Affordable, adjustable glasses help citizens in developing countries see

World Today

Adjustable eyeglasses are helping bring the world’s developing nations into focus, with just the turn of a dial and $1.50 a pair. British entrepreneur James Chen, who grew up in Africa, has funded an invention that would allow more people needing vision correction to see clearly,for less. CCTV’s Cathy Yang reported the story from Hong Kong.
In one of Rwanda’s health centers just outside its capital Kigali, nurses conduct professional eye exams that help patients secure prescriptions for affordable glasses. The spectacles are available for just $1.50 a pair,  the equivalent of three to four days of work.

The initiative is the brainchild of Vision for a Nation founder, James Chen. His goal is to integrate national primary eye care service into Rwanda’s health centres.

“A million people in Rwanda will need some form of vision correction and out of that probably 900,000 people will just need a simple reading glass,” Chen said.

The eyeglasses allow people to adjust the lenses themselves by twisting of one of the knobs on either side of the frames. The adjustable specs are manufactured by Chen’s company, Adlens.

The idea of adjustable lenses has been around for many years, but they’ve been considered too pricey to produce until now. The brainchild of Chen whose family office is based in Hong Kong, Vision for a Nation was conceived on first-hand knowledge of how difficult it is for one to grow up without access too good eye care.

Chen’s reading glasses were manufactured on the Chinese Mainland, while the adjustable glasses were made in Malaysia. Chen said he and a Dutch professor had worked out a way of mass-producing the lenses.

“You can continually change the power on so if your eye sight does fluctuate from day to day, or even minute to minute you can just readjust the lens power to meet your needs,” Graham Mackenzie, Medical Adviser for Adlens said.

This is significant in a country where up to one million people are poorly sighted, and where only 14 ophthalmologists serve a population of 11 million.

The new nationwide eye care service offered in Rwanda has helped reduce the average distance patients have to travel to receive eye care.

Vision for a Nation is now in the early stages of replicating the initiative to other parts of Africa, as well as Asia. However, the priority remains in completing its task in Rwanda.