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This month at Be My Eyes
June 2018

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Welcome back! We’re glad you could make it to our June edition of the Be My Eyes monthly newsletter. It’s been another jam-packed month full of events and updates that we can’t wait to share with you. First off, we’ll introduce you to Konnie. Read about why Be My Eyes is her go-to tool in her career as a transcriptionist. Next up, we’ve got a couple updates about our onboarding emails and a word from our friends at Clearly. After some news about podcast cameos, a remarkable museum we highly recommend you to visit, and a spotlight on Amazon’s coolest coder, we’ll wrap things up with some quotes from the Be My Eyes Community and take a look at the numbers. Off you go!

Featured story of the month

Context Clues for Konnie

YouTube video - Konnie’s Story

Rapid City, South Dakota local, Konnie, is the mother of two teenagers whom she homeschools. She doubles as a transcriptionist, working with a range of material from podcasts, sermons and interviews to focus group discussions, college lectures and medical scripts - even trials! Konnie is also completely blind.

“I never know what I’m gonna get from day to day”, Konnie shares. Her latest endeavor is working with a company that transcribes videos, mainly for YouTube. Konnie says the “neat” thing about it, is that she gets to help people, who are deaf or hard of hearing and those who are new English-speakers, in her own way. She empathizes with the nature of the work as well as its cause, “I get to help others with their disabilities or other challenges, even though I have a challenge of my own”. And when she faces a challenge with her vision, she pops open Be My Eyes.

Konnie is seated on a wicker chair in a garden. She wears a blue sweater and jeans, draping her arms alongside the armrests.

Konnie is seated on a wicker chair in a garden. She wears a blue sweater and jeans, draping her arms alongside the armrests.

The use Konnie makes of Be My Eyes spotlights a few advantages it holds over other visually assistive apps. Chief among them is the human factor. The volunteers, who are only a phone call away, are able to understand context that artificial intelligence, for example, can’t read. When Konnie is sent a video, she wants to have the exact context of the footage in order to transcribe it accurately.

“The volunteers tell me where to position my phone, and I ask them whatever it is that I’m wondering about or need to know. They are always very helpful, very friendly and more than willing to lend a hand, or a pair of eyes so to speak.”

Whether it’s a picture displaying some kind of scenario, a name she wants spelled correctly, or anything she can’t reference in the audio, Konnie simply makes a Be My Eyes call to get a fitting description. And because she is also a mother and teacher, her demanding schedule sometimes means she works late at night. The 24-hour, anywhere in the world availability that Be My Eyes ensures, gives Konnie an upper hand.

Be My Eyes suits people like Konnie who lead busy lives because it functions like a tool in their back pocket that’s there when they need something reliable and flexible. And Konnie isn’t partial to using the app in her professional life, “The uses for it are pretty much unlimited, I think”, Konnie says, “whatever you can imagine”.

Konnie’s story is part of our Community Stories series. People all over the world use Be My Eyes in their everyday lives. Many of them write us about their experience with the app and folks they connect with. This feature lets us spread good vibes throughout the whole community. If you’d like to tell us about your experience or give a testimonial, send us an email at mystory@bemyeyes.com.

News & Updates

Two emails sit against a blue background, one featuring Community Stories and the other profiling how Be My Eyes got started. Flag icons of Spain, Portugal, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Argentina, and Chile sit in the top left corner.

¡Hola! and Olá!

With the help of our friends at Latinlingua, our introduction emails are now translated to Spanish and Portuguese. Right behind English, Spanish and Portuguese are two of the most frequently spoken languages amongst both blind and low vision Be My Eyes users as well as volunteers. To uphold receptivity, Be My Eyes strives to offer our emails in more native languages in the future. The assistance users receive through the app and the information or updates they receive via email must be accessible in terms of language first and foremost. This ensures comfort and ease, and makes Be My Eyes community members better equipped to use the app.

Latinlingua is a Certified B translation company based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Their mission is to help the world understand each other, using language as a force for good. You can learn more about Latinlingua, who they are and what they do by visiting the Latinlingua website.

YouTube video: How a 700 Year Old Invention Can Change the World Forever

Clearly A Great Cause

Here at Be My Eyes, all that we do centers upon helping volunteers share their sight with people who are blind or have low vision. Be My Eyes users are from all walks of life, they have different levels of vision and manage it in their own ways, sometimes with the help of a friendly volunteer through the app. But there are 2.5 billion people around the world with vision difficulties or diseases in some cases, who would be able to see clearly if they had access to a vision test and or a pair of glasses. Our friends at Clearly have made it their mission to ensure that everyone, everywhere can get a pair of glasses when they need them. In the 700+ years since the first glasses were invented, Clearly believes that the time has come for governments, businesses and the public to take action and lessen economic barriers to vision care. The scoop on Clearly’s work and the option to join the campaign is available on the Clearly website.

The Be My Eyes Community

The June 3rd Episode of the Blind and Beyond Radio featuring Be My Eyes Community Director Alexander Hauerslev Jensen.

Blind and Beyond Radio Show

Last month, our Community Director Alexander Hauerslev Jensen was the guest on Blind and Beyond, a unique radio show for people who are blind or have a low level of vision and for sighted listeners with an interest in learning about the world of the blindness. The show hones in on the delights and the challenges of leading successful and productive lives as a person with any sort of visual impairment. Join Host, Michael Golder, Co-Host and Executive Producer, Lynne Golder, along with Co-Hosts, Gary Sinclair, Sheila Young, and Dave Hillebrandt. Chris Shaw, the talented and witty producer adds thoughtful insight mixed with a little humor to the discussions with engaging guests each week. You’re in for an exciting and informative show, through which you can meet people from all over the world as they share their life experiences. You can check out our cameo in last month’s episode on the Blind and Beyond Radio Show’s website.

From left to right, Shiyin Cai and Zhang Jie from Dialogue in the Dark Shanghai beside Jozef Simo, Be My Eyes Team designer. The group stands smiling at the entrance of DiD in front of a braille-inspired logo.

Dialogue in the Dark

Two of the Be My Eyes team members have had the pleasure of visiting this one-of-a-kind museum on its locations in Hamburg and Shanghai. Dialogue in the Dark is a hands-on experience, where visitors are guided by blind guides in absolute darkness. It’s a chance to walk through familiar, daily scenarios and environments in an unfamiliar way: specially designed darkened rooms. The role reversal offers an unparalleled opportunity to see things from a different perspective. Dialogue in the Dark pushes sighted folks out of their comfort zone and orients them towards a non-sighted world. Much like the experience of a Be My Eyes volunteer, Dialogue in the Dark is a way to understand a different way of living, first-hand. For more than 27 years, Dialogue in the Dark has been presented in more than 41 countries throughout Europe, the Americas, Africa and Asia. Millions of visitors have been led through this unique exhibition and it’s our sincere hope that you give it a go next. If you’re interested, check out the Dialogue in the Dark website and sign up in a location near you!

YouTube video cover image depicts Michael, seated on a bench beside his guide dog, enjoying the sunshine with snow-capped mountains in the distant background.

Shoutout to Michael Forzano

There are those who are blind and climb to the top of Mt. Everest, swim in the Olympics, run their own business, or teach music. Then there are those like Michael Forzano, who scored a software engineer position on Amazon's retail accessibility team. The Be My Eyes team came across a story about Michael, a 26-year-old coder who has been blind since birth, and couldn’t resist giving him a little shoutout. His story highlights how assistive technology can foster stronger independence for blind and low vision folks in their careers and how accessibility can take on different forms in the workplace, but most importantly, it reminds us that coding blind for a massive tech company is as big a feat as Everest. You can read the full write-up and get to know Michael in the CNBC article.

Access Champions Podcast Episode 8: Danish Super-App-Man Hans Wiberg

Access Champions Podcast

You can’t miss this weekly journey into the galaxy of accessibility and inclusion. Access Champions is a podcast that explores current events and sits down with people who are changing the game in all realms of accessibility and inclusion. In episode 8, Be My Eyes founder Hans Jorgen Wiberg guest stars to discuss the idea behind creating the app and shares a bit about his trajectory from farmer to app founder. Besides Hans’ first-hand account of his journey of vision, this episode sifts through the hurdles of creating an access minded app and explains how the app has become home to over 1 million volunteers. Give it a listen here: Be My Eyes on Access Champions.

Selected quotes from this month

“One of the important things, which have changed in my life through Be My Eyes, is that I do not always have to wait until a sighted person comes along. So now I’m very independent as far as that is concerned, and I get the information whenever I need them.” – Norbert, blind user from Switzerland

“Spend a minute or two of your time, greatly helping others. Why? Simply because we’re all people, we’re all human beings. So why not help your neighbors when they need assistance?” – Rodion, volunteer from Russia

Total signups

85,030
Blind

1,459,373
Volunteers

Heads Up

This month, the Be My Eyes Team made three additions to the language options in the app: Amharic, Tigrinya (languages of Ethiopia and Eritea), and Papiamento. If you are a volunteer speaking Amharic, Tigrinya or Papiamento, please add the language in your app settings, so that we’ll be able to offer the language to our blind and low vision users. Tigrinya was suggested to our founder, Hans Jorgen, directly through Twitter by Haben Girma. Please don’t hesitate to do the same! You, too, can reach out to us about having your native tongue or a language you use added into the app.

End Note

Thanks for stopping by and taking a minute to catch up with us. We hope this recap of June at Be My Eyes was useful, engaging, and that it pointed you towards new directions or ideas. Don’t miss out next month! See you in July.

Until next time,
The Be My Eyes Team

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This month issue is carefully curated by Julia Rignot, Cecilie Skou Andersen. You can find previous editions in our Newsletter Archive.
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