London

City considering app to help visually impaired people with everyday tasks

An app that would almost instantly match people who are visually impaired with specialists who could assist them with everyday tasks could get adopted by the city.

Accessibility specialists with the city are proposing the city to adopt the Be My Eyes app

The Be My Eyes app connects people who are visually impaired with sighted volunteers and specialists for visual assistance through a live video call.  (Shutterstock)

London, Ont., could become the first to adopt an app that would almost instantly match people who are visually impaired with specialists to assist them with everyday tasks.

During Thursday's accessibility advisory committee meeting, specialists are presenting a proposal for the city to pilot the Be My Eyes app. 

The free app connects people who are visually impaired with sighted volunteers and specialists for visual assistance through a live video call. 

If the proposal is approved, the city would pay an annual fee to have trained specialists, who would work with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB), provide the service instead of volunteers. 

"You can imagine that if you're trying to navigate some construction or it's dark and maybe your vision isn't as great, being able to connect with somebody who's trained to provide you with directions ... to walk you through a space, is really something that we'd like to see piloted here," said Melanie Stone, an accessibility specialist with the city. 

The app would also come in handy during other tasks that could require assistance, such as picking out a sweater or identifying if something in the fridge has expired.

"It's not just those who are blind or partially sighted who would benefit from the app, but also people with spatial navigation challenges, seniors with vision loss, or people with intellectual or other disabilities," Stone said. 

"There are a lot of people with disabilities that could benefit from a little extra assistance and a little extra guidance around the city through the specialized app, so there's no limits on who could use it."

Businesses around the world have used the app, but London would be the first Canadian municipality to adopt it if approved by committee and council, Stone said. 

She adds it would cost the city $18,000 for a one-year pilot. During that time, the city would be asking for feedback and working with community partners to evaluate its efficiency.

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