Essilor International has announced the acquisition of a majority interest in Technologies Humanware Inc., a world leader in the design and distribution of electronic assistance products for the blind and vision impaired.
Founded in 1988 and based in Drummondville, Quebec (Canada), Humanware offers a wide array of equipment that is marketed mainly in visual rehabilitation clinic networks. The company recently launched Prodigi™, a two-in-one magnifier that helps the vision impaired whether they are sitting or moving about and which was awarded a Silmo d’Or gold medal at the Silmo international optics show in Paris in September. This configurable personal vision assistant combines a portable tablet and a touchscreen desktop device that automatically adapts text size and format to each user’s vision. It also includes a textto-speech feature.
Low vision concerns people whose visual acuity, after correction, is less than 3/10, meaning that the person’s autonomy is limited. Due to the lack of affordable, easily accessible solutions, only around 5% of the 140 million affected people worldwide own low-vision equipment. According to demographic forecasts, some 400 million people will suffer from low vision in 2050.
Commenting on the partnership, Hubert Sagnières, Essilor Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, said: “Helping the vision impaired to gain greater autonomy is the natural extension of Essilor’s mission of enabling more than 4.2 billion individuals to enjoy a better life through better sight. Thanks to the partnership with Humanware, Essilor has taken a major step in the development of its offering of high performance, affordable and widely distributed equipment.”
Essilor has been active in the field of low vision for several years. In cooperation with Institute de la Vision in Paris, Essilor has conducted research to better understand the aging of the visual system, which is at the heart of the vision-impairment debate. Essilor has also developed lenses designed to limit the occurrence of ocular pathologies and has begun marketing to eyecare professionals Crizal® Prevencia™, a lens that reduces the harmful effects of blue light, which is partially responsible for age-related macular degeneration.
“We are very pleased to join Essilor, whose expertise in terms of optics and access to Eye Care Professionals distribution networks will speed the innovation process for the benefit of the vision impaired,” said Gilles Pepin, Chief Executive Officer of Humanware. “Together, we will help to develop this notoriously under-penetrated market around the world.”
Humanware’s devices will extend the range of lens filters, magnifying glasses and other optical products and assistants that Essilor already sells to Eye Care Professionals. In the future, research teams from the two companies will combine their expertise in the area of portable optics and electronics solutions to design and develop new ergonomic, highly mobile equipment.
With 150 employees, Humanware markets its products throughout North America and in a number of European countries, as well as in Australia and certain parts of Asia. Generating revenue of around 35 million US dollars, the company will continue to be led by the current management team.