access to the blind user's video feed, from which they can provide visual assistance. They can ask for help with anything from reading expiry dates to matching clothes. You can check out our video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6GRfFuWsjNU

You can download from App Store and Google Play. There are no time commitments. When you receive a call you just pick up if you're available.

sadiqdev19 karma

Great app overall but have you thought of integrating AI or have any plans to? My team and I developed an app which helps the visually impaired to identify the names of public figures, landscapes, human emotions and also color of an object, all using our neural network. Hint: We're always looking for partners and open to any kind of collabs ;)

hjwiberg13 karma

That sounds interesting! Please send us an email at [email protected]

panoli11 karma

Wow, this is perfect timing! We were just discussing the possibility of this: I didn't know it already existed. My question is, how is the data handled? I am talking especially about the new restrictions in the EU, where you need to allow someone to film/photograph you. To specify: if one would assist a blind person for example in traffic and other persons are being filmed, is this a violation of those restrictions? Thank you for your work and this AMA!

BMEAlex9 karma

Hi Panoli, Everything is fully encrypted and is compliant with GDPR. Be My Eyes should be done for anything that can put the blind user in danger or to handle sensitive matters like social security numbers, bank info etc.

panoli3 karma

Thank you for your answer, I still don't get the compliance with GDPR. Does this mean it can't be used in public? Or is this usage free under the restrictions? Feel free to just tell me if this question goes to deep into technicalities which you don't want to share and I will stop bothering you. It's really just interest from my side, because I had my fair share of problems with the new restrictions. :)

hjwiberg3 karma

I'm not sure we fully understand your question. Could you send an email to [email protected] and elaborate a bit more, and we will take the time to give you a proper answer

RockDesk9 karma

I heard about this app about 6 months ago but didn't download it. I'd be using it on the 'sighted' side but I'm nervous. Has the app been abused at all? People pretending to need help to troll strangers?

hjwiberg12 karma

There's nothing to be nervous about! It's a simple way to help out another person. In a community of this size, we can't completely avoid pranksters, and we deal with it as fast as we can. It happens extremely rarely. You can always report abuse after the call, and if you feel uncomfortable, you can hang up immediately and report it.

RockDesk4 karma

You're right, of course. I suppose it's just the unknown. Once I do it then it'll be like second nature.

I think your app is amazing by the way. I'm looking forward to getting to use it .

hjwiberg4 karma

Thanks so much, happy to have you onboard!

decentwriter7 karma

Hi Hans,

My question is how much of your outreach is focused on getting blind and low vision folks on the app versus sighted folks who can help? It seems like there’s WAY more helpers on the app than actual people who need the help. I’ve been signed up for two years now I think and have never once received a call for help because there’s so many people. Do you feel like there’s more help than you could possibly ever need on the app?

hjwiberg6 karma

Right now our outreach is heavily focused on potential blind and low-vision users, because we have so many amazing volunteers who are ready to help. But we do also appreciate opportunities like these! How many volunteers we have also depend on the language. Some languages are very volunteer heavy, while some of the smaller languages have fewer volunteers.

decentwriter3 karma

Which languages have the most blind or low vision users with too few helpers?

hjwiberg8 karma

On the top of my head, we would like more Hindi, Kannada, Japanese, and Indonesian speaking volunteers.

d0ri19907 karma

I've had the app for a while now - and it would be nice if there was more time to answer the call - I know that you are trying to get someone ASAP that is available and you have many volunteers! But, It'd be nice to have a little more time. Is this something that you will implement in the future?

BMEChristian6 karma

Thank you being part of our community - we understand the wish for a long time request and it's something we are working on. It's a balance and we aim to serve both sides of the community.

Soloman2128 karma

Does the call go out to multiple volunteers and it's first come first serve or does it bounce between volunteers one by one until someone answers? I would think the person needing the help getting it ASAP should be prioritized over any one volunteer having more time to answer a call that they wanted to help with.

hjwiberg14 karma

The main priority is to get a fast answer to the blind user. Therefore the request is sent to a batch of volunteers, and the first to answer will get connected. In the rare case that none of the volunteers in the batch answers, it will be sent to a new batch until answered.

AllHarlowsEve4 karma

I know, back when it was just starting to get rolling, that BME was very slow to connect, I remember literally setting my phone down for half an hour and not getting connected back then. I use different apps now, like BeSpecular I think that let me just take a picture and ask for a specific answer than dealing with essentially a video call with strangers.

hjwiberg3 karma

We've had great improvement in connection times since we started. Now most calls are connected within 30 seconds

ajohn2007 karma

Are you a descendant of Erik Jørgensen?

hjwiberg13 karma

Not that I know off - Jørgensen is a very common last name in Denmark. But they make great furniture!

Magenta_Violet6 karma

I have a web service that is required to support Multifactor authentication.

What Multifactor approaches work for blind and low vision users?

hjwiberg11 karma

Don't use image captchas! Typically anything that uses a mobile phone is good. Texting a code, or anything text-based really. Audio can work too, but remember there are also blind people who are deaf or hard of hearing and will struggle if there aren't text-based options.

samtheboy6 karma

I've had the app for 8 months now but no calls. Is the UK very volunteer heavy or am I doing something wrong?

hjwiberg12 karma

We do have a lot of volunteers in the UK, so there might be some time between calls. Please be aware that the notification will disappear from your phone when it's picked up by another volunteer, so you might have received requests you didn't see. Just be patient!

Bmc005 karma

I was happy to sign up to help during that big reddit push you mentioned! Curious about how it randomly selects people to call. If you're called, but don't answer, do you get moved on the list next time someone is asking for help? Or is it truly random meaning some people may never get a call? Also, about how many calls per day are people making?

hjwiberg5 karma

We do prioritize people who have recently signed up, but besides that it's completely random. It doesn't affect it if you don't pick up a call. It varies a lot how many calls people are making per day. Some people make several calls per day, while others don't use it every day.

MultiGamerClub4 karma

  1. Hvordan brukes applikasjonen?
  2. Er det støtte for at veldige blinde personer kan bruke den?
  3. Er den lett og forstå for funksjonshemmede brukere?

Bare et parr spørsmål ettersom jeg lurer.

hjwiberg4 karma

Appen er meget enkel at bruge. Som blind kan du lave et opkald til en frivillig, og som frivillig modtager du et opkald når nogen har brug for hjælp. Den fungerer med alle tilgængelighedsværktøjer. Vi har gjort meget ud af at gøre den enkel og let.

seeeeew3 karma

What are your thoughts on making Be My Eyes available as a desktop app for volunteers?

Development capacities aside, do you think this would be a good addition?

Since Be My Eyes is open source, is there anything preventing a third party from creating a desktop app that connects to the official service?

hjwiberg6 karma

A desktop version will definitely be a good addition, and it's in our pipeline.

In the beginning we experienced with open source, but it was difficult to project manage. We haven't been using open source in several years.

chronic_bowls3 karma

What is to stop people from fucking with the visually impaired person? I am worried that some shithead kid/prankster volunteers and causes a lot of damage to them...

hjwiberg5 karma

The blind users are informed that they shouldn't use BME in situations that can be dangerous to them. If they do experience abuse they can report it right after the call, and the volunteer will be blocked

kondichael3 karma

What happens if the volunteer causes an accident. Like steering the blind person into a hole, either intentional or unintentional?

hjwiberg12 karma

Our blind users are independent, intelligent people who know their own boundaries. We've been in business for four years and haven't had an accident yet. We also urge all users and volunteers to carefully follow our terms of use.

Snakwell3 karma

Have you ever had any malicious activities regarding improper treatment of the blind people? If so, how do you prevent this from happening?

hjwiberg5 karma

Whenever you have had a call, you can report the other person if you experience inappropriate behavior. When people get reported we can block them right away.

poodle163 karma

What event, if any, lead to the idea that eventually led you to creating Be My Eyes?

hjwiberg12 karma

A friend of mine was using FaceTime to get visual assistance, but it was often a problem that he had to call someone specific. That gave me the idea to use video connection for visual assistance and build a volunteer network to answer the calls, so you don't have to call your friends and family all the time.

poodle169 karma

I love that. It takes the emotional burden off the low vision person. It weighs a lot, thinking you're inconveniencing someone. Knowing volunteers are available is a huge load off.

Thank you for your app!

hjwiberg5 karma

You are completely right. That is the purpose of the app - to make it easy for blind and low-vision people to ask for help!

gug123 karma

Hi! I want to ask if you plan having a stats section in your app, or your website, so we can see how many people from a country use it? That, and how many people from each language. Both volunteers and visually-impaired users.

It would be really cool to know who are we helping, and also how many people from how country are using it.

hjwiberg5 karma

Be My Eyes is completely anonymous, so we don't plan on sharing that information.

miatapasta3 karma

I am a teacher at an academy for the blind and VI students. Currently I teach 4th grade.

What classroom implications could this carry? What age group would benefit the most from it, do you think? The school goes K-12. Also, what kind of assistance do you guys have for students that are blind and also developmentally/mentally impaired?

hjwiberg5 karma

Be aware that there's an age restriction of 17 on Be My Eyes, as we want to make sure that both parties fully understand that they are talking to a stranger. It therefore shouldn't be used in the 4th grade. But many blind university students use BME! We don't have any specific support for people who are also mentally impaired.

miatapasta2 karma

Thanks for filling that in for me bud!

You’re obviously able to communicate very well via text. What do you use since you are VI? I have students reaching the cell phone age now.

hjwiberg4 karma

The vision I have left is my very central vision, which is perfect for reading text, but there's a lot of good accessibility tools out there which works well for people with different types of sight loss

La_Guy_Person3 karma

Hi, First, I want to say that this is an absolute fantastic idea and thank you guys for your um... vision.

My question is, how is this monetized? Is there a fee or subscription for the app or do you guys work under grants and donations? If there is a cost to the user, how do you balance providing an affordable service for people in need with making enough money to continue to help the differently abled? If there is no fee, where can people make donations and how can people help out?

hjwiberg4 karma

Thanks so much for your kind words!

This answer is a copy paste from a previous answer, but I believe it answers your question: Early on we considered low-hanging fruit like advertising or subscriptions, but decided it was against our core belief that accessibility services should be free and globally available. We had a poster at the old office saying “Everybody wins, only when nobody loses.” This simple but powerful statement became our design sentence for creating a full circle business model. It took us a couple of years, but we found that companies were struggling to communicate effectively with their blind or low vision customers – which led to our B2B product “Specialized Help." Specialized Help is video-customer support from our blind/low vision community to any company's customer support center. It’s a company agent answering the call which enables them to give the blind/low vision consumer the best possible service. It's great because the company actually get to solve their customers’ problem quickly, while simultaneously gain insights into where their products and services are lacking from an accessibility perspective. Our aim has been to build a purpose-profit driven business in an ecosystem where “everybody wins when nobody loses”.

bitesports2 karma

Haven’t checked the app yet but do they support other languages? Spanish as well?

hjwiberg5 karma

Yes - we support more than 180 different languages!

delusionalmatrix2 karma

Do the blind connect primarily with volunteers from the same country? Or Is it just by timezone/language?

hjwiberg4 karma

Primarily they will be connected to someone in the same country, unless they call in the night time.

_RyTheGuy_2 karma

Hi Hans! I'm in the process of launching a social enterprise that creates accessibility software for websites. Is there anything you wished you would have known before launching BME?

hjwiberg3 karma

Happy to hear you entering the business! Keep in mind that it's important to equally balance purpose and profit. If you send us an email at [email protected] we would love to share some more tips with you!

whyohwhy1152 karma

Hi I’m a volunteer and actually received one call since I signed up! Strangely enough the call I received was simply a woman testing the app and not actually in need of help. Is there a way for users to filter what kind of call they would like to make? Or maybe for us volunteers to know what kind of help is needed so we can assess if we are suited for the job or not?

Also do users that need assistance have to verify with you that they are legally blind? Just making sure that I’m not picking up on a scam call

Thanks!!

hjwiberg4 karma

We encourage blind users to test it out, so they're familiar with how to use the app when they need it. There is no way to filter the calls.

Blindness is a wide spectrum, so we don't have a verification system as people can have completely different levels of sight but still benefit from the service. Scam calls are very rare, but if it happens you can report it in the call rating after ending the call.

cannonman581021 karma

How does one prevent this from being abused? Walking people into traffic, telling people incorrect information for their own amusement, ect?

hjwiberg5 karma

The blind users are informed that they shouldn't use BME in situations that can be dangerous to them. If they do experience abuse they can report it right after the call, and the volunteer will be blocked

kitikitish1 karma

Care to share your favorite recipe?

hjwiberg1 karma

Black coffee!

EtienneGarten1 karma

How do you handle trolls? Is there a review system for volunteers?

hjwiberg2 karma

Yes you will enter a call review after every call where you can prevent misuse.