Adjustable Vision for 1 Billion of World's Poorest People


Photo via Waffler

Josh Silver, a physics professor at Oxford university, is working hard to reach a very big goal: glasses on the faces of 1 billion of the world’s poorest, visually impaired citizens.

He’s created a pair of glasses that can be adjusted by the user for vision, which makes them relatively inexpensive and practical. He’s trying to distribute them to people who can’t afford glasses or trips to the optometrist, to ensure that they can see the world around them.

And he wants to accomplish this by the year 2020.

Some 30,000 pairs of his spectacles have already been distributed in 15 countries, but to Silver that is very small beer. Within the next year the now-retired professor and his team plan to launch a trial in India which will, they hope, distribute 1 million pairs of glasses.

The target, within a few years, is 100 million pairs annually. With the global need for basic sight-correction, by his own detailed research, estimated at more than half the world's population, Silver sees no reason to stop at a billion.

The glasses themselves are as interesting as the goal. Two durable plastic lenses filled with fluid, the level of which can be adjusted by a syringe at the earpiece. The wearer can decide where their vision is best, and set the level of fluid at that point. The team has found that many people are perfectly able and content to adjust their own glasses.

They’ve also found the effects to be worth the effort – literacy rates improve, detailed work is better able to be performed, and the quality of life rises.

The cost is high, but Silver is working on that as well:

Oxford University, at his instigation, has agreed to host a Centre for Vision in the Developing World, which is about to begin working on a World Bank-funded project with scientists from the US, China, Hong Kong and South Africa.

While billions of pieces of plastic isn’t an ideal thing to be putting out into the world, improved literacy, increased ability levels, and feelings of joy and hope are, and are indeed things that will raise the standard of living globally. And perhaps the choice of materials can be made more environmentally friendly while maintaining the same durability as funding increases as well. Wishful thinking, maybe, but so was getting adjustable vision glasses out to millions of people...

Via the Guardian
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Tags: Activism | Developing Nations | Plastics