One mother in Burton, Ohio, just made life better for countless people with Down syndrome. Maria Dellapina, an eyeglass frame designer and buyer, finally did what no one else has yet: Designing eyeglass frames for people with Down syndrome.
Dellapina was inspired by her own daughter with Down syndrome, now 16-year-old Erin Farragher, who needed glasses when she was about 20 months old. Dellapina, naturally, tried to find the perfect pair, but soon realized conventional frame designs didn’t properly fit Erin. Since people with Down syndrome often have low nose bridges, for instance, glasses can often fall off their faces, as Dellapina explained:
“[Conventional glasses] would fall down her nose and just didn’t sit right on her face. She didn’t want to wear them.”
At the time, Dellapina already had about 25 years of experience making glasses, dispensing frames and lenses and working as a frame buyer. Because of this, she decided to make the frames herself, stating:
“It was very frustrating because I needed this for my daughter, and I knew I couldn’t be the only one.”
After speaking with parents of children with Down syndrome, Dellapina soon realized that there was a real need for these glasses to be mass manufactured. However, it wasn’t easy for her to just start her own company, considering she was a single working mother with four kids, two of them toddlers. Clearly, she had little time or money to invest into getting the frames made, as any single working mom will tell you.
Then, in 2007, Erin became ill after an ear infection turned into a complicated infection–which coincided with Dellapina losing her job. She took this as a sign to start the business–luckily, she finally found a manufacturer in South Korea willing to make the glasses, while a friend lent her the money for the first prototypes.
Eight years later, Dellapina now runs Specs4Us, which stands for “Superior Precision Eyewear for Children who are Special.” As of now, the company boasts 14 different styles in sizes from infant through adult, and has sold glasses in 28 countries so far. Dellapina even won a Toyota Mother of Invention Award last December, which included receiving a $50,000 grant to further expand her business.
What makes her job worth it? The fact that she’s helping people. She explained:
“I get up every morning knowing I will get an email or Facebook post of a child in the glasses with comments on how much it’s changed their lives, and it puts a big smile on my face. You can’t have a better job or one more rewarding than doing something to help people all around the world.”