Kelly and her mom have built a prototype of a window mask to help the people with hearing impairment

"I have been passionate about French Sign Language since my childhood. Previously, I was a student as well as a teacher at CAPEJS - an institute that is specialized to teach people with hearing disabilities. My passion in the field and my profession as a teacher have enabled me to understand the need for equal opportunities for people with hearing disabilities.

Image: Kelly Morellon
Image: Kelly Morellon

I am Kelly Morellon from Chevrières, France, and at the age of 21, I founded the 'Main dans la Main à Chevrières Association' (Hand in Hand Association) that aims to build a community of people with hearing disabilities together. In addition to this, we also raise awareness and promote the use of sign language.

During the initial days of COVID-19, it was difficult to understand the severity of this disease. I had started my new job just two weeks before the breakout. Since I am pregnant I fall in the vulnerable category and hence confined myself.

One day my husband started feeling sick which added to my horror. I could not meet my parents or my brother. My association had to stop all the operations. My husband and I ended up staying at home all day and watching the news. This only made me feel more dejected and helpless. We feared that the consequences of this situation would be really big if not handled professionally.

The world was advised to wear masks when going out in public. This is probably going to be a norm for quite some time. A few months ago, one of our friends with a hearing disability said, “This mask is an enemy for the deaf”. Even though I was aware of the problem, but this sentence shook me. This made me think about my friends with hearing loss who only understand the conversation by lip-reading. I have a hearing impairment too so I knew how important it was to come up with a solution to help people like me.

I decided to use my knowledge of window mask prototype development and shared this idea with my mom, Sylvie Morellon. She absolutely loved the idea and readily accepted the challenge. She took the initiative to research the acceptable guidelines to manufacture masks. We designed the mask to be 100% cotton and machine-washable. The design of the transparent plastic window is large enough to ensure the virus cannot penetrate through the gaps. It is also removable to make it easy to disinfect. The other challenge was to ensure that the plastic window does not fog while speaking.

To this day, it is a prototype, and we are improving it.

Image: Kelly with her mom, Sylvie
Image: Kelly with her mom, Sylvie

One of the members of the association who is deaf was able to use the mask successfully and gave us good feedback. That was such a sigh of relief. The news about these masks spread across France and the demand increased. We started receiving so many calls and messages each day. Earlier people addressed these masks as 'the mask for the deaf', however, these masks must be worn by people with no hearing disabilities so that a deaf person can easily lip-read. With the help of media, we were able to break the communication barrier and our idea reached many people.

I am touched by the stories of people who call us and share their personal experiences with these masks. This makes me so proud of my mother’s generosity. Without her great efforts, I could not have made this possible. We are not forcing anyone to wear these masks. Our intention is to respond to an existing problem. We get so happy to see that people are stepping up to buy these masks in order to make the lives of deaf easy. Being able to communicate is a fundamental trait of a human being, and I am so grateful that people are making this possible for this section of society. 

Now when I look back to the time I felt dejected, I feel that hope was one thing that kept me from giving up. I also learned that you do not need to be highly educated or rich to bring a change in society. Lastly, we all must see people for who they are without limiting them to their disability or their illness. Allow people to live a normal life without having to constantly justify themselves or apologize for being who they are, let us respect everyone around us."

You Humanity pays respect and gratitude to Kelly and Sylvie for going above and beyond to contribute towards Humanity.

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