As the region’s only mobile eyecare provider, nonprofit organization half Helen offers Central Texans the clear vision they deserve.
Through its presence at schools and community organizations, half Helen provides more than 7,000 Austin area children and adults with access to vision care, which impacts every area of their life.
In the 2022-2023 school year, half Helen supported students through:
comprehensive eye exams
pairs of glasses
The Importance of Early Eye Health
From understanding a math problem in class, to learning a new hobby, to driving your children back home safely – clear vision is imperative to a family’s quality of life. Specifically for children, early detection and treatment of vision issues can make a significant difference in their academic career and future.
half Helen, the only mobile eye care provider in Central Texas, recognizes the important role eyesight plays in children’s learning and development. To catch potential vision impairments, the organization provides in-school vision screenings during children’s formative years.
The Opportunity to See More Clearly
At school, 10-year-old Judith was known to sit as close to the whiteboard as possible. half Helen’s mobile optometrist diagnosed her with severe near-sightedness and, two weeks later, Judith had brand new glasses. The moment she put her glasses on, a huge smile appeared on her face: the world far away was suddenly just as clear as what she could see nearby.
half Helen’s vision is to help more children like Judith, specifically among the 78,000 children in the Austin area that lack access to basic vision care. With transportation and cost being the primary barriers to vision care for families, half Helen offers care directly in schools, conducting state-mandated vision screening to identify children who may have vision impairments. When a screening results in a potential vision impairment, the child then receives an eye exam on the area’s first and only mobile eye clinic, optical Prime, at no cost.
Partnering with Central Texas Schools and Communities
To provide integrated vision care, the half Helen team works with dozens of schools to identify children who have failed their in-school vision screening. The students are then invited to the mobile clinics and examined by a board-licensed optometrist who can provide a prescription for glasses. half Helen then returns to the school two weeks later to deliver the glasses to students.
To get kids excited to wear their new glasses, the organization offers 200+ different high-quality, stylish lenses and frames. The mobile service also provides flyers and monthly checkups with prescription glasses, telling children to wear their glasses as much as possible except for the three S’s: swim, shower, and sleep.
optical Prime also visits adults and seniors at community clinics during the spring and summer. With the launch of optical Prime 2, half Helen added nearly 90 days in which they offer eyecare in various community clinics, expanding its reach to the larger Austin metro area.
half Helen continues to look for ways to expand their support. They developed a mobile app called swift Screen that cuts the screening process time in half and sends results directly to parents, while teachers can use the app to connect the results to the school’s information system.
half Helen’s next goal is to create a robust eyeglass education program – for school children and their families. By providing education on why eye health is important, they aim to ensure children and their families know how to protect their vision in the future.
Meet Chelsea Elliott
half Helen’s founder and executive director, Chelsea Elliott, created the program because of her personal experience with in-school vision screening. When she was a student, in-school screenings revealed that she was blind in her left eye and deaf in her right ear. The organization is named after the nickname she gave herself when learning about Helen Keller’s life; being half-blind and half-deaf, Elliott concluded she was a “half Helen.” When Elliott learned that not all schools were able to provide the required vision screening starting at four years old, she built a program that could help.