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'Be My Eyes' app brings sight to the blind

It's a free program, connecting sighted volunteers to those who need help with everyday tasks.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — An app called "Be My Eyes" brings sight to blind or visually-impaired people.

It's a free program, connecting sighted volunteers to those who need help with everyday tasks.

Illya Popov, a 19-year-old student living in Knoxville, and Campbell Rutherford, a 16-year-old homeschool student from Jefferson County, are friends who are both blind, but they don't let that stop them from doing normal tasks.

"We're people too," Popov said. "We just see the world in a different perspective."

Things like grocery shopping can be difficult if they are by themselves.

Rutherford was born blind, with a condition called leber congenital amaurosis or LCA.

"I lean more toward the completely blind side of the spectrum because I read braille, I rely on braille and screen readers in order to read anything," Rutherford explained.

Popov was not born blind, but a condition and multiple surgeries left him without his sight.

“For me, I don’t remember any of this because it was just a blur," Popov explained. "At some point, something happened where I lost my sight in my left eye. It was after my seventh surgery on my left eye.”

Apps like "Be My Eyes" allow blind or visually-impaired people to connect with sighted volunteers who want to help do just what the app suggests.

"If you want to help people, this is one app that will really help you do that," Popov said.

Here's how it works: the person requesting help launches the app on his or her phone. Once they send a request, a sighted person from somewhere in the world connects and is able to offer help while seeing through the requester's phone camera.

"There are the computers that can read the labels and stuff, but they're not very accurate a lot of the times and I think a person reading the labels for you can be much more better because they know exactly," Popov explained.

Popov has used the app for homework help and tested out how it would work in a grocery store.

Rutherford isn't old enough yet to be able to use Be My Eyes, but sees the advantages.

"It's a good way to help I think, and you can help anyone with just simple everyday tasks that you might not even think about someone would need help with," Rutherford noted.

You don't always know who will be on the other end of the line, but for simple tasks, it helps those who are visually impaired have more freedom.

"I was kind of nervous to do it because I didn't know what would happen, but it actually went very well," Popov said.

Be my Eyes is free in the Apple app store or Google Play. There are currently about 18 volunteers per one blind or visually-impaired person using the app.

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