Joshua Silver is a physicist, inventor and founder of the Centre for Vision in the Developing World, an organization that seeks to bring corrective eyewear to the Bottom Billion.
Originally trained as a physicist, Dr. Silver began looking at the problem of poor eyesight beginning in the mid 1980’s. Lack of eyewear is rarely considered as a priority development issue, but the lack of affordable eyewear creates a multitude of problems in the developing world, where there might be only one optometrist for every million people.
Not being able to see means children can’t see the blackboard, and therefore can’t advance in education. For adults, it often means being unable to work, or drive, or read, or write. In these cases, the solution to larger development problems is as easy as giving someone proper eyewear.
Recognizing this, Dr. Silver worked with development agencies within the British Government, at developing a low-cost solution. He would eventually propose, invent and promote a form of self-correcting adaptive eyewear – glasses that could be customized in the field, without the assistance of optometrists or expensive technology.
The glasses are self-adjusting and very inexpensive. Silver’s glasses contain tough plastic lenses which house two clear circular sacs filled with fluid, each of which is connected to a small syringe to add or reduce the amount of fluid in the sacs. This changes the power of the lenses. When the wearer is happy with the strength of the lenses, the membranes are sealed by twisting a small screw and the syringes are removed.
This leaves the user with an inexpensive (less than $1 USD) solution to their vision problem. Moreover, because the glasses are inexpensive and easily replaced, the pair can be passed on to someone else if the recipient’s vision deteriorates or alters. A new pair can be obtained just as easily.
Since his invention, Dr. Silver has worked to develop an infrastructure to market and distribute the glasses through the Centre’s activities. It works on education, advocacy, and training to make sure that the glasses can find their way to communities in need.
We had a chance to speak more with Dr. Silver and learn more about both the glasses and their ecosystem on Social Design Insights. Please have a listen here.