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Best Practices voor een duurzame toekomst
21 juni 2008

Cheap Dutch spectacles a solution for the visually handicapped

This summer, the spectacles will be tested in three hospitals in India. A sample group of 100 children will be issued with the u-specs while another 100 children will act as a control. For the commercial pilot u-specs will join forces with the Scojo Foundation. The pilot will test consumer acceptance, pricing and distribution channels and is planned from October to December in India and Guatemala. According to the selected business model 20,000 pairs of glasses will be sold.

Project manager Sjoerd Hannema of the d.o.b. foundation explains: “Small local entrepreneurs will receive a short training course in selling the u-specs. Where necessary we will support them with micro credit. Thus we aim to create a sustainable business model instead of creating dependency on volunteers and gifts.” Distribution by local entrepreneurs will stimulate economic development.

The universal spectacles are meant primarily for children in developing countries. They are easy to use: simply adjusting the knob on the spectacles changes the refraction index for each eye from -6 diopter to +3 diopter. Because the focus of the glasses can be adjusted, no optician is needed and the cost of the adjustable glasses is less than 4 euros. The choice for a dioptric range of -6 to 3 diopters provides correction for 90 percent of the refractive errors.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that about 1 billion people have poor vision due to uncorrected refractive errors. The majority of these people merely lack a pair of spectacles which will provide them with good vision. Direct consequences of this are blindness, poverty and educational under-achievement. Currently there are approximately 135 million people with poor vision as a result of various eye defects. To alleviate their situation the WHO started the worldwide ophthalmic program Vision 20/20.

The universal spectacles are based on the Alvarez lens, named after the inventor and Nobel Prize laureate Luis Alvarez. The lens is composed of two moveable parts with a flat surface facing each other and ‘saddle form’ outer surfaces.

P+ webtip: Universal Specs

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