Across the globe, about 150 million people need corrective lenses, but cannot afford them, impeding their ability to work, study and provide for their family. Yet OneDollarGlasses aims to change this.

OneDollarGlasses was started in 2009 by Martin Aufmuth when he saw a pair of glasses sold for US$1 in Germany and questioned why the First World had US$1 glasses but the Third World did not. With that in mind, Aufmuth created the first pair of OneDollarGlasses with bent spring steel wire frames and hardened polycarbonate lenses.

No tools are required to assemble the OneDollarGlasses before putting them on and, most importantly, they cost US$0.80 to make. Today, OneDollarGlasses works with seven developing countries and has greatly improved the lives of many.

Their first project was in Rwanda. Rwanda is densely populated and of the 11.4 million inhabitants, only 11 are ophthalmologists. There, Alfmuth teamed up with a German team of students called Enactus Munich to train local opticians and merchants.

Next, OneDollarGlasses went to Burkina Faso where they faced a low literacy rate and a language barrier. The Enactus students took the lead on training 10 micro-opticians who since then have sold over 1,600 pairs of glasses.

OneDollarGlasses then went to work in Nicaragua in Central America. In Nicaragua, more than 80 percent of the population lives on fewer than US$2 a day. In 2014, OneDollarGlasses sent trainers to San Carlos, and by spring, glasses were being sold.

One pair was given to a woman named María Sandoval on her 99th birthday by her family. With +6 diopters on both eyes, it was the first time she had seen the world in full detail.

In April 2014, Alfmuth presented OneDollarGlasses to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. He received praise at the end of his presentation and several countries described his foundation as “groundbreaking.” OneDollarGlasses has it all: low cost to produce, cheap to buy and a huge demand.

– Hannah Resnick

Sources: Empowering People, Enactus, Essilor, OneDollarGlasses, UNICEF, Venture Beat
Photo: Quora


Armed with a $20 smartphone and his own ingenuity, Dr. Hong Sheng Chiong, founder of OphthalmicDocs, is fighting preventable blindness.

With 90% of the world’s visually impaired and blind living in developing countries, access to affordable eye care equipment is out of reach for most visually impaired people. OphthalmicDocs seeks to end that struggle by developing inexpensive, effective eye care equipment that allows doctors to diagnose patients properly using a smartphone camera.

After experiencing developing-world medicine and the need for such affordable eye care firsthand in Kenya, Nepal and Malaysia, Dr. Hong worked with a team to develop the OphthalmicDocs Fundus, a universal smartphone retinal imaging adapter. Able to take high-quality retinal images of both the front and back of the eye, the Fundus functions as a portable retinal camera.

In the interest of making the device widely available, OphthalmicDocs created a free 3D printable template of the device that allows anyone to download, print and assemble a Fundus retinal camera within four hours, regardless of their global location.

A device that would ordinarily cost $10,000 is now accessible for a production cost of $33. Working hand-in-hand with developments in affordable smartphone manufacturing and distribution, as well as sites that connect users to 3D printing technology in their region, OphthalmicDocs’ technology has the potential to revolutionize eye care.

OphthalmicDocs also developed an open-source eye care app. This free app offers a variety of visual tests, includes a patient management system and can work with external adapters to acquire ocular images.

Other devices in the works from OphthalmicDocs include a clip-on adapter meant to convert smartphones into slit lamp microscopes and MAGcro, a universal macro lens for use with smartphones and tablets.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 285 million people around the world are visually impaired and 39 million are blind. WHO also found that a staggering 80% of visual impairments arises from preventable causes. However, with global access to free retinal camera technology, these statistics could be phenomena of the past.

– Emma-Claire LaSaine

Sources: Huffington Post, OpthalmicDocs, WHO
Photo: Bionicly