Choose Your Own Adventure April
Life is an adventure, but where to begin? Join us at the Bridges Technical Assistance Center’s Helpdesk as we explore tools to support you as you Choose Your Own Adventure this April!
- April 4: Museums for All
- April 11: AIRA Access Points and Be My Eyes Apps
- April 18: Public Transportation
- April 25: Paratransit/Call-a-ride
In this second installment of our “Choose Your Own Adventure April” series, we share details about free access to live human visual support/information via smart device apps.
Smart Device and Connectivity Required
As a preliminary matter, please note that the tools discussed below use applications (apps) on smart devices, like smartphones, tablets, etc. Additionally, these apps provide real-time information, so they require wi-fi and/or data connectivity to function.
Aira is a service where you can call an agent in real-time to assist you with tasks in which visual information might be helpful. Using the camera on your phone, the agent can provide you with information about your environment or answer visual questions for you at your request. Agents have undergone rigorous training and have been through various clearances and background checks so that users can feel confident that their information and privacy will be protected throughout all Aira calls.
Getting started with Aira
First, you will need to download the free Aira Explorer app in the Apple App Store or the free Aira Explorer app in the Google Play Store. You just need your name, an email address, and a password to register with Aira.
You’ll also need either a mobile phone number or an email to set up a free account. If you need help, call 1-800-835-1934 or go to AIRA’s website to get a link to download the app. Using this method, you will open a Guest account (they are free).
Aira is primarily a fee-based service. For more information, please reference “Changes to AIRA’s On-Demand Visual Interpretation Services” in the Bridges Blog.
Aira also offers free access under certain circumstances, including “Access Points” – locations at which you may use Aira at no cost. Notable Aira Access partners in the Maryland region include Wegman’s grocery store, Target, Starbucks, TD Bank, Bank of America, and the headquarters of the National Federation of the Blind. Additionally, there are multiple museums, including quite a few in Washington, DC, that offer free Aira Access during your visits there.
About Be My Eyes
Getting started with Be My Eyes
First, you will need to download the Be My Eyes app in the Apple App Store or the Be My Eyes app in the Google Play Store. You just need your name, an email address, and a password to register with Be My Eyes.
Pricing – always free!
The Be My Eyes app provides unlimited access to sighted volunteer assistance at no cost. Yes, it’s completely free, and there are no advertisements, in-app purchases, or requests for donations.
Beta-testing: AI-powered assistance from Be My Eyes
Be My Eyes is primarily a volunteer-staffed app that connects blind/low vision individuals seeking visual information with sighted volunteers. Just three weeks ago, Be My Eyes announced that it will soon be adding Virtual Volunteer, a digital visual assistant powered by OpenAI’s GPT-4. Virtual Volunteer will not involve human volunteers, but Be My Eyes support will remain “if and when the tool is unable to answer a question, it will automatically offer users the option to be connected via the app to a sighted volunteer for assistance – our volunteer experience isn’t going anywhere.” From the Be My Eyes Virtual Volunteer announcement web page.
Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Bridges Technical Assistance Center’s Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:
- Our Accessible web form
- Email: Helpdesk@IMAGEmd.org
- Text or Leave a Voice mail message: (410) 357-1546
- Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page or Facebook Messenger
This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.