Warby Parker has teamed with the Baltimore City Health Department, the Baltimore City Public School System, Johns Hopkins University and nonprofit provider Vision to Learn, on “Vision for Baltimore,” a citywide initiative to ensure students in Baltimore’s elementary and middle schools have universal access to glasses.
“Far too many young people across Baltimore lack access to quality vision care,” said Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. “As a city, we have to not only build better schools, but also ensure our students have everything they need to be successful in school and in life. This project is a testament to the transformative power of public-private partnerships and will make a real difference for children in communities across our city.”
The Baltimore City Health Department performs 22,000 vision tests for pre-kindergarten, first-grade and eighth-grade students. The Baltimore City Public School System serves more than 62,500 students and the health department and Johns Hopkins believe that as many as 10,000 of these students need glasses, many of whom do not get them for myriad reasons.
“It is common sense that if students cannot see the board, they will struggle to learn,” said Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen. “Public health is about going to where people are to deliver critical services and provide care. Vision for Baltimore is about providing every child glasses who needs it, regardless of ability to pay, so that we can eliminate barriers to learning, level the playing ground of inequality, and set up all of our children for success.”
Since 2012, Vision to Learn has provided children with more than 53,000 eye exams and 40,000 with glasses, all free of charge, in low-income communities throughout California, Delaware, Hawaii and Iowa. The project in Baltimore will be Vision to Learn’s largest operation on the East Coast to date.
Glasses for the program will be donated by Warby Parker, the New York-based eyewear brand. The company has committed to providing two pairs of glasses to approximately 2,750 Baltimore City School students between pre-kindergarten and eighth grade throughout the 2016-17 academic year.
“We believe glasses have an immediate and positive impact on a person’s life. When you can see, you learn and succeed,” said Warby Parker cofounder and co-chief executive officer Neil Blumenthal. “Since 2010, we’ve been committed to building a business designed to solve problems, actively addressing the lack of access to glasses through our distribution model abroad and, most recently, in our backyard in New York. Today, we’re excited to partner with Vision for Baltimore to give students the glasses they need to excel in school because we believe everyone has the right to see.”