Martin Aufmuth has created an innovative solution to global visual impairment. In 2012, he founded OneDollarGlasses, an association that manufactures spectacles for just $1. First piloted in Uganda, OneDollarGlasses has since expanded to Rwanda, Malawi, Ethiopia, Benin, Brazil, Burkina Faso and Bolivia.

According to the World Health Organization, 153 million people worldwide have impaired vision. Ninety percent of those with impaired vision live in developing countries where trained optometrists are few and glasses, too expensive. Left uncorrected, impaired vision can become a major impediment to people’s performances in work and education.

Through OneDollarGlasses, opticians are able to travel to remote areas of developing regions where the consequences of vision impairment are most greatly felt.

Opticians are equipped with all that they need in just a 30 x 30 x 30 centimeters box (11 x 11 x 11 inches). The box contains 25 durable, polycarbonate lenses of varying strengths and a “bending machine” that shapes steel frames on-site.

After conducting an eye test, opticians can match a person with a pair of lenses that are manually inserted into the frames. The ease of this process facilitates the future replacement of lenses should a person’s vision change.

The low-maintenance bending machine lies at “the core” of OneDollarGlasses, says Aufmuth on his website. No electricity is necessary, and a single pair of glasses can be manufactured onsite in 10-30 minutes.

Opticians themselves are required to attend an intensive 14-day training on how to use the equipment. Afterward, they are free to run their businesses independently.

For Aufmuth’s work, OneDollarGlasses was the 2013 recipient of the Siemens Foundation’s award for “simple technology that empowers people” as well as the 2015 Tech Award in San Jose, California.

The Centre for Vision in the Developing World states that eyesight “will be one of the world’s top 10 health issues in terms of productivity and opportunities” by 2030. OneDollarGlasses is helping the developing world to see a brighter future.

Jocelyn Lim

Sources: The Centre for Vision in the Developing World, Martin Aufmuth, The Guardian, The Independent, The New Scientist, World Health Organization 1, World Health Organization 2
Picture: Flickr

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