In 1994, US Vision Program was launched in Washington Heights, NY. The model of the program included core components such as visual acuity screening, vision assessment with licensed optometrist, and the provision of eyeglasses. These key services of the program have not altered. However, a key deliverable of the program – the eyeglasses—has changed.
Initially, the provision of eyeglasses was completed on-site- same day. It was a model that literally could have a student enter the room for a vision screening and leave 15 minutes later with a pair of glasses. It was the design of the round frames that allowed the program to carry inventory and assemble the glasses to address students with near sightedness, far sightedness and astigmatism. The US Vision Program was literally a traveling eye clinic and eyeglass dispensary. The round frames were quickly associated with the US Vision Program and over-time lovingly referred to as the “Harry Potters”. In a way, they were magical, because the design allowed us to provide glasses to students immediately.
This innovated approach did present a downside. While students were excited for the opportunity to see and learn, not all of them were excited to do so in round “Harry Potter” frames. This feedback prompted the US Vision Program to explore alternative ways to address the needs of the students. We began by moving away from the “Harry Potters” towards an evolving and diversified frame selection that students liked. We contracted with local vendors to provide the glasses and began returning to the schools for dispensing days.
Over the years, the students’ reactions to our frames have changed dramatically. We never thought that we would have students intentionally failing the screening because they really loved our purple frames. We have found that the key is style, color and choice.
The changed response of the students is best captured by a 6th grader in Queens at the Saints Joachim and Anne School. He put on his glasses and quickly struck a smile, nodded yes and said: “I’m feeling these. I’m really feeling these.”