Practitioners are being invited by charity Vision Action to get involved with a new social enterprise which aims to deliver a sustainable supply of adjustable prescription and other eyewear to people in Africa.
Chairman and founder, Ken Macdonald, said that stimulating a sustainable supply of affordable spectacles will help those needing glasses live full, normal lives while creating jobs, providing employment and income to those communities.
Macdonald said he was looking for optometrists and dispensing opticians interested in getting involved either by visiting the charity's target country of Cameroon or fundraising here in the UK.
Vision Action operates by visiting countries without eye care services to provide simple training to local people to enable them to screen for vision problems. Those local people become Vision Action Spec Vendors and are provided with a uniform, testing equipment and a range of glasses at no cost.
The Spec Vendors sell the reading glasses, sunglasses, and adjustable spectacles at very low cost to those in need in the area. Those vendors can then buy more Vision Action product from supply centres. This creates access to vision correction, an income for the vendor and creates a supply chain within the country.
'The idea is that the concept pays for itself,' said Macdonald. 'It's low cost, simple product and we are training people to be vision screeners.'
He said the adjustable spectacles used can help 90 per cent of those who need vision correction and the product can be offered immediately. Those with more serious problems are referred to local agencies. He is also hoping that outreach projects to help such people may also be set up by Vision Action in the future.
Macdonald urged eye care professionals to look at www.visionaction.org.uk to find out more. 'We need volunteers with an optical background to come with us and give training.' He said this was not in-depth training but simple, practical guides to screening. Participants would be expected to pay for their own costs but Vision Action would sort out all of the logistics.
Macdonald said early experience with the Dutch-made adjustable spectacles had been positive. 'They are not perfect but they are functional and practical. We have got an adjustable product that people can afford.'
He said the idea was to improve the lives of the majority who had moderate vision problems. 'I applaud the work of Vision Aid Overseas. They are very good at higher level services such as high prescriptions for people with profound vision problems. We are coming in at a level underneath that.'