Apps to help the visually impaired access information: ‘Be My Eyes’

Dear Colleagues,

Today I came across this short video article from the BBC about a free app called ‘Be My Eyes’. Basically, it links a visually impaired person with a sighted volunteer in order by smartphone to help the former with a problem that they have.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/magazine-39056979/an-app-to-help-blind-people-to-see

A quick browse of the Be My Eyes website (http://bemyeyes.com/what-is-be-my-eyes/) and social media content gives some examples of the help that’s possible e.g.:
– read expiry dates on food
– read instructions
– help with a technical problem
– describe pictures/paintings

Immediately I thought of all sorts of health / health-information related issues that might be feasible,  especially for the developing world e.g.
– read expiry dates on medicines
– read instructions on how to take medicines
– help use a piece of medical equipment
– describe what a boil or rash looks like before going to a doctor

However, the site suggests the app is NOT used for the following (among other things):
– Anything that can put your health in danger
– Identifying or taking medicine
– Any health related issues

I understand their concern/caution; nevertheless it made me wonder if there are other similar aids out there, aside from readers,  for people with various disabilities? Meanwhile, there may be members who are aware of common problems faced by visually impaired caregivers and others? Maybe there are members who are developing aids?

Incidentally, I came across this link from the European Blind Union (EBU) on “Making information accessible for all” that may interest people producing (health) information that they want to be ‘accessible’:
http://www.euroblind.org/resources/guidelines/nr/88#How_do_blind_and_partially_sighted_people_read

Best wishes
Julie

HIFA profile: Julie N Reza is a writer, editor and consultant specialising in global healthcare and related fields (www.globalbiomedia.com). She predominantly works with NGOs and not-for-profit organisations. Previously she was the senior science editor at TDR, based at WHO in Geneva; prior to this she worked at the Wellcome Trust, UK, leading educational projects on international health topics including trypanosomiasis and trachoma. She has a PhD in immunology and a specialist degree in science communication. She also has several years research and postgraduate teaching experience. She is a member of the HIFA Steering Group and HIFA Social medica working group.
http://www.hifa.org/people/steering-group
http://www.hifa.org/people/social-media
http://www.hifa.org/support/members/julie
Email:   naimareza AT hotmail.com


Dear Julie,

Thank you so much for this valuable information.

I am a Tanzanian, became blind at the age of 50 years, and I am currently making use of screen readers to access information.

We from developing countries still need much assistance from developed world, we face a lot of challenges such as financial constraints, technical know how etc.

I have been very much impressed by the way this app (Be My Eyes) works and by this e-mail I would like to welcome anybody or organization to work with our organization in Tanzania so as to enable the visually impaired Tanzanians manages their daily living independently.

I’m a chairman of Computers For The Blind (CFTBT), a no-government organization registered in Tanzania and it is also a non-profit organization being run by people with blindness and visual impairment.

The main objective of our organization is to train blind and partial sighted persons to access information through computer application.

Welcome all,

Clement Y.Ndahani: CFTBT Chairman
E-mail: clement.ndahani@out.ac.tz

HIFA profile: Clement Yoramu Ndahani is a Technologist at The Open University of Tanzania.  Professional interests: Social work.  clement.ndahani AT out.ac.tz


Dear Clement,

Yours is exactly the type of response I was hoping to see.

I would imagine that there are many app developers – in high, medium and low-income countries – who would like to build apps that will help people with disabilities. But they may be unaware of the particular issues that you face in Tanzania and similar countries. I hope that through HIFA these messages find the right people and that some useful collaborations develop.

Incidentally, here in the UK, and I believe in many other countries, there are ‘hackathons’, in which developers/scientists come up with innovative solutions to a variety of problems. I notice that in Tanzania you have just had one such event http://daressalaam.sciencehackday.org/about-dar/ (Science Hack Day Dar es Salaam). I wonder if one approach would be to take part in or even host such an event?

On a slightly different note, the ‘Be My Eyes’ app also made me wonder if it would be adaptable for use by (a) groups with low literacy (a kind of ‘Be My Reader’) and (b) people with different languages/dialects (a kind of ‘Be My Translator’).

I wish you well with your endeavours.

Best wishes
Julie

HIFA profile: Julie N Reza is is a writer, editor and consultant specialising in global healthcare and related fields (www.globalbiomedia.com). She predominantly works with NGOs and not-for-profit organisations. Previously she was the senior science editor at TDR, based at WHO in Geneva; prior to this she worked at the Wellcome Trust, UK, leading educational projects on international health topics including trypanosomiasis and trachoma. She has a PhD in immunology and a specialist degree in science communication. She also has several years research and postgraduate teaching experience. She is a member of the HIFA Steering Group and HIFA Social medica working group.
http://www.hifa.org/people/steering-group
http://www.hifa.org/people/social-media
http://www.hifa.org/support/members/julie
Email:   naimareza AT hotmail.com


Dear Julie

I am a Nigerian and a Librarian. How do I get access to the app. [*see note below] I work with students with special needs and there are about One hundred and twenty-three visual challenged students among them.

HIFA profile: Ngozi Eunice Osadebe is a librarian at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Professional interests: Enhancing access to higher education for people with disability, Technology Assisted Learning. She is a member of the HIFA working group on Library and Information Services.
http://www.hifa.org/projects/library-and-information-services
http://www.hifa.org/support/members/ngozi-eunice
ngozi.osadebe AT unn.edu.ng

[*Note from HIFA moderator (Neil PW): Please see the Be My Eyes website http://bemyeyes.com/what-is-be-my-eyes/ ]

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