I have extremely poor vision. I always have. I was that baby who was wearing glasses with the elastic around the back of her head so that I wouldn’t pull them off.
So to frame my perspective (no pun intended), I’ve had glasses since I was a baby, and I’ve had contact lenses since I was thirteen years old.
Eye doctor exams in Canada run between $135 and $210, depending on where you go. To wear contact lenses, you’re required to get an eye doctor exam every year. So, if I were to low-ball an estimate of what I’ve spent on eye-exams from the time I was thirteen to now, my eye exams have cost $2,565
Every major benefit provider in this country will pay $100 for a Canadian to get their eyes checked every second year. So, I will subtract $600, as that would have been paid for by benefits.
Out of my pocket, I’ve paid $1,965 to sit in an exam chair and have a doctor tell me that I have shitty vision.
That, in of itself, doesn’t include the special treatments and tests I’ve required over the years because of my vision being so poor. I can’t even fathom how much that’s gone on to cost. Special requirements aren’t often covered by benefits providers, because apparently I just messed up and should’ve come out of the womb with good eye sight? Let’s low ball my treatments over the years to roughly $5,000.
I have a special prescription for my eyes that makes glasses between $800-$1,200 per pair when I get them. ($800 if I choose the cheapest frames, $1,200 if I try to get something a little more sturdy)
Now keep in mind here, I have no choice. I need to wear some sort of a corrective lens in my eye, or in front of my eye, in order to be able to see. Otherwise I walk into large objects, I would’ve never been able to drive, and would likely fall down stairs. I say that “I’m blind” when people ask. Whilst I’m not legally blind, the world is 50 different shades of fuzzy without some sort of vision correction.
Because I’ve prioritized contact lenses over glasses (they work better for me, my lifestyle, my mood in general), I typically get myself a new pair only once every four years. The reason for this is because I only wear my glasses at night after I’ve taken out my contacts.
If we do the math of when I started paying for my glasses at 13, to now, I’ve owned 5 pair of glasses. Let’s say, I chose the cheapest frames every single time I went (I didn’t but I don’t remember what all of the costs were). $800 x 5 pair of glasses is $4,000 spent on glasses.
To recount, I’ve spent roughly $1,965 on eye exams, $5,000 on special treatments for my eyes and $4,000 on glasses. Right now, we’re sitting at $10,965 spent just to care for my eyes and correct my vision.
Now, I have made the choice, since I was thirteen, to wear contact lenses. This has been a choice that I realize makes things more expensive, but it’s overall suited my life better and has been attainable to me, so I have willingly chosen to do it. I understand that life would be cheaper if I just wore glasses every day of my life. So this isn’t a mandatory expense, but a chosen expense to make my life easier.
The contacts that I wear cost $725 per year. The one thing that I’ve always appreciate about contact lenses is that the fee is always the same. It’s been the same since I was 13 and the price has never gone up, even when my vision has gotten worse.
$725 x 19 years is $13,775.
All major benefits providers in Canada will pay for $100 every two years. Since I wear glasses less frequently then contacts, I’ve always elected to have that $100 go towards my contact lenses. So, if we subtract an estimate of $100×10 years (to be on the fair side), I can take one thousand dollars from the total of my contact lenses. So I have paid $12,775 for contact lenses.
Since I’ve started paying for my own vision care at 13, I’ve spent $23,740.
It is extremely expensive to have shitty vision. And, it’s really a luxury that I’ve been able to afford correcting my vision all of these years. Listen, I’m lucky that for the majority of the past 19 years, I’ve had some form of benefit in some sort of way to help with that fee. But, it’s still fucking expensive with those vision benefits.
With or without benefits, these fees aren’t attainable by a lot of people. I think this is something that a lot of people don’t realize. Vision care is a bit of luxury. Granted I choose to wear contact lenses so my total is more expensive, if I wore glasses every day of my life, I’d likely need to replace them more often, so the total wouldn’t be that far off.
Now, I’ve been very lucky in my life that I’ve been able to afford this luxury.
And sadly, it is still a luxury to be able to see properly in this world.
I can’t even begin to imagine what these eye doctor visits and treatments and whatnot would cost in the United States. Probably more?
As much as I wish all kids could be born with perfect vision, that’s just not reality. There are a lot of kids in this world who just have shitty vision, for no other reason than just because. It can be really hard for their parents to afford eye doctor examinations and glasses, especially if their vision continues to change/get worse.
And for adults, you know, I’m exceptionally blessed to be in a situation where this is a feasible expense for me. I can completely understand, though, this tough for a lot of people. People who really don’t have extra money, people who live pay cheque to pay cheque, people who were laid off in the past year due to COVID, it’s hard to fathom spending vast amounts of money on this.
This is why so many people will go without.
Or, they’ll get glasses of some sort, or contacts of some sort, and just stick with that because it corrects their vision ‘enough’, despite their vision worsening.
A lot of people will just get by with what they have because it’s too damn expensive to get a new pair of glasses, or a new order of contact lenses. Can you imagine? Can you imagine having to get your driver’s license renewed and knowing you’d then have to go get your new glasses in order to get your driver’s license renewed, otherwise you can be denied? It’s an expense, on an expense.
This is something that I care very much about because I’ve always had bad vision and it’s gotten considerably worse with each passing year. It’s expensive to be blind. It’s expensive to have shitty vision. No one chooses shitty vision. Vision care needs to be made more accessible to the masses. The truth is, if your vision isn’t corrected properly, it could be made worse because of that. You could also be subject to frequent headaches, dizziness, increased lethargy, all because your eyes are working so damn hard to just see the world in front of you.
With it estimated that as much as 70% of Canadians needing corrective lenses in order to properly see (I can’t even imagine how high that stat would be around the world!), why isn’t more being done to make vision care and corrective lenses more accessible to people.
You need to see to drive. You need to see to read. You need to see to judge distances, or understand depths, or avoid hazards. Corrective vision should be way more accessible than it is, in Canada and around the world.