The Vision for Vision: Self-Adjusting Eyeglasses

Professor Joshua Silver demonstrates how self-adjusting eyeglasses work. From the CBS Evening News, Sunday, Oct. 24, 2010.

The challenge of truly helping the poor of the developing world can often appear daunting which is where one far-seeing doctor comes in.

More than one in three people in the United States wears glasses or contact lenses. In developing countries, few have the luxury. They're simply left to cope in a blurry world, not only because glasses cost money but also because there are almost no trained optometrists to fit them.

Enter the man you might call a visionary. Professor Joshua Silver, who after 25 years of research, believes there's a solution. Self-adjusting glasses.

CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reports that they come in two basic models: Double lenses that slide to regulate focus and Prof. Silver's own design that injects gel for an even clearer result.

For people who haven't been able to see clearly for years, putting on the glasses and dialing up perfect focus is a small miracle.

A not-for-profit company called Adaptive Eyewear runs a program in Rwanda with local health workers to distribute the glasses.

Watching a woman try on a pair of the glasses, Adaptive Eyewear program manager Lucinda Johnson says, "She runs a little shop and she put glasses on for the first time and she was just so happy. She really just found it the most amazing experience."

Now the technology has been fine-tuned. The next challenge is to get the cost down and the fashion factor up.

"My vision for vision would be to see a billion people wearing the eyeglasses they need by the year 2020," says Silver.

A billion people. Considering only 40,000 self-adjustable glasses have been fitted so far in the developing world, that's quite a prescription.

  • Elizabeth Palmer
    Elizabeth Palmer

    Elizabeth Palmer has been a CBS News correspondent since August 2000. She has been based in London since late 2003, after having been based in Moscow (2000-03). Palmer reports primarily for the "CBS Evening News."