New Eyeglasses to Improve Developing World’s Vision

October 28, 2005

WITH just a twist of a dial, peoplearound the world will live in a clearer world– or so hope those behind Adaptive Eyecare,Ltd. Representatives of the company, basedin Oxford, England, are traveling the globeand meeting with governments and organizationsin an attempt to market their product,adjustable focus eyeglasses for the far- andnear-sighted, with the goal of helping thosewho would not otherwise have a chance tosharpen their vision.According to Rose Shuman, the LatinAmerican Regional Director for AdaptiveEyecare, who recently visited Costa Ricato meet with government officials andlocal organizations, the glasses are a newinvention unique in the world.“We have a new technology that ismore or less revolutionary, that could correctthe vision of perhaps up to one billionpeople who now lack access to anoptometrist,” Shuman said.She stressed the importance of the rolethat the glasses, invented by OxfordUniversity atomic physicist Joshua Silver,could play in developing countries wherepeople living outside of large cities rarelyhave access to health services such as eyecare. Adaptive Eyecare uses as a successstory its program in Ghana. There, Shumanexplained, workers in an adult educationprogram discovered that the high dropoutrates in their classes were in part a result ofmany of the students’ inability to read or seethe chalkboard due to poor eyesight.Thanks to the simplicity of the glasses,Shuman said, people in rural communitiescan have a pair of AdSpecs adjusted totheir needs in about a minute, without theneed for a specialist or specialized equipment.The glasses, available in one prototypestyle, have thick, round dual lensesattached to two plungers that sit above theears. On each plunger is a small dial thatadjusts the focus for each lens. A personadjusts the glasses by covering one eye,looking at a mid-range object and adjustingthe dial until the object is clear, and repeatingthe process for the other eye.The plungers are filled with silicone oilthat, depending on which direction the dialis turned, either inflate or deflate a smallbag held between the eyeglass lenses, creatinga convex or concave effect. After thecorrect focus is reached, two small screwsare tightened to seal the oil in the lenses.The plungers can then be removed.“In a few minutes, you’ve done the eyeexam and have the correct glasses,”Shuman said. “In a single day you can correctan entire village.”In Costa Rica, Shuman met with representativesfrom the Social Security System(Caja), the Public Education Ministry andthe World Health Organization, as well asprivate optical and medical companies anddistributors and other non-governmentalorganizations.“It was 14 meetings in three days –basically both very exciting and verycrazy,” Shuman told The Tico Times in ane-mail following her Oct. 19 visit. “TheAdSpecs got a lot of positive feedback; nohard agreements, but universal consensusthat we will continue to be in discussions.From Costa Rica, Shuman left for visitsto Chile and Ecuador.

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