Optician Creates "Special" Eyewear

When Maria Dellapina’s youngest child, Erin, who has down syndrome, was 20 months old, she needed glasses. Ms. Dellapina, an optician/frame buyer, at a private Ohio practice at the time, was sure she could find her daughter the “perfect” pair, only she couldn’t.

 “Nothing would fit properly on her face, mainly because of the facial features of down syndrome — low bridges, small ears set high or low and narrow PDs,” she explains.

Ms. Dellapina says she was convinced frames with a lower bridge and temple placements could be made to meet her daughter’s needs and the needs of others who have down syndrome. Therefore, she began drawing designs and contacting frame manufacturers until she found one and secured start-up money from a friend to launch the frame company Specs4us (Superior Precision Eyewear for Children who are Special) ( in Burton, Ohio in 2004. It became her full-time job.

The estimated occurrence of down syndrome is between 1 in 1,000 to 1 in 1,100 live births worldwide, reports the World Health Organization. Further, almost 87% of children who have the condition need glasses by the time they enter pre-school.

 “In 2008, the first frames arrived on Erin’s ninth birthday, which was wonderful,” she explains. “I named the frame line ‘Erin’s World.’ They’re made of titanium and custom-designed with a lowered bridge, extra-wide frame fronts and shortened temples, which are either 180° spring hinges or TR90.”

Today, the frame line ships worldwide and includes 16 styles that come in three to four sizes, up to 30 colors and typically retail for $164. In addition, Specs4Us have been embraced by others who have small bridges, such as infants and African American and Asian children and adults, with sales increasing 15% to 20% annually since Specs4Us’ launch, Ms. Dellapina says. OM