Foresight

Easton’s Kevin White is changing the way the world sees, through an innovative invention and a relentless commitment to his mission

Written by Joe Willey
Portrait by Grant L. Gursky
Location photography by Pin Media

The world’s largest unmet disability is poor eyesight, with at least one billion people who have a near- or distance-vision impairment, according to the World Health Organization. A small, award-winning nonprofit organization in Easton is focused on reducing that number substantially, through an innovative solution aimed at ending this perennial global condition.

Global Vision 2020 was founded in 2009 by J. Kevin White — a U.S. Marine (Ret.) and Naval Academy graduate — to provide prescription eyeglasses to people in the most remote areas on earth. His quest began while serving in the military, overseeing humanitarian assistance programs for the Department of Defense in Africa and Eastern Europe. White was startled by the inefficiency of the distribution of donated eyeglasses. He watched those who needed a prescription walk away from help rather than accept glasses that did not fit their face, were embarrassingly unstylish, or choose frames they liked with prescriptions that made their vision worse. Was there a better way to help people, with dignity and respect, instead of foisting cast-off glasses on them as a way to meet their needs? Being a natural problem-solver, he considered the options, and an idea began to form that could meet this massive need.

LIVE AID  Global Vision 2020’s recent humanitarian mission to rural regions of the Republic of Botswana provided prescription eyeglasses to hundreds of school children and staff members.

After he retired from the Marine Corps, White continued to be involved in the humanitarian mission of helping people with refractive error (the need for prescription eyewear) receive affordable prescription eyeglasses.

The biggest barriers to solving the global poor-vision epidemic are access to a network that can deliver the eyeglasses, the costs of the exam and the glasses themselves. But White’s simple yet practical idea leaps over the seemingly insurmountable barriers and meets the needs of patients in areas so remote, they are forgotten by most of the world.

His research and dogged determination led to his invention of the innovative USee Vision Kit™ —
a simple, lightweight and easily transportable device that works like a pair of binoculars. The USee is a self-refraction tool that allows patients to dial in clear vision while looking at an alphabet-free eye chart. A color-coded lens bar moves up or down with the turning of a dial. The reading on the lens bar corresponds to a particular lens. The correct lens snaps into the lightweight, stylish frame, and after a final vision test, the person is provided with prescription eyeglasses. The entire process is complete in only minutes, with a cost of less than $5 per patient.

To date, White and Global Vision 2020 have worked with 45 different organizations in 50 countries, supplying 60,000 pairs of eyeglasses to many who have never had a pair. Eyeglasses have been delivered to students, the elderly in rural villages, men who drive and women who sew for a living — all of whom were struggling to thrive because their eyesight was deteriorating.

As this year comes to an end, there is the promise of a new, more expansive venture that will provide clear vision to many more people. Global Vision 2020 is working with a global corporate social responsibility partner to provide eye screenings using the USee Vision Kit to every high school student in the South American country of Guyana. Students needing prescription eyeglasses will be provided a new pair of Global Vision 2020’s easily assembled glasses. With one project, the lives of tens of thousands of people will be changed.

Kevin White’s desire to eradicate poor vision around the world moved him into action. Quietly, without ostentatious gimmicks, only clinically verifiable, life-changing results, his system is transforming the lives of men and women, young and old, one pair of glasses at a time.