Adaptive Eyeywear is a nonprofit organization that distributes eyeglasses with prescriptions that the wearers can set themselves.  The glasses, designed by Oxford University Professor Joshua Silver, have lenses made of oil-filled bladders that are adjustable with a syringe.  The user adjusts the amount of oil in each lens to the point where it helps the most, and then the glasses are ready for use.  You can read more about the technical aspects of the glasses  here.

The wonderful potential for these glasses lies in the fact that they can be deployed in areas without eye doctors.  The organization’s founder hopes to reach 1 billion of the world’s poorest people, who so often lack access to medical care of any kind, with his invention.  Removing impairments to vision can help people be more productive and perform better in schools, critical components for breaking the cycle of poverty.  The Harry Potter aesthetic of the glasses is an unintentional bonus.

A.E. is already distributing the glasses through various channels, from humanitarian donations to sales in pharmacies.   They are working hard to achieve the scale that they will need to reach all of those in need.  Their partnership with the Ghana Social Marketing Foundation brings the possibilities and advantages of social enterprise to the endeavor.

It seems to me that a partnership with VisionSpring, which has been in the business of eyeglass distribution for a while now, would be a logical next step.  VisionSpring provides eyeglasses for Freedom from Hunger’s Healthkeepers program in Ghana which reaches underserved rural populations with critical health products by training local women to be ambulatory vendors.  The women vendors benefit from having a job and the remote rural population benefits from increased access to life-saving products like mosquito nets and oral rehydration salts.  Adding the Adaptive Eyewear glasses to the Healthkeepers (quite literal) baskets would be yet another benefit of the program.  The Healthkeepers model is one that can be expanded and replicated to cover many more areas and countries where people are suffering simply because they don’t have access to health or well-being products.

My New Year’s wish will be for the success of Adaptive Eyewear’s ambitious project.