Shaker Thumbs

Your opportunity to give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down to a product or service you'd recommend to other Shakers or warn them away from. Previously: One, Two, Three, Four.


This week, I'm going to recommend something a little different—a program to which I've made a donation: Adaptive Eyewear.

Reporting from the Clinton Global Initiative (to which I was invited, but unfortunately could not attend), my friend Mannion shared yesterday that President Clinton had announced a commitment from Adaptive Eyewear, a British non-profit which aims to address the global problem of uncorrected vision problems.

The World Health Organization estimates that more than a billion people are in need of eyeglasses they cannot afford or access. A billion. This is the epidemic of neglect that Adaptive Eyewear is seeking to address.

[Transcript below.]

This issue is hugely important to me, because, without my glasses, my life would be completely different. My vision is severely impaired without them; they have enabled me to do things I never would have been able to do otherwise. This is not to suggest a life with compromised or no vision is less a life, but only to underline the impact of correcting vision problems that can be corrected.

It is a huge privilege that I have access to and can afford eyeglasses, and it shouldn't be. There's no reason we can't make sure everyone in the world who needs corrective lenses has them.

Donate to Adaptive Eyewear here.

[Video opens with a montage of "life" scenes in African with music overlay. Title card: "Adaptive Eyewear—Solving an Invisible Problem."]

Voiceover: [over video montage of street scenes in African city] An estimated 40% of the world's population needs glasses to see clearly. Even so, looking at this busy street, no one is wearing glasses. What's going on here? The World Health Organization has declared that upwards of a billion people need, but lack, eyeglasses. Adaptive Eyewear, a British nonprofit, is trying to solve this invisible problem.

In much of the developing world, basic eyeglasses cost one to two months' earnings, making clear vision unattainable. In the United States, there is one optometrist for every 4,500 people. In the United Kingdom, there is one per 6,000. In India, there's only one per 100,000. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the average is one optometrist per one million people.

Faced with such impossible odds, Adaptive Eyewear introduced a revolutionary solution—adaptive eyeglasses. Adaptive eyeglasses let users figure out their own lens power with assistance from a local facilitator. No eyecare professional is necessary to fit adaptive eyeglasses. They work for near, far, and for reading.

The process is simple and intuitive: Users adjust the power of the fluid-filled lenses until they can see clearly; then, just seal and cut, instantly making a good pair of glasses, anywhere, anytime.

Dr. Graeme McKenzie, Researcher, Vision for the Developing World, Oxford: When you prescribe glasses, you have to carry thousands of lenses to meet the needs of just a few hundred people, so it's very expensive. The end result of this is that optometrists are usually based in cities, and they expect people in need to come to them. So, the adjustable spectacle design is unique and very exciting, in that you can take the product to a person, and a single pair of spectacles could cover a very large range of powers.

Julian Lambert, CEO, Adaptive Eyewear: So, for the first time, with fluid-filled adjustable spectacles, we have a solution for the estimated one- to two-billion people in the world who have undiagnosed, uncorrected vision defects.

Voiceover: Attention to vision improves development program outcomes. In Ghana, the World Bank provided over ten thousand pairs of adaptive eyeglasses to adult literacy programs. Trained teachers coordinated the distribution effort.

Samuel Salifu Mogre, Executive Director, Non-Formal Education Division, Ghana: Eyeglasses is a component that is very vital to the success of our literacy program.

Amala Martin, District Coordinator, Non-Formal Education Division: If I come to the class, and I can't see the chalkboard, tomorrow I won't come out again. Or if I am given the book to read and I can't see the letters there, tomorrow I won't come out. So, those who had these problems, and their visions have been corrected with the Adspecs, they are very regular and punctual, and it has enhanced their learning.

David Awuni, Teacher/Facilitator: Some of the students, particularly there is a woman here—she never used to see the alphabets clearly. So, after writing, she will ask, "Is this F?" Then I will take the chalk and print a deep, very big F for her to see, or a very big letter for her to see.

Hajia Fati Musah, Student: Now that I have the glasses, I am able to read the writing on the board. That's how the glasses helped me.

Male Student: During classes, I had problems reading from my book because the writings looked very small. But when I got the glasses, it has helped me with my reading. Now when I wear the glasses, I see everything clear.

David Awuni: So, in fact, it has helped us a lot—and the strain, the nervous, the nerve problem we used to have [rubs temples], headaches, all this gone. So, we are grateful for these spectacles.

Agnes Addo Mensah, Head of Special Education, Non-Formal Education Division: Generally, they say it has improved their lives, and even some of them are so proud—they use it in reading Bible in their church, and they are so happy. The fishermen say now they can mend their nets, and one day go to the fishing they are able to catch more fish. And it's improving their economic life.

Dr. Graeme McKenzie: Seventy percent of the Ghanaians who had basically self-prescribed their glasses, um, prescribed a pair of glasses of nearly the same power as the optometrist's prescription.

George Bentil, Deputy Director Field Operations, Non-Formal Education Division: Something that we appeal to donors, to support financially for us to be able to supply these eyeglasses to our learners.

Voiceover: Adaptive eyeglasses have also been tested all over the world, and thousands have been distributed by the US military on humanitarian missions. So far, there has only been one complaint.

Amala Martin: They're a bit big and heavy.

Voiceover: Adaptive eyewear is introducing a thinner, lighter version, offering the same functionality in a smaller package.

Adaptive eyeglasses have the power to make a difference in almost any human endeavor. They're also the most cost-efficient way to distribute glasses after a major disaster.

For one billion people, the problem is urgent. Access to adaptive eyeglasses means a chance to read, to write, to see a beloved grandchild, and to generate critical economic development. The world can't wait—and the time is now.

[Text card: "Adaptive Eyewear—Vision for the World."]

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