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What are Universal Spectacles?

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  • Written By: J. Beam
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 25 September 2016
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Universal spectacles, also referred to as U-specs, are glasses containing self-adjustable corrective lenses set inside a one-size-fits-all frame. The concept of Universal spectacles is to provide affordable vision correction to children with impaired vision in developing countries. Universal spectacles can be adjusted to correct nearly 90% of vision problems in children. A visit to an eye care specialist is not necessary to obtain or adjust the glasses, making it possible for children from economically challenged countries to have glasses.

Researchers at the VU University Medical Centre in Amsterdam developed the idea of Universal spectacles, which are based on the Alvarez lens, an invention of Luis Alvarez, an American Nobel Prize winner. The glasses can be adjusted by hand with the turn of knob, which can change the refraction of each lens from a –6 to +3 dioptre.

The first prototype was developed in 2003. Between 2003 and 2006, three other prototypes were developed employing the latest optical technology to improve on the prior. In 2007, the most recent prototype was tested in India.

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The goal of Universal spectacle testing in developing countries is to provide children with refractive errors in their vision a means to correct them, thus helping to avoid or eliminate problems in school, future poverty, and even blindness. As part of an ophthalmic program developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) called Vision 20/20, Universal spectacles could eliminate every child’s inability to see clearly due to a lack of corrective lenses. Vision 20/20’s goal is correct poor vision in most parts of the world by the year 2020.

Universal spectacles are both affordable, costing only 4 Euro (EUR) or about $6 US Dollars (USD), and relatively stylish, manufactured in a variety of colors. Compared to the cost of corrective lenses in the US, which can cost $100 USD or more, it’s easy to see how Universal spectacles can benefit a number of children who cannot afford traditional eye care. Benefits in addition to reduced cost include simplicity and the elimination of a specialist to provide measurements and monitoring.

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