Volunteers Make a Difference for People with Visual Impairments — Braille Works

Finger pointing to a mug that says “See the good”
Finger pointing to a mug that says “See the good”

Out-of-the-Box Volunteer Ideas

The COVID-19 pandemic has people limiting their exposure as much as possible. So, it is no surprise that people are not volunteering as much as they were a year ago. Unfortunately, this lack of volunteers has taken a toll on organizations that provide free services to their community. It is especially affecting people who are blind and visually impaired. Luckily, there are organizations making it easy to volunteer remotely. Let’s check out two of the most popular volunteering services that help the visually impaired community: Be My Eyes and VolunteerMatch.

What is Be My Eyes?

Be My Eyes is a service that connects people who are blind and visually impaired with sighted volunteers. Hans Jørgen Wiberg, a visually impaired Danish furniture maker, came up with the idea for Be My Eyes and presented it at a startup event in 2012. His app launched in January 2015 and has been connecting people ever since.

How does Be My Eyes work?

Be My Eyes connects sighted volunteers with users in need. The volunteer guides the person needing assistance to position their phone so the volunteer can read or identify an item. The volunteer then becomes the eyes for the person needing help; hence the app’s name.

Close-up of hands holding and using a smart phone
Close-up of hands holding and using a smart phone

What is Micro-Volunteering?

Micro-volunteering is like regular volunteering but in short bursts and Be My Eyes is a perfect way to do this. A person, for example, may need help discerning between a few similar items. Through Be My Eyes micro-volunteering, you get to provide more details about the similar items to help the user make a decision. And, just like that, your micro-volunteering is over. So, while this task may be easy and unobtrusive for you, those few minutes of assistance provide a lot of independence for the person who is blind or visually impaired.

What is VolunteerMatch?

VolunteerMatch is the leading online international service connecting volunteers to a wide variety of organizations. Since 1998, VolunteerMatch has connected more than 16 million volunteers with more than 130,000 organizations worldwide. They strive to build community, relationships, and partnerships.

How does VolunteerMatch work?

Unlike the ‘Be My Eyes’ app, VolunteerMatch utilizes their website to connect volunteers and organizations. And, like Be My Eyes, it is easy to sign up. You have the option of signing up with various social media accounts as well as your email address.

Caution For Businesses and Service Users

It is essential to note that the people signing up for these services are, for the most part, untrained volunteers. Many do not go through a background check. There is no guarantee of privacy and there is little to no oversight in some cases. So, be careful what you share.

  • Account numbers
  • Credit card information
  • Banking statements
  • Identification (like state ID, social security, and military Ids)
  • Passwords
  • Healthcare information
  • Insurance Documents including Explanation of Benefits
  • Mortgage Statements
Close-up of a book with the words, “Never underestimate the power of a kind word or deed.”
Close-up of a book with the words, “Never underestimate the power of a kind word or deed.”

Make a Difference

The volunteers with Be My Eyes and VolunteerMatch are a testament that a little bit of help can mean a world of difference for someone else. Please consider finding a virtual volunteer opportunity. If we all do a little, we can help a lot.

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