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This month at Be My Eyes
July 2018

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We’re back with the July edition of our monthly Be My Eyes newsletter, and we’re so glad you could join us. Here’s the play-by-play: This month we’re keeping things simple and easy. You’ll meet Leo, from Turkey, and get his unique take on volunteering with Be My Eyes, hear about a recent innovation in the blind community, and get the scoop on the 2018 Holman Prize winners. On top of that, we have an update from the NFB National Convention and news about a new milestone in the Be My Eyes community. Happy reading!

Featured story of the month

Not Just About Helping

YouTube video - Leo’s Story

Leo is an artist and father from Turkey. In Bosnia, where he lives, he works as a graphic designer and photographer. A good friend of Leo’s is blind, and one day mentioned an app that captured Leo’s attention and compelled him to see things differently. Like many volunteers in the community, upon hearing about Be My Eyes, Leo signed up immediately. Leo’s understanding of blindness and sentiments towards his experience of the app, however, is unique.

Prior to joining the Be My Eyes community, Leo was part of a film and photography project in 2006 entitled “Equinox”. He worked as an image director studying and capturing film of blind and sighted dancers. The project explores boundaries of vision and its significance in dance, music and choreography in order to challenge perceptions of blindness. Leo’s formative experience working with blind folks on this project translated into his interest in volunteering with Be My Eyes.

“When you meet blind people, you understand very well, it is not a disability. It’s completely a functional diversity. The things that they can see, I mean perception, it’s something different that we can’t see. What’s the normality, or what’s the disability in this case?”

Many Be My Eyes volunteers share stories with us about learning from blind and low vision people whom they connect with, or say that they feel inspired and proud to get to help another person. Leo sees things alternatively. For Leo, dedicating some time volunteering on the app isn’t simply about helping another person, but rather making a special connection. As he puts it, “Providing help may be … not exactly what I would say but sharing that moment … We are just humans so I don’t wanna say ‘Oh, it’s really good sharing! Making! Helping!’ It’s not that deal ”. Instead, teaming up with someone to tackle a problem, solve an issue, or just to offer an alternative perspective is what Leo calls “a good challenge”.

Leo snaps a shot of himself and his son in the reflection of a mirror. His infant son rests in his lap.

Leo snaps a shot of himself and his son in the reflection of a mirror. His infant son rests in his lap.

“The point is sharing, in that moment, his or her problem for just resolving it,” Leo explains, “So it’s not just about helping, but maybe about completely sharing something.”

Leo’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

Three 2018 Holman Prize Winners are pictured smiling, from left to right: Red Szell, Stacy Cervenka, and Conchita Hernández.

And The Holman Prize Goes To...

We’re excited to share big news with you from our pals at LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired in San Francisco. Three exceptional people have been awarded $25,000 as part of the 2018 Holman Prize. The winners have fantastic plans for their funds, including promoting blind empowerment in Mexico, completing a dramatic oceanic triathlon, and developing the first online community for blind travel.

Now in its second year, the Holman Prize was created to shift perceptions and reclaim the concept of “blind ambition”. All three projects embody their own sense of adventure and ambition – whether it takes the winners on a mentally and physically daunting journey or allows them to build and foster something positive in their community. We at Be My Eyes are happy to celebrate people within the blind community who strive to make a social impact, as we do every day.

A person strolls down a paved sidewalk at sunset using the WeWALK.

More Than A Smart Cane

For any white cane users out there, can you imagine getting turn-by-turn directions from your cane? Or having the ability to detect objects with it? Imagine no more, it’s here! Young Guru Academy (YGA), a non-profit organization founded in Turkey, cultivates leaders to realize the dream of a brighter future for generations to come. One of the program’s recent graduates, Kürşat Ceylan, has developed WeWalk, an innovative take on the white cane.

This smart white cane is able to detect obstacles that are above the chest and head levels with its ultrasonic sensor. It also has its own app available for both iOS and Android and connects via Bluetooth. Once connected, users can customize their settings and manage third-party application integrations, like Google Maps. WeWALK is an updated, smarter version of the foldable white cane that can be integrated with smartphones. As a product, WeWALK is a great gadget for blind folks who are also white cane users, but beyond that, WeWALK is a literal step forward in accessibility and independence.

The Be My Eyes Community

Be My Eyes founder, Hans Jørgen Wiberg, speaking at the NFB 2018 National Convention in Orlando, Florida.

National Federation of the Blind 2018 National Convention

The National Federation of the Blind 2018 National Convention took place this month in Orlando, Florida. The convention not only hosted a series of exciting events, but also awarded the 2018 Dr. Jacob Bolotin Awards to four distinguished organizations and two extraordinary individuals. The award recognizes individuals and organizations that are a positive force in the lives of blind and low vision people, transforming visions into realities. Dr. Jacob Bolotin fought ignorance and prejudice in becoming the world’s first physician who was blind from birth, and his namesake award is presented to recipients who represent this innovation, determination and who share his values. Be My Eyes is thrilled to be be among the other terrific winners Peggy Chong, Carol Begay Green, iBUG Today Inc, LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired (San Francisco) and Ski for Light. Check out more about each recipient and their work at the 2018 Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award page.

Our nomination and win stems from our recent introduction of video customer support, which we call Specialized Help. It is imperative to us at Be My Eyes that we provide accessible, timely and friendly assistance to all blind and low vision users. Specialized Help is a great step forward in this direction, but the work isn’t finished! At the present moment, we’re pleased to have Microsoft onboard with us, but we would still love to hear your suggestions about which companies or organizations you hope to join the Specialized Help menu. Leave word with us at the Be My Eyes request subpage, and we’ll do our best to bring them aboard the Specialized Help platform.

New Milestone - 1,500,000 Be My Eyes volunteer signups

A Million and a Half!

This July, we’ve exceeded a substantial milestone of 1,500,000 Be My Eyes volunteer signups! It’s simply fantastic that so many people want to be a part of the social impact that Be My Eyes strives to make and personally contribute to the blind and low vision community. Thanks to you, we can equip more blind and low vision people with a tool that offers greater independence and accessibility. We are sincerely grateful for all of your support with each sign up and every time you tell another person about what Be My Eyes is all about. Without which, we wouldn’t be able to reach such an extraordinary milestone. Keep up the good work!

Be My Eyes Community Director, Alexander Hauerslev Jensen, accepting the Abilitynet Accessibility Award at the 2018 Tech4Good Awards in London, UK.

Tech4Good

Technology can help transform the lives of people with disabilities. This is not only a mission of ours at Be My Eyes, but a key theme among the winners of the 2018 Tech4Good Awards. At the 8th annual ceremony on July 17th in London, more than 200 people came together to celebrate this year’s results. We are overjoyed to be honored with the AbilityNet Accessibility Award and the Winner of Winners Award. At Be My Eyes, we continually strive for high standards of accessibility. It is imperative to how the app functions but also a necessity to supporting the blind and low vision community. We look forward to future opportunities to use the power of technology to make a social impact and it’s been a pleasure taking part in Tech4Good’s annual celebration. Be sure to check out the full list of winners from AbilityNet’s news blog.

Selected quotes from this month

“Helping through Be My Eyes made a profound impact on me. After I’ve helped someone, I feel very cheery, and it also reminds me that I need to be thankful for everything in my life everyday. I’m always happier, when I use Be My Eyes and can help someone.” – Sarah, volunteer from United Kingdom

“I think Be My Eyes has been very helpful in allowing me to be more independent. If nobody’s around, I don’t have to wait until a sighted person comes, in order to do what I need to do.” – David, blind user from United States

Total signups

88,940
Blind

1,537,418
Volunteers

End Note

That’s all for July, folks! We hope that you’ve had a good read and that you’ll be back for more in August. Catch you next time!

Until next time,
The Be My Eyes Team

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Be My Eyes