In a breakthrough for detecting blindness in people from the world’s poorest countries, The Foundation and a visionary UK inventor have launched a low-cost medical device that will slash the price of giving sight-saving eye tests.

Called the Arclight, the first-of-its-kind ophthalmoscope costs as little as $9, making it affordable for even the most under-resourced eye health worker.

It could dramatically increase the number of people having their eyes tested, according to The Foundation’s Medical Director, Dr Richard Le Mesurier.

“Arclight is lightweight, durable and solar-powered. It is a dream come true for eye doctors and nurses in the world’s poorest, most remote regions,” he said.

“We think it has potential to bring eye tests to millions of people who would otherwise not get the chance.

“It should be in the pocket of every eye health worker across the developing world.”

Ophthalmoscopes are used by eye health workers to detect conditions like cataract, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. In many places in the developing world, it is uncommon to find anyone who has ever had an eye test, partly due to a lack of medical equipment.

The first 900 have been shipped to eye health workers in over 10 countries including Nigeria, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Fiji with another 8,000 to be delivered in the next year.

They usually cost hundreds - if not thousands of dollars - putting them out of reach for many eye health workers in developing countries.

“Expensive equipment like this often sits in a locked cabinet of a health clinic waiting for the occasional visit from a specialist,” Le Mesurier said.

Arclight is in the spirit of Fred Hollows, whose dream of universal eye care led to the slashing of the cost of intraocular lenses from $100 to $5 in the 1980s – making cataract surgery available to the poorest of the poor.

The huge cost of blindness will be highlighted on World Sight Day this 9 October, in a campaign to bring eye care to all, not just those who can afford it.

The Fred Hollows Foundation provided seed funding for UK based inventor William J Williams to develop the Arclight. Results of field testing in Africa, Asia and Australia have been overwhelmingly positive. The Arclight is also an otoscope - to look into the ears.

Globally, 32.4 million people are blind and 90% of these people live in developing countries.

Fred Hollows said: ‘Good eye service is the right of everybody, not just the wealthy who can afford it’.

Arclight is for sale through the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness.