Here’s something that may surprise you: having limited vision is almost as bad as being completely blind.
Think about it. If all you see are dim shapes, you’re not going to be able to get around easily, work or take care of yourself. And like blindness, low vision or visual impairment is a big problem in the developing world.
“Uncorrected refractive error” is the technical term for what we understand as the need for glasses. It has been estimated that as many as 200 to 300 million people, mostly in poor countries, stumble through life simply because they can’t afford an eye exam or glasses.
And they’re cheap! In India, an exam and eye glasses for a child can cost as little as $5.
Uncorrected refractive error is an unnecessary disability that has a major impact on people’s lives and causes profound economic disadvantages to individuals, their families and societies. People living with uncorrected vision impairment are more likely to be excluded from basic education, suffer from isolation and have fewer employment opportunities.
The link between poverty and avoidable blindness is indisputable.
Here in Canada one hardly gives a thought to this issue, as eye exams and glasses are readily available even to low income families. But in developing countries, eye exams and affordable eye glasses are a scarce commodity.
Sadly, there are many instances where schools for the blind are populated by children who simply need a pair of prescription lens in order to see. Their lives and futures severely limited by the lack of resources and opportunity.
Many temporary solutions have been put forward in the absence of proper exams and eyeglass prescriptions, such as used eyeglasses, adjustable lens and dispensing “readers” or magnifying glasses as an entrepreneurial venture.
However none of them are as effective as a proper eye exam and the proper prescription lens. Here’s why: everyone needs a proper eye exam to accurately diagnose the cause of the vision impairment, which may be simply the need for glasses but could also be developing diseases that can cause permanent blindness if left untreated.
There are other considerations around this topic. Watch for Part 2 a few weeks from now when I’ll be writing about used eyeglasses.