AUSTIN, Texas — Eyesight is incredibly important to basic, everyday tasks. In fact, according to the Medical Eye Center, “80% of what we perceive comes through our sense of sight.” With eyesight being crucial to everyday life, ophthalmologists recommend annual eye check-ups to maintain good eye health. However, a 2019 World Health Organization (WHO) report indicated that as many as 1 billion people live with impaired vision due to the lack of accessibility to treatment worldwide. A solution, high schooler Soham Govande began an organization entitled Together We See to bring virtual eye exams to people in low-income countries.
Born with severe myopia, Govande learned the huge struggle of being visually impaired whilst in the U.S. education system. Luckily, Govande was able to treat his myopia by having access to multiple eye exams and an eye doctor that prescribed him glasses for his vision. During his sophomore year in high school, Govande volunteered at an eye clinic in which the student discovered that many of the patients had never received a vision check-up in their whole lifetime and needed treatment. Determined to do something about this, Govande began working on a mobile app that would make eye examinations accessible worldwide through his organization Together We See in early 2020.
Through its OcularCheck App, Together We See allows for accessible and mobile virtual eye exams. First, the user inputs height and width measurements of the mobile device so that the application can calibrate the screen size. Next, instructions play out so that the user can begin their eye exam. Options are available for non-English speakers. As the exam progresses, the symbols will begin to decrease in size. A second party must be present to determine how many symbols were read correctly. When a user is no longer able to correctly determine the symbols, the exam stops.
Together We See’s Work
Having developed the OcularCheck App, Govade set out to put it to use. Aiming for rural communities who have no access to eye medics, Govande along with his team of volunteers began implementing his eye exams in impoverished areas of foreign countries such as Tanzania and India. The eye exams were able to help dozens of children. In June 2021, Together We See was able to provide vision screenings to an orphanage in Thailand. “Due to ongoing fighting and warfare,” the poverty-stricken children become exposed to high risks of developing health problems according to Together We See.
With mobile phones becoming increasingly more accessible than water or electricity, Together We See’s mobile application is an effective way to conduct free worldwide exams. In an exclusive interview with The Borgen Project, Govande stated that Together We See’s ultimate goal is to create international programs to impact people in need. Due to COVID-19, traveling has been difficult for the organization, so it is aiming to train teams of volunteers remotely to travel in-person to low-income, rural areas to have a chance to direct vision screening operations. However, Together We See is hoping to partner with other organizations to engage in more international work to help those in need.
The Importance of Virtual Eye Exams
In a 2015 discussion, researchers stated that “Vision loss could be a consequence of poverty” due to “lack of access to care and lower use of preventive services.” This means that populations living in poverty get stuck in a cycle in which they cannot access eye exams and their vision worsens and have no way to prevent it. Therefore, organizations similar to Together We See provide a free, accessible alternative that gives the future a better look.
– Kler Teran