Derbyshire company student helping blind people with everyday tasks

Derbyshire company student helping blind people with everyday tasks

Derbyshire company student praises the power of volunteering after signing up to global app helping the blind

A chemicals company student from Derbyshire has paid tribute to the power of volunteering after giving up her time to help blind or partially sighted people complete everyday tasks.

Laura Barrie, 20, a placement student at Lubrizol – based in Hazelwood near Belper – is one of millions of people worldwide who have signed up to ‘Be My Eyes’.

The innovative app connects a low-visioned or blind person with someone sighted when they need help, often with one-off, practical tasks. Operating by means of a live video call, the app currently has more than 5.6million volunteers and operates in more than 150 countries.

Laura said she was always keen to volunteer to help others and signed up to the app before lockdown. Since then, she has been put in touch with a blind person on three occasions and has been able to provide not just valuable assistance, but some conversation and company too.

She said: “The first time I picked up a call was for a person who just wanted to know if their TV was on. The sound was off and they wanted to know if it was on or not, so they could watch the cricket.

“When you call someone you’re on camera and you can see their surroundings through their camera. I was able to help by telling him the TV was on mute and we found the sound button together on his remote control.

“The second call was with a man who was in a care facility and he wanted to go for a walk outside. He just needed someone to make sure no cars were coming. I think it was nice for him to have someone different to talk to as well.

“I also helped a guy set up his TV from start to finish. People are always so nice when you take a call. You tend to have a bit of a conversation about why you’ve volunteered. It makes it worth it when you do answer a call because you know you’ve helped someone out.”

At Lubrizol, where Laura works in creative services, employees have been encouraged to sign up to the app through its “Wellness Wednesdays” scheme – a mental wellbeing project in which employees can dial in to fortnightly sessions covering a range of topics from cooking to gardening to yoga. The idea is to connect employees working in different offices with each other, and to help them de-stress through allowing them to take half an hour away from their desks.

One of the “Wellbeing Wednesdays” sessions has been about volunteering, and Laura said other members of staff had also signed up to the app since being told about its good work.

Laura, originally from Manchester, said she had always been keen on volunteering and had completed sign language courses while on her university course in Reading.

She said: “When I saw the opportunity to do sign language courses, I thought that was something I could do. Signing up for Be My Eyes was something else I could be part of, and learn to interact with someone who is blind.

“Telling someone if their TV is on is no time for me but it’s really helpful for them. It’s a small thing. Lubrizol is great for encouraging people to volunteer. I’m part of its charities and communities committee which lets people know how to get involved in things.

“Volunteering always makes you feel better. It’s the fact you know you’re helping someone else which means they can go about their day. That call takes five minutes, but it makes you feel good for the rest of the day. I think if you can volunteer, especially with this app, it’s a great thing to do.”


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