British businessman launches £1 glasses to help millions of world's poorest people

Vision for a Nation hopes that everyone in Rwanda who needs glasses will have a pair by 2018

Revolutionary spectacles that cost just £1 a pair and can be adjusted to correct any wearer’s eyesight could enable millions of the world’s poorest people to see clearly again.

A British businessman, James Chen, and his Oxford-based company Adlens developed the spectacles from a design by a Nobel Prize-winning scientist, the late Luis Alvarez.

He is working with the charity Vision for a Nation in the hope that everyone in Rwanda who needs glasses will have a pair by 2018. The project, partly funded by the Department for International Development, could be rolled out to other African countries such as Botswana and Namibia and also to Bhutan in Asia, The Sunday Times reported.

Justine Greening, the International Development Secretary, said: “These affordable, self-adjustable glasses are a real game-changer. British ingenuity like this can transform the lives of millions of visually impaired people across the developing world. I’m proud that British inventors are responsible for breakthroughs that continue to improve the world around us.”

The potential impact of the invention is being compared to that of the Surrey-based inventor Trevor Baylis’s famous wind-up radio, which enabled people in areas without electricity to hear what was happening in the rest of the world.

Each lens is made of two separate pieces of varying thickness. By turning a dial, the two elements of the lens slide across each other, changing the strength of the glasses.

Mr Chen said: “What is the point of teaching someone how to read if their vision is not good enough to do so? In Africa, the second-biggest killer is road traffic accidents and that will get worse if people don’t have their vision corrected.

“We have had to overcome social prejudices. Some people think that by wearing glasses your eyes get worse. Others won’t wear them if they are going for a new job because they think it shows physical imperfections.”

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