Alleviating the problem of impaired vision is at the heart of what we do, and with your help, over eight million pairs of glasses have been distributed through our Buy a Pair, Give a Pair program. Now due to COVID-19, some of our glasses distribution has been temporarily suspended.
While we continue to support the distribution of glasses where we can without compromising the health of our partners and the community, it’s important that we continue to prioritize public health and safety. As of April 1, 2020, for a portion of Warby Parker glasses purchased, personal protective equipment and preventative health supplies will be distributed to healthcare workers and communities in need. Learn more.
We started Warby Parker by reimagining everything that a company and industry can be. To do good—impacting the world in a meaningful way—became a guiding principle and remains one of our core values today. Now, in response to COVID-19, we’ve needed to evolve every aspect of our business, including figuring out new ways to make a positive impact on communities in need.
In some cases, we’re creating new initiatives. Since the pandemic’s outbreak, we’ve donated personal protective equipment for distribution to the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, NYU Langone Health, and the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics.
In other cases, we are adapting existing programs to meet urgent needs. For a decade, we’ve focused our do good efforts on helping the world see by making vision services more accessible. Through our Buy a Pair, Give a Pair program, we’ve worked with a handful of partners worldwide to ensure that for every pair of glasses purchased, a pair is distributed to someone in need. In many of the countries where we support vision access programs, however, COVID-19 still poses a grave threat to our partners, health workers, and residents in densely populated slums, artisan clusters, and other low-income communities. While some of our partners are safely maintaining glasses distribution, others are unable to at the moment.
While we continue to fund glasses distribution where we can without compromising the health of our partners or the community, it’s important that we continue to prioritize public health and safety. To that end, we are responding to the immediate needs of our longest-standing partner, VisionSpring, to protect healthcare workers and slow COVID-19 transmission in high-risk communities where they work—principally in India, Bangladesh, and sub-Saharan Africa. As of April 1, 2020, for a portion of Warby Parker glasses purchased, personal protective equipment and prevention supplies will be distributed to people in need.
VisionSpring is leveraging their supply chain, community mobilizers, and network of hospitals and clinics to provide frontline health workers with protective goggles, face shields, surgical and respirator masks, medical gowns and more. In addition, community health workers and rural pharmacists are receiving washable cloth masks. With our funding, VisionSpring is also setting up hand-washing stations and distributing hygiene kits for households. VisionSpring estimates that this COVID-19 response plan will directly serve over 500,000 people through the end of 2020.
We’re confident about this approach for a number of reasons. First, we believe that it provides the support necessary for both immediate and long-term community resilience, particularly in the marginalized, under-resourced areas where our nonprofit partners work. This shift will also help create a strong sourcing and distribution network for protective gear, bolstering VisionSpring’s emergency COVID-19 relief efforts and preparing their vision services providers for long-term changes in infection prevention and control practices. VisionSpring’s executive team has extensive experience in disaster relief, and with our refocused funding, we’re helping ensure that they have enough financial support during this difficult period to continue to share their valuable expertise, provide necessary aid, and return to vision services safely.
Like so many others, we could have never imagined these extraordinary circumstances and the effects they’d have on our Buy a Pair, Give a Pair partners and participants. Vision for all remains our ultimate objective, and we’re working to find safe ways to resume all of our glasses distribution programs. In the meantime, we’ll keep evolving the ways in which we collaborate with our partners, serve our communities, and take steps to remediate the challenges brought forth during these uncertain times.
Published on December 28, 2020
2.5 billion people around the world need glasses but don’t have access to them; of these, 624 million cannot effectively learn or work due to the severity of their visual impairment.
To help address this problem, we work with a handful of partners worldwide to ensure that for every pair of Warby Parker glasses purchased, a pair of glasses is distributed to someone in need. There are two models we employ:
1) Empowering adult men and women with training opportunities to administer basic eye exams and sell glasses for ultra-affordable prices. (This accounts for the majority of our distribution.)
2) Directly giving vision care and glasses to school-age children in their classrooms, where teachers are often the first to spot issues
From the beginning, VisionSpring has been our primary partner in the Buy a Pair, Give a Pair program. We’ve supported their social entrepreneurship model internationally, which makes it possible for low-income men and women to acquire and sell radically affordable eyeglasses, earn a living, and care for their families. In addition to providing vocational training, this model makes eyecare significantly more accessible in communities with few or no other options. Over 50% of VisionSpring’s customers are getting glasses for the very first time.
In 2015, we created Pupils Project, our program with a number of organizations and local government agencies, like the Department of Education in New York City and the Department of Health in Baltimore, that provides free vision screenings, eye exams, and glasses to schoolchildren. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, vision disability is the single most prevalent disabling condition among children in the U.S.; our Pupils Project model eliminates barriers to access by providing free prescription glasses and meeting children in their classrooms, where vision issues often first come to light. We also support a similar school-based model in Mexico, with the organization Ver Bien, that helps bring glasses to elementary public school students across the country.
(This is cool: As part of our work in Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University is conducting a longitudinal study to better understand the correlation between the intervention of vision treatment and reading scores as well as the benefits of ensuring access to glasses for children in urban settings.)
From Mexico to Zimbabwe, Bangladesh to Sri Lanka, our impact has reached
This is just the start but our sleeves are rolled up, and we’re excited to move forward together.