Blind podcast host discusses Blind Abilities, and how he’s seen Be My Eyes evolve as a tool

Blind podcast host discusses Blind Abilities, and how he’s seen Be My Eyes evolve as a tool


You’re listening to a Community Story from Be My Eyes. My name is Jeff Thompson, and I run
a Podcast called Blind Abilities. The success stories that we do on
Blind Abilities are something that’s very – I know the word inspiring is overused – but really helps someone,
or it may help someone bridge that gap, especially with confidence, to think that I can do it too. Some of my favorite stories are not always
that they climbed Kilimanjaro or ran the Rim-to-rim, like some of our guests have done, but just
the average person trying to transition from high school to college, maybe they succeeded,
or they graduated or something, but that was their Kilimanjaro. So, it’s really exciting to hear
people overcoming obstacles, and other people may be in that situation. So, that’s one part of the podcast I really like to do. We like to do demos, and we like to have fun
with topics on the news and stuff. We try to cover all the bases, we’re not
locked up in one spot with Blind Abilities, we know that there are so many
different walks of life out there. All this started way back, when I found this Audioboom. I contacted the headquarters,
and they gave me a channel where anybody could put input on there. It was all audio, and it was really accessible,
it really took off in the United States. It was really interesting to see people
sharing their ideas and giving advice. All these stories were there,
and that channel started to change, because Audioboom started to change
to make money some other different ways. I wanted to have more of a solid ground, I
didn’t like this build on sand, it kept on changing. By getting the BlindAbilities.com website,
I was able to start putting out content as a podcast. After a while, it all got rolling and kept growing. Then we wanted an app, because we wanted to
get the content for the transitioning students who may not know how to use an iPhone. But we could have one icon on there that said
Blind Abilities, and by tapping that button, they could get all the podcasts right there
and learn how to do the VoiceOver. Our iPhone 101 series was teaching people
how to use the gestures and all that. It’s all available on the site and on the app. Then we got across iTunes
and all the other podcatchers. It started growing, and we’ve
gotten over 550 podcasts out now. It’s kind of neat to meet all these people,
and the community is still there. When I just went to a convention, I met up
with people that I’ve never met before, but I’ve known for 4 or 5 years. So, over the last 5 years it’s been quite
a journey to see where this has grown. We’ve gotten over 1.5 million downloads,
so it seems like there’s a need out there. One of my first podcasts internationally
was when Be My Eyes came out, and Hans was talking about
this new app that he had; Be My Eyes. I remember that I just had a small mixer at
the time, I was recording and he had an accent, so it was all new to me. We recorded this and got it out there, and
it was the first in the United States of Be My Eyes on a podcast. So, I thought that was really neat, and I’ve
done some podcasts with him since then. But the app was very innovative. It’s like FaceTime on steroids. You can FaceTime someone
who’s a friend or something, but they work or they’re busy doing things. Here was this volunteer group that was available. That was kind of shocking to me that these
people would want to volunteer. Back then, it was fairly new, and over the
years you keep following Be My Eyes, and now they’re up to 2.5 million
volunteers, who would have thought that? I believe it’s 140,000 users of the app. I don’t know if it feels good
to be a volunteer, but I’m sure it does because 2.5 million people can’t be totally wrong. They’re staying on and assisting, and when
I was out in Las Vegas at the convention, I turned Be My Eyes on and within 12 seconds,
I think, there was someone ready to respond. It’s still going strong, it’s a great app. When using Be My Eyes,
it’s not like I’m doing major things. Like I got a new Keurig machine, and I wanted
dark coffee, I wanted it all set up. So, I just opened it up and the volunteer just
looked at the screen, had me hit a few buttons and within 3 minutes I was drinking
coffee, and it was the dark roast. It’s neat to be able to use it for these small
things that you need – when you need it. Certain apps are on your phone, and I have my front page stuff, and then I have stuff that filters back, but Be My Eyes is right up there, because
it’s something that when I need something, I can just click on the icon and it opens up. Like I said, within a few seconds,
I’m talking to someone, and I’m moving on. It’s available to me every day, 24/7, I
can just move on instead of waiting or having to call someone, or looking
something up on Google or something. The information that I’m looking
for is right in front of me, I just need a set of eyes to get it. Be My Eyes is one of those apps
that allows me to move forward quickly. If someone found my phone, they would find
these folders that have all sorts of OCR readers. With Be My Eyes, you tap on it
and you got the information there. I don’t have to aim as much as with an OCR
reader, and I can just get that information. Especially one time, I don’t know
what other app would have done it. There was this loud noise
coming from my backyard area. My neighbor had a land-moving
machine, it’s called a Caterpillar, and they were bulldozing some stuff. I just turned on Be My Eyes, and the person said: “It’s a ‘Cat’. Not four-legged, this thing is moving land”. It was really neat to have that information
come back to me, just like that. I use a lot of audio equipment, and sometimes
there are switches on the back of the microphones, or there are wires that I have to connect. I can try to do an OCR, but I can’t
drill in on that specific thing. So, one of the things that I use
Be My Eyes for is exactly that. I just turn it on, the person’s there,
and we start on the left to right. They give me a good idea of what it is,
and I’ll put a bump marker on there, and I’ll know exactly what it is next time I go back there. So, whether it’s electronics, woodworking,
or any other things I just need to know that information that’s holding me up, Be My Eyes is there. We want Blind Abilities to be found by everybody. First of all, you can get the app
from the Android Store or the App Store, and that’s Blind Abilities in two words. And if you have a podcatcher of your choice,
just type in Blind Abilities and do a search for it. We also have a skill on the Amazon devices. All you have to do is say “Enable Blind Abilities”. There’s a skill so you can listen to all the
podcasts right in the Amazon devices. We’re at blindabilities.com on the web,
@BlindAbilities on Twitter, and you can even listen to us on the Victor Stream. Thank you for listening to this
Community Story from Be My Eyes. You can share your story too. Send it to [email protected] Be sure to subscribe to our
YouTube channel, download our app or visit
www.bemyeyes.com/community-stories for more.

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