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Vision as a Matter of Rights

When you think of universal human rights, what comes to mind? The right to an education, to work, to marriage and a family, to freedom of movement and expression – these are all incredible rights, but to the nearly 2.5 billion people around the world suffering from uncorrected vision problems, they can be inaccessible.

Poor vision can impact society as a whole, but it also has a direct and deep impact on individuals suffering from impaired vision themselves. Research shows that poor vision can negatively impact academic performance, workplace productivity, overall health, and so much more.

The solution to impaired vision is often very simple: a pair of eyeglasses. Eyeglasses are a cost-effective solution that can make a significant difference for those living with uncorrected vision, improving their personal lives. But beyond that, eyeglasses could also change the way 2.5 billion people – nearly a third of the world’s population – operate within society. Corrected vision for these people could lead to economic benefits from increased work productivity and to greater opportunities for future generations through better learning and education for children.

According to experts, up to 80 percent of learning occurs visually, meaning children with poor vision are at a major disadvantage. If left uncorrected, the disparity only grows, and children can encounter a lifetime of hardships. Poor vision can hinder their ability to learn in the classroom and throughout life.

Fortunately, research has shown that proper prescription eyeglasses have a greater impact on a child’s academic performance than any other health intervention. A study in China showed that students who wore glasses for one year earned higher test scores, equivalent to six months of additional schooling, with historically under-performing students benefitting the most from vision correction.

Early detection and correction of poor vision is key to giving all children an equal opportunity to succeed. That’s why many experts agree that comprehensive eye exams are necessary for children by the age of three. A National Commission on Vision & Health study found that eye exams are highly effective in identifying early vision conditions – and addressing these vision issues has resulted in improved test scores.

With corrective lenses, children can set the foundation for a future where they have the opportunity to fully participate. In a similar way eyeglasses can also open up a  world of opportunity for adults to do the work they love and do it well.

The loss of productivity that results from uncorrected vision has a far-reaching impact, from the individual level all the way up to the global economy. The economic impacts of visual impairment that result from uncorrected refractive errors are estimated to cost the global economy a staggering $272 billion.

The reality is that whether they are at work or school or wherever life takes them, many people are unaware they have a vision issue because they only know what they see. We believe that everyone should have the right to see well.

On Human Rights Day, we must work to ensure the benefits of correction and vision protection are prioritized. When vision takes its rightful place in healthcare, all of our efforts – in the classroom, with family, at the workplace, in the community – will have a ripple effect benefiting society at large.

Good vision is a precursor to so many human rights – and it’s time to recognize it as a basic human right itself. By taking simple, low-cost measures, people of all ages can vastly improve their quality of life and take full advantage of the rights afforded to them. We envision a future where good vision is seen as a basic human right – a world where each person can fully benefit from a better life through better sight. Join us in Giving Vision a Voice.