In the last episode of Blind How, I suggested AIRA.io whenever you need to have someone who can see to look at something or tell you about most anything. The AIRA helpers will also give you visual assistance while you are doing something that you want to do. Although the service is free much of the time and in a lot of situations, to be sure it’s there for you consistently, whenever you need it, you do need a paid subscription, especially if it’s going to take more than five minutes.
There is an alternative and totally free option for getting live help from someone who can see. It’s called Be My Eyes and has two parts. Download the Be My Eyes app from the app store. Poke around the app and you will figure out how to sign up. Once you have done that, you can either call a volunteer or talk with a specialist from any business on a long list of companies that are available through Be My Eyes. If you talk with a volunteer, the possibilities are more limited than with AIRA but work really well for most things where having someone to take a look and tell you what they see is all you need. They will also help you do something that you are doing while they watch through the phone’s camera.
If you use the option to talk with someone from one of the companies on the extensive list, you will be talking with an expert. Once you have explained your problem or issue, they will stick with you until you have the information you need or have the problem or issue resolved. For example, I was having an issue with my Windows computer. There was no speech and I had no idea what to do. The Microsoft expert had me point my phone’s camera toward my computer screen and then told me exactly which keys to press on the computer keyboard. In about two minutes, my computer was again talking and off I went.
Both AIRA and BE My Eyes are amazing services and always there, just a tap or so away on my iPhone. Still, I find myself reluctant to just make the call. I’m bringing this up since I suspect that you might have a similar reluctance. Here’s what is going on for me.
Whenever I ask someone to help when being able to see is necessary, it feels like I’m interrupting them and certainly inconveniencing them. Both feelings are in fact legitimate, much if not most of the time. The good news is that most people are okay with a small interruption or temporary inconvenience now and then, so long as I don’t overdo it or impose too often. The bad news is that I haven’t figured out a good way to always know where the line is between okay on the one hand and overdoing and too often on the other. For me, the best solution to this dilemma is to just not ask, unless I’m fairly certain that this specific request will not be disruptive or particularly inconvenient. I try to save up the good will for those infrequent times when I have a serious problem or issue that I just can’t handle without help.
There is another frustration that comes up at least once or twice most days. There is some little thing that I want to know or want to do that I wouldn’t even notice, if I could see. What color is this shirt? What’s in this can? What does that bird I’m hearing look like? Is my computer screen on or off? Where’s the door to the store? Where’s the ball I through for my dog that he didn’t retrieve? I’ll bet you can join in. It’s just one little thing after another, with an even more frustrating thing thrown in now and then.
But what to do? Unfortunately, I usually just move on, doing without that little bit of visual assistance. That’s easier than bothering someone or waiting until they have time to help.
So, what does all that have to do with not making the couple of taps it takes to connect with an AirA agent or a Be My Eyes volunteer? I have difficulty getting past the feeling that I’m interrupting or inconveniencing. Also, I’m so used to just letting the little things go that I give little thought to what the bird looks like or what color the shirt is. Most any color will go fine with my jeans.
What advice do you have for me? I’ll bet it goes something like this.
The AIRA agents are being paid to help me, no matter how important or how trivial the need right now. What’s more, they want to help, whenever I want help. And if I don’t call, they miss out on the chance to do their job. If that happens too often with too many callers, they lose their job and it’s partially my fault. If I’m reluctant to do it for me, I should always make the call for them. Should you think that is silly, just keep not calling and see how you feel about it when there is no longer an agent there to call.
Yes indeed, the same applies to the Be My Eyes volunteers and the experts at the various companies that answer calls. The volunteers are not paid, but they will likely quit volunteering their time if calls stop. The companies that provide the experts will likely stop making them available if no one accesses their services. And who is the biggest loser? That would be you and me.
It takes a new mindset. The old mindset for me was that I was asking someone for a favor (An act of gracious kindness) when I asked them to stop whatever they were doing and help me. Indeed, it might only take a second and little effort, but a favor, nonetheless. Sure, they were happy to do it, but still a favor.
The old mindset still applies, just not when calling AIRA or Be My Eyes. When accessing those services, “favor” no longer applies. It is now a mutually beneficial transaction. I benefit by getting the assistance I need and the agent, volunteer, or subject expert benefits by having an opportunity to provide the service. For sure, it’s hard for me to get my head around that mindset shift, but I’m committed to making the shift and hope you are too.