I’ve debated whether or not to issue a message about the coronavirus outbreak, because, relatively speaking, little has changed for Be My Eyes. We are a support community; supporting people when they need it is our single purpose. We’ve been open 24 hours a day for five years, and we hope that our users know we’re always here when there’s a need.
And yet, if making a statement in this time of need can help by reaching even just a few new people who are struggling right now, it seems right to give more context about what Be My Eyes can do to help. Below are a few updates and ways that we can come together as a global community during this trying time.
Many people assume Be My Eyes is only for the totally blind. In fact, a high percentage of our users are older adults who struggle to read small print or locate small objects. Self-isolation is a good way to save lives and prevent dramatic loss. But for older adults and people with visual impairments, social isolation can be challenging. It is hard for anyone to go through changes, and for those who are blind or have low vision, getting out of your normal routine without friends and loved ones near means confronting accessibility barriers left and right.
Fortunately, Be My Eyes was built for a situation like this, and we have never been more ready to take on these challenges. Even as call volume increases, our vibrant, kind-hearted volunteer community is more prepared than ever to answer the call. As of this week, there are more than 3.6 million people around the world who have signed up to be of assistance to anyone with a visual impairment. Many of them have only received one or two calls. They are in every part of the world, speak every language and have signed up because they are passionate about helping a fellow human. A Be My Eyes user should never hesitate to press the call button.
To be clear: We can handle many, many more calls. So please tell your family members with reduced vision, your friends in direct service, colleagues who may be struggling with inaccessible work from home tech: there’s no shame – and maybe even some unexpected joy – in connecting with a Be My Eyes volunteer.
Despite many business closures and postponed events, we are heartened to report that our partners at Google, Microsoft, Clearblue and others continue to keep their lines open for our community, offering free, expert-level support to Be My Eyes users. We hope Specialized Help is more useful than ever.
We are working to expand our list of Specialized Help partners, and, particularly in this unique virtual period, welcome your suggestions for companies that could join the Be My Eyes community to make the lives of people with visual impairments a little easier.
If you have a suggestion for a Specialized Help provider or represent a company that is interested in supporting the blind community during this time, email us.
Our hearts go out to those who are struggling right now, and we can’t wait to see everyone back together with their friends, families, and colleagues. Hang in there. Thank you for reading and being a crucial part of this global effort.