As I posted on this site before, I have learned about a new line of frames that are specifically designed for Children with Down Syndrome. I think these frames are very cool, and judging by the testimonials, so do a lot of other people.
Recently I had the opportunity to interview the designer and creator of these frames, Maria Dellapina:
Dr. B: I was an optician before I became an Optometrist, so I know how difficult it can be to find the right frame. There are many patients who can benefit from these frames. Were you surprised that there were no frames like specs4us before?
Maria: Erin was close to two when She needed glasses. At the time I was working for an Optometrist and had been there almost 10years. One of my duties was Frame buying. I thought with all my connections I would have no problem finding the perfect frame for her. I became frustrated very quickly. I knew the type of frame I was looking for, I had been in the optical business over 20 years and working with children was my specialty. Yet my own daughter proved to be my biggest challenge.
I can see some changes in the frame such as lower mounting of the bridge to bring the lenses up. What other changes did you make and how does it improve the functionality of these frames?
The answer to having a frame fit Erin correctly seemed so simple to me. I needed something with a lower bridge and temples attached to the eye wire. The frame also needed to be wide enough to fit the temple area with out pushing against the sides of her face. I also found every frame I tried on her had temples way too long. That all seemed so simple to fix. Parents will see the difference of how this frame fits on their child immediately. Having a frame that is positioned and fits correctly means improvement in the child's vision, less fussing with the glasses and a happier child.
How long did it take to go from idea to frames you can distribute?
The idea that something needed to be done came to me the first time I went searching for the a frame for Erin. I had experienced all aspects of optical except the manufacturing of a frame. It took me 4 years to get someone to take my idea seriously. I would contact a company , send them my drawing and they would return them redesigned to look like a typical frame on the market today. I finally found a company whose CEO called me and talked to me and finally understood what I wanted to accomplish. I heard from other companies I talked to that there wasn't a big enough need for them to help me! I was not giving up.
Did you try several prototype models on Erin before arriving at the final product? What was that like?
I had an E-mail list of parents interest in the frames saved for a couple years. The list stretched across the U.S and as far away as Belgium. When the prototypes came in I searched my list and picked several children out to offer them the frames to try. The response was everything I hoped it would be.
I'm sure that you have gotten great feedback from children and parents. What has been your most memorable so far?
It brings tears to my eye when I hear how happy the parents and children are. My Sister summed it up with a comment she posted on About.com, when SPECS4US was posted as the site of the day:
Terri Dellapina says:
When I first saw my Niece Erin we all knew she was an angel gift from above and with that comes a special mission. My sister recognized Erin's mission here on earth and is now able to share that with the world. Behold ERIN’s WORLD through SPECS 4 US !
Do you have plans for other frames or other products?
Erin's world is expanding all the time. More sizes and styles are due in shortly and will keep coming in. My goal is to fit infants through adults. I think glasses should look like an accessory not a necessity. Also to have Clip-on sunglasses to add to the frame line in the future.
I have one more question: If there was just one thing that you wanted my readers to know, what would it be?
That our mission is to improve the sight and quality of life for Children with Down Syndrome by providing custom frames to fit their unique needs. If any parent knows of a child whose family can't afford to get them glasses, please let us know. I would like to try and help.
Thanks so much for your time Maria. I hope the line is very successful and can benefit many children!