According to the Centre for Vision in the Developing World, up to two billion people around the world lack proper eyewear. Not being able to see properly means millions of children can’t read the blackboard at school, stunting their education. For adults, it means being unable to work, drive safely, or even read and write. WHO predicts that vision issues will rise into the top ten global health issues affecting productivity and opportunities by 2030, passing HIV/AIDS in its global burden. Unfortunately, the problem is not just the availability of glasses, but rather the lack of access to eye care professionals who can assign prescriptions and fit glasses accordingly. Starting in the mid 1980’s. Dr. Silver worked with development agencies within the British Government on developing this low-cost solution. He eventually proposed a form of self-correcting adaptive eyewear – glasses that could be customized in the field, without the assistance of optometrists or expensive technology.
Dr. Silver was able to produce eyeglasses that cost about $1 USD and can be self-adjusted by the wearer to the correct prescription. The glasses contain rigid plastic lenses which house two clear circular sacs filled with fluid, each of which is connected to a small syringe to add or reduce the amount of fluid in the sacs, thereby changing the power of the lenses. When the wearer is happy with the strength of the lenses, the membranes are sealed by twisting a small screw and the syringes are removed. The solution is scalable and effective; over 100,000 people in thirty countries now wear adaptive spectacles.
Since his invention, Dr. Silver has worked to develop an infrastructure to market and distribute the glasses. CVDW supports the self-refraction approach as an open platform, serving the community by bringing together research and practical advice, by supplying a range of inexpensive, quality self-refraction products, and by providing a forum for entrepreneurs and humanitarian organizations to exchange experiences and develop a set of practices in diverse local environments.
We had a chance to speak more with Dr. Silver and learn more about both the glasses and their ecosystem on our podcast, Social Design Insights. Listen to the episode below.