A few days ago I spoke to the jovial and brilliant Professor Joshua Silver (director at The Center for Vision in the Developing World in Oxford) about his not-so-new invention, a pair of eyeglasses that the wearer can adjust to correct his or her own vision. Adjustable Spectacles work by means of two small syringes, attached to the arms of a simple pair of frames, which inject silicon oil in between two sheets of flexible plastic lenses.
“I started working on the underlying concept in 1985, and after having a dialogue with a gentleman from the World Health Organization (WHO), was told that about 1 billion people in the world were in need of vision correction. So I told the gentleman I might have a way of dealing with that problem and he said I should if I could!”
According to WHO, approximately 87% of the world’s visually impaired live in developing countries, and 85% of that vision impairment is correctable. The problem is, the immense scarcity of professional optometrists leaves those individuals without hope.
“My concept was to ask the question… could these glasses satisfy the need in the developing world?”
The answer is a very probable YES. After field tests in Africa in 1996, the glasses were found to correct refractive errors (near and far sight impairment) as effectively as standard glass lenses, even better in some cases. Today, at least 30,000 pairs of the original adjustable glasses are being used in impoverished countries, while various new models are being developed for future distribution.