This Texas teen experienced vision impairment first-hand and saw its effects throughout his community so he decided to tackle the issue not only locally, but worldwide.
High school junior Soham Govande from Round Rock, Texas knows first-hand the struggles and lifelong challenges of vision impairment. He grew up with extreme myopia, also called nearsightedness which is the most common vision impairment under age 40 (1). “Rising up with a visible impairment, I noticed how vital glasses had been to my life,” he expressed. He along with other family members in the house suffered from myopia but luckily, they had the means to correct their vision.
This privilege Gavande did not take for granted, especially after volunteering at a local neighborhood eye clinic. At this clinic, he witnessed many individuals who suffered for years and even decades without proper eye care or corrective vision care. “Most of the sufferers that the clinic was seeing had by no means seen a watch physician of their complete lifetime, like 30, 40, 50 years,” Govande stated. “And that was when I realized that having accessible vision screening was so important to detect these visual impairments early so that people are informed and they know they need to receive further help.”
After a conversation with the clinic program supervisor, he realized that this problem was larger than he realized. In the United States alone, over 90 million people are considered at high risk for vision loss or impairment, and only 50% of these individuals have seen an eye doctor in the past 12 months. Globally, more than 2.2 billion people suffer from vision impairment including vision loss and blindness (2). In 2020, the World Health Organization reported that “globally, at least one billion people have a near or distance vision impairment that could have been prevented or has yet to be addressed (3).”
“I think everybody deserves the ability to see the world.” – Govande
Using his background in programming, Gavnde developed the free app OcularCheck – available now on Android and Apple. This app serves as a visible acuity software that medically measures someone’s vision – similar to an optometrist’s eye exam. The app can refer an individual to seek additional assistance from an actual optometrist if needed.
Gavande has already received positive feedback from happy users who have been greatly influenced by this app. Gavande recalls one user review that stated that the app “was capable of diagnosing their daughter’s myopia.” This review “touched [his] heart” and “made [him] joyful” knowing that he helped this user’s daughter especially since Gavande grew up with myopia as well.
Through multiple partnerships, OcularCheck has now reached over 100 international locations. “It’s superb that at the moment, our know-how allows us to realize a lot and overcome distance limitations,” Govande declared. “It’s exhilarating. You could never have imagined that so many people were in need of a service like this.”
Govande knew he wanted to take his mission to a broader scale so he partnered up with local teens and Pendse, 19, Jacov Avina, 19, and Riya, 16. Together, these teens co-founded the worldwide nonprofit Together We See. This nonprofit is youth-led and aims to bring awareness to and diagnose visual impairment around the world. Together We See has already had success and in 2020 had donated over 500 glasses to local Texas veterans in VA hospitals in Austin and San Antonio. The nonprofit hopes to eventually increase its reach to areas where eye care is most restricted and less available such as rural areas and some international areas.
Featured image via Soham Govande / Together We See