DIY adjustable glasses help poor see better
Oxford University professor invents inexpensive glasses that can be adjusted to any prescription.
Tue, Nov 17, 2009 at 04:49 PM
Photo: Michael Lewis
Millions of people across the world need assistance in order to see clearly, but there has never been a way to provide affordable eyeglasses to the poor — until now. A British scientist has developed inexpensive glasses that can be easily adjusted by the wearer to their own prescription.
Josh Silver, a professor of physics at Oxford University, came up with the novel idea to fill thick, durable plastic lenses with a pair of clear circular sacks filled with fluid. Each sac is connected to a small syringe located on either arm of the eyeglasses.
The wearer simply adjusts a dial on the syringe to add or reduce the amount of fluid in the membranes, which changes the power of the lens. Then, each lens is sealed by twisting a small screw and removing the syringes.
Silver’s team has already distributed 30,000 pairs of glasses in 15 countries, but within the next year they hope to launch a trial in India where will distribute up to 1 million additional pairs. The team’s ultimate goal is to give 100 pairs to needy people across the world every year.
The glasses are a bit clunky in design, but Silver hopes to fix that, and is also working to get the cost of each pair around $1 each.
Even with Silver taking no profits, the cost of the program will be immense considering his lofty goals — but he’s confident that once people see that it works, things will work out naturally. And for the people that can suddenly perform everyday tasks with ease thanks to Silver’s invention, the program is priceless.
"The reaction is universal," says Kevin White, who organized the distribution of thousands of Silver’s glasses.
"People put them on, and smile. They all say, 'Look, I can read those tiny little letters.'"