Dear Fabulous Reader
It is my great pleasure to introduce you to my opticianry student, Tender Vang. She is delightful, inspiring and agreed to share her story with you.

Ms. Specs:  What inspired you to become an optician and join our optical program?
Tender Vang: I felt it was not a job for me because of my disability. I saw opticians using both their hands to read prescriptions, fix frames and adjust frames on patients. After I left my career as a teacher assistant, my sisters convinced me to join the optical world with them. I wanted to believe I could do this kind of work without a hand, but I could not imagine it.

Before I jumped in, I tried to find another person like me to see that it was possible. My sister asked her lab manager, and surprisingly, he had a friend who had the same disability and still worked as an optician.

I had so many questions: How? What about the tools he uses? Does he have any special machines that help him? I wouldn’t know unless I found out. I signed up for the program and if it works out, great! If not, it’s OK, just do something else. I will not lose anything but can at least gain something.

Was there a moment when you thought this may be more difficult than expected?
Yes. It was in Dispensing Lab I. We were adjusting frames for the first time, and the professor asked me to put a frame in standard alignment, then adjust it on a lab partner. It took the entire class to put one frame in standard alignment. At home, I had my sisters demonstrate how they adjust and fit frames. I practiced again and again. I finally accomplished this and felt so good!

The manager I was working with spent an entire morning with me on how to adjust frames. After he demonstrated how it was done, he left me alone with 10 other frames to adjust in as much time as I needed. There were plastic, metal, semi rimless and rimless mounts. I got good at plastic and metal, but not on rimless, because holding the tools was the challenge. The manager gave me some tips on how I might hold the tools. He really tried to put himself in my shoes. It was fun, and I was able to assemble rimless parts to one whole frame twice.

Let’s talk about the fabulous device your father made for you so you can read the markings on a PAL for layout/markup and neutralization.
During campus clinical, my professor kept using the PAL identifier. That was another challenge: How was I going to hold the progressive lenses and mark them at the same time? At work, I saw other opticians using one hand to hold the lenses up to the light and their other hand to mark them. I looked at the types of PAL identifiers out there. I couldn’t find one that fit my needs, so I came up with the idea to “put arms around them!” I purchased a PAL Identifier and asked my father if he could assemble the add-on arms. He said it was easy! It took him one day to figure out how to put it together, exactly the way I pictured it! When I used it for the first time, it made my assignments much easier. I even took it to work and was able to read PALs without assistance, but most importantly, I was ready for Dispensing Lab 2.

What message do you have for others?
My parents never treated me special or differently from my siblings. They held us to the same expectations. There were times when I was afraid to do things in front of others because I wanted to fit in and be accepted, but I realize that being afraid stops me from living and enjoying life.

I believe that humans are designed with beautiful qualities. I have always kept the proverb my parents taught me in my heart, and that is “do hard work, doing good with my hand so I may share something with someone in need.” I could never say that I couldn’t do something until I tried with all my might to make it possible, even if I failed once or twice. We can do anything we want if we put our hearts to it, there is no limitation!

See Well and Be Well,
Ms. Specs in the City
Laurie Pierce, ABOM

Do you have a question for Ms. Specs? Please send your question to [email protected], and we may feature it in a future column.