11 Aug
  • By One Dollar Glasses

One Dollar Glasses

Worldwide, more than 150 million people would need a pair of glasses, but cannot afford it. They cannot learn, cannot work and cannot provide for their families.

Our solution:

The OneDollarGlasses. They consist of a lightweight, flexible spring steel frame and prefab lenses and can be locally manufactured with simple bending machines. The material costs: Approximately 1 US $.


“Millions of people around the world are in need of glasses but can’t afford to buy them. For years, they have been waiting to get access to glasses but the lack of trained specialists and the fact that the going rate for glasses on the market is beyond their means, has left them with no viable options. Children are unable to learn, adults struggle to provide for their families.

We would like to do something about it.

(Martin Aufmuth, Chairman OneDollarGlasses)



A global problem

A study conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2012 concluded that 158 million people suffer from nearsightedness and another 544 million from farsightedness or would need reading glasses. These individuals either lack the money to buy glasses or simply don’t have access to them. Ramifications are kids who struggle to learn in school and adults unable to work and provide for their families. Worldwide lost income due to these circumstances amounts to about 202 billion US$ per year. Additionally, 65.000 ophthalmic staff would be needed to care for the 702 million visually impaired, whose number will only increase with global population growth.

Local production and value creation

The OneDollarGlasses consist of a light and flexible spring steel wire frame. The glasses are manufactured on a bending machine (no power required) by locally trained personnel. The material used to make the glasses comes to about 1 US$, while the sales price is set to the equivalent of one to two daily wages in the area. The premanufactured lenses can easily be clipped into the frame.

Fast and cost-effective care

ODG’s modular assembly system, consisting of prefabricated lenses ranging from -10 to + 8 diopters (in steps of 0.5 diopter increments) and ready-made frames in different sizes and colors, allows for fast, individual and cost-effective care, particularly in remote areas. Immediately after the vision test (always provided at no cost) the patient receives the glasses. No expensive grinding equipment is needed and a second consultation for fitting the glasses is not required.

Bespoke ophthalmic training concept 

Educating highly skilled experts in ophthalmic care for 3 years or more is expensive. The few graduates with such degrees strive for a good salary and therefore are less likely to get involved with caring for the poor. The current infrastructure simply does not offer a viable solution for the rural population living on very little money.

In cooperation with ophthalmologists and opticians, OneDollarGlasses (ODG) has developed its own, year-long training course. Best-Spherical-Correction (BSC) educates the student in finding the appropriate lenses during vision testing as well as professionally fitting the glasses.

Patients with more severe eye diseases or cases where the OneDollarGlasses cannot achieve significantly improved eye sight will be identified and referred to hospitals and ophthalmologists. A well-designed quality control system guarantees compliance with quality standards.

Sustainability through economic viability

The people trained by ODG in vision testing and the production of glasses are able to make a living from these activities. The goal is to offer permanent, self-sustaining basic vision care in developing nations. ODG is currently the only organization in Germany with a Social Business Concept that seeks improvement in the areas of health, education and socio-economic development.



Detailed Information:

  1. A global emergency
    1. The problem of global vision impairment

The Global Action Plan (GAP) was ratified by the World Health Organization (WHO) in May 2013.  The most important strategic paper concerning global visual health discusses the goal of reducing cases of avoidable blindness and vision impairment by 25% compared with the number of cases in 2010.

The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness IAPB mentions the “severe shortage of trained personnel, particularly in Africa” as a major challenge to reaching the goals formulated in the GAP. ODG is targeting this very problem with its own year-long training course called Best-Spherical-Correction (BSC).

More telling facts on the scale and implications of uncorrected vision are revealed in the 2012 WHO study „Global cost of correcting vision impairment from uncorrected refractive error“. 158 million people suffer from myopia (nearsightedness) and another 544 million from hyperopia (farsightedness) or presbyopia (in need of reading glasses due to older age). Globally an additional 65.000 ophthalmic staff would be needed to care for the 702 million visually impaired. The facts to ponder are the following: Educating the missing personnel and establishing and maintaining the necessary health care infrastructure would amount to about 20 billion US$ compared to a yearly loss of income due to vision impairment of 202 billion US$.

The few opticians in developing nations mostly work in urban areas and sell glasses from around 30 Euros and up. Therefore, the glasses are unaffordable for the vast majority of the rural population. Also travel expenses from far-flung places to urban areas are not within the means of most people.

    1. Lack of access to education and work

In 2000 the United Nations have declared access to basic education the second most important goal to be reached in this millennium right behind fighting extreme poverty and hunger. In class rooms often accommodating more than 100 students, the blackboard becomes central to communicating the subject matter. Students unable to learn because they can’t read the information won’t be prepared for higher education and as a result for the fiercely competitive job market.

Older adults cannot continue in their line of work when presbyopia (the need of reading glasses with advancing age) sets in. The seamstress who can no longer thread a needle, the farmer who has difficulty distinguishing between crop and weeds or seeing where to sow the seeds as well as the accountant who has trouble reading his numbers. Simple reading glasses allows patients to go back to work and provide the much needed wages the entire family relies on.

    1. Economic implications

The developing world is losing an immense amount of purchasing power and its citizens suffer many lost educational opportunities due to vision impairment.

    1. Social Integration and quality of life

The difficulties associated with impaired vision make life difficult and lead to children and adults being shut out from social settings. Access to glasses lets children participate in school and play like everybody else. Some adults get a clear view of their village and their neighbors for the first time. Older people can read again. All this represents a considerable step towards quality of life for all concerned.

  1. The ODG Solution
  1. The OneDollarGlasses system

OneDollarGlasses represents a complete solution to provide basic visual care. It encompasses local production, education, vision tests at no cost as well as instant assembly and fitting of durable, appealing glasses. We also service the glasses and provide lens replacement as it becomes necessary. The fact that our business model allows trained personnel to offer all of this, while running a self-sustaining business is something that we are very proud of.

ODG glasses consist of a lightweight, flexible and very durable spring steel wire frame. The cost of the material including wire and lenses comes to about 1 US$.

The sales price equivalent of two to three local daily wages is affordable even for the less fortunate.

ODG glasses are manufactured on a custom-made bending machine. The machine is virtually maintenance free and requires no electricity. A team of 6 to 8 employees working on the same machine can produce up to 25 000 frames in a year. The frames are made in different colors, sizes and account for varying pupil distances.

The prefabricated plastic lenses, available in diopters ranging from -10 to + 8, in increments of 0.5 diopter (base system) easily click into the frame. (Note: As needed the base system can be expanded with lenses in increments of 0.25 diopter). The modular assembly system consisting of prefabricated lenses and frames is superior in comparison to conventional solutions because the glasses can be made on the spot and the patient doesn’t have to wait or even schedule a second visit avoiding additional transportation expenses. In case the lenses are scratched or broken they can easily be replaced.

OneDollarGlasses is the only organization worldwide that wants to establish basic vision care in developing nations in the context of operating as a social business. The glasses needed to achieve this goal are produced locally.


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