Video-calling app for people with blindness now offers IT help from Microsoft

People who are blind can now get IT help from Microsoft experts via a free video-calling app.

Be My Eyes sets up a live video connection between customers and sighted staff at the technology company, who can help with a range of issues, including setting up or updating devices and turning on accessibility features.

The app is already helping 65,000 people in 150 countries complete everyday tasks such as cooking, finding lost items, catching a bus or reviewing mail by pairing them with one of nearly a million volunteers.

Now, the Microsoft Disability Answer Desk will offer free IT support for people who are blind or have low vision, answering questions that are too technical to be solved by regular volunteers. Microsoft’s team can also communicate via phone, chat, email and American Sign Language.

“Be My Eyes provides a new and innovative way for our customers to get technical support,” said Neil Barnett, Director of the Disability Answer Desk at Microsoft. “With a simple tap on the Specialized Help menu, customers can access the Disability Answer Desk from their phone to get the help they need with Microsoft products and services.”

The makers of the app see positive results for everyone involved in a call – the person with blindness completes a task and the volunteer gets satisfaction from helping someone. The most common feedback from app users comes from volunteers hoping to receive more calls.

Be My Eyes was created by Hans Jørgen Wiberg, who is blind, after he needed help with tasks but didn’t want to constantly ask friends and family, especially during the night. The app is available 24 hours a day, and can connect people who are blind with volunteers who speak their language in other parts of the world. Be My Eyes volunteers are now able to provide assistance in every time zone and in more than 145 languages.

Ma holding phone using Be My Eyes app

The app is already helping 65,000 people in 150 countries complete everyday tasks

“The satisfaction rate far exceeded our expectation,” said Alexander Hauerslev Jensen, Community Director at Be My Eyes. “There are hundreds of millions of people who are blind or visually impaired, that’s a huge group, and companies need to offer them a good customer experience. We launched this partnership with Microsoft because many volunteers couldn’t help users with very technical issues, and it can be a frustrating process to try to explain something you don’t know how to explain. Having qualified eyes on the problem can solve it much faster.”

Be My Eyes, which is available on iOS and Android, is now looking to expand the Specialized Help service to telecom and transportation companies, and banks.

The Microsoft Disability Answer Desk feature is available in the UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia, Singapore, New Zealand, South Africa, Malaysia, the Philippines, the US, Hong Kong and India.