Technology reduces barriers for the visually impaired and blind. Apps like Aira and Be My Eyes are accessibility game changers. With a push of a button, both apps quicklyPhoto of young man with a cane and smartphone and the logo of Aira connect visually impaired users to a sighted person ready to guide, assist, and support them. While both apps are similar in premise, they are also unique in their approach to offer assistive technology for visually impaired and blind people. Training to use these apps is offered by each, but also via several channels from organizations that provide free technology training to YouTubers.

Aira is an app which pairs a blind or visually impaired person with sighted “explorers/agents” trained to navigate users around their current environment using AI technology. It is notable that the blind/visually impaired community show up strongly in the app’s reviews. Each 5-star review speaks to its helpfulness in high regard. Aira Access offers free support within partner networks like airports, federal buildings, and a few leading retailers like drug stores. Beyond these promotional access networks, Aira is fee-based, with what appears to be monthly price bundles after the first free five minutes, but check their website for details.

Be My Eyes, a similar app, structured like its counterpart, is completely free. Be My Eyes runs off the availability and willingness of volunteers. With this approach comes a tradeoff from more qualified agents to the good-heartedness of volunteers to help. A quick look at the app store will reveal most of the reviews come from the volunteers rather than the blind & visually impaired community. According to their website, there are currently 4,965,075 volunteers and only 321,664 blind users.

For comparison, it takes approximately two minutes to sign up as a volunteer on Be My Eyes whereas Aira requires an application, interview, and comprehension test to serve as a navigator.

Carrie Morales, a visually impaired YouTuber, independently compared the two almost synonymous apps on her channel. Morales spoke highly of Aira for the wide breadth of accessibility resources offered and the excellence of the agents. She shared a story where an Aira agent helped her take a photograph of her son.

Because the Be Me Eyes app does not require background checks or provide training to volunteers, users should be cautious sharing personal information. Employees at Aira are required to adhere to privacy regulations which gives the confidence to their users to share the information they desperately need to interpret.

Morales suggests keeping both apps on your phone as Aira and Be My Eyes are both useful apps to have for what she affectionately calls having a sighted person in your pocket. These apps definitely help reduce barriers for visually impaired and blind people.

At Braille Institute, we offer technology training and programs to help you utilize every resource available and find the right one for your visual impairment. In addition, our centers can ensure you are able to use every assistive feature you can out of your device.

Truly, assistive technology for visually impaired and blind people can break serious barriers. And we exist to help you see that.

In addition to appointments with certified Low Vision Specialists, Braille Institute’s regional centers offer a variety of programs and services for the blind and visually impaired including Independent Living Skills classes, Orientation & Mobility training, Technology classes, an extensive audio and braille book Library service, and much more.

To learn more, or to schedule a FREE one-on-one appointment with one of our Low Vision Specialists, call 1-800-BRAILLE (272-4553).

One-on-one consultations, classes and workshops are offered virtually at present so that you can get support and participate from the comfort and safety of your own home by either computer or phone.