Half Helen Helps People See with Her Mobile Eye Clinic

When Chelsea Elliott was young she nicknamed herself ‘Half Helen’ after she found out that she was blind in one eye and deaf in one ear. Today ‘half Helen’ is the name of her foundation she started to help children and adults identify and aid their vision. Part of their efforts involve their very own mobile eye clinic called Optical Prime.

“Every time that I help a child see clearly, it helps me heal,” Chelsea shares. “We’re here to help the world see clearly.”

Video Transcript

Meet Chelsea Elliott
Austin, Texas

Chelsea Elliott: Half Helen is a childhood nickname. I was four years old when I failed a vision test and learned that I was blind in one eye. And a year later in kindergarten, a failed hearing test revealed that I was deaf in one ear. So in fourth grade, when I learned of Helen Keller’s life, I very boldly declared, “I am half blind and half deaf; I’m basically half Helen.” And I had no idea that my childhood nickname would come to characterize my life’s work.

Camera pans across Chelsea’s office showing packages of glasses and a CNN Heroes award in recognition of her remarkable efforts and selflessness to change the lives of others.

22-year old Chelsea wanted to ensure that all children received a vision and hearing screening. And I had done some research and discovered that 42 of the states in the U.S. provide vision and hearing screenings, and that there were eight that did not at the time.

And so I had just discovered this very cool piece of equipment called the spot vision screener. And I actually have one here. 

Chelsea holds up the device.

It uses multicolored infrared light to scan the surface of the eye, and capture 29 measurements to actually assess whether or not a vision issue is present.

My purpose is to help children and adults see clearly, and this is the instrument in which I could make that happen. Or the starting point, how to make that happen, I should say.

Chelsea pushes buttons on a machine that adds lenses to glasses frames.

I have an older brother who is an epidemiologist. My brother, being the epidemiologist, said “Helping identify a vision problem is great, but if there isn’t an access for that family to receive follow-up care, so what? What’s the big moment, or what’s the point?” And that got me thinking about, he’s right. I couldn’t tell him that at the time, (laughs) but it started me on the path, the journey to discovering what it takes to launch a mobile eye clinic.

Optical Prime By half Helen is a 32-foot tiny house on wheels, mobile eye clinic. 

Chelsea opens the door to the cheerful mobile eye clinic decorated with drawings of people in colorful glasses.

It’s honestly going to be one of our biggest pride and joys, because one of our values here at half Helen is ingenuity. We believe that everyone, regardless of background or circumstance, has inherent value, and deserves to be treated with dignity and significance and respect.

Every time that I help a child see clearly, it helps me heal. I’m like one step closer to healing. Keep an eye out on us. We’re going to help. That’s what I want to say. We’re going to help the world see clearly, but that’s exactly what we’re going to do.

We’re here to help the world see clearly. And if you need help, contact us.

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