Mexican teen develops app to help deaf sister communicate with world

By Anna Martinez

According to Mexico’s statistics agency, 6 million Mexicans are deaf or hard-of-hearing. 

17-years-old Estrella Salazar from Nezahualcoyotl, Mexico, is on a mission to help this population.  

Salazar developed an app that allows people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing to communicate more easily. The app is called, “Hands with Voice,” and it helps connect Mexican Sign Language (MSL) speakers with hearing users. This allows users to use sign language or shift to text and voice. The app is expected to launch later this year.

Salazar’s inspiration for the app came from her 25-year-old sister Perla. Her sister was born with a disorder that affects hearing and mobility. The disorder is called MERRF syndrome. Perla has gone through a multitude of surgeries and physical therapy and was told that she would be unable to learn signs due to her condition.  

Perla faced a lot of discrimination due to her condition which prompted Salazar to ask: “What am I doing to help my sister?” Perla was Salazar’s motivation for starting the app. 

Not only has Salazar developed an app, but she is also enrolled in university where she studies biotechnology engineering. Salazar is also teaching science classes to younger kids near her home in Nezahualcoyotl. 

Salazar comes from a small town where there is not much opportunity. Thanks to Salazar, kids in her hometown now have a chance to learn and reach their goals. 

“I’m really proud to be from here, from Nezahualcoyotl, and to see kids learning and giving it their all to accomplish what they want to do,” said Salazar to “I know young people, children, who have a way of thinking that says: ‘It doesn’t matter where I come from, what matters is what I’m going to do.”

Salazar quickly outgrew the education her hometown teachers were able to provide. Her mom recalls what a fast learner she was. Calderon, her mom, would ask Perla about what she was learning to help her practice and from her high chair, Salazar would give Perla the answers. 

Now she has been chosen to attend the International Air and Space Program which is a five-day camp run by a NASA contractor. Salazar is helping cover the cost by launching a crowd-funding campaign on her Instagram account.

Salazar is also searching for a university in the United States that will allow her to study the neurological impacts of COVID-19, both during active infection and after the illness.

Salazar wants to change the way people think. She wants “to be able to create a culture where, in the future, there will be lots of children working on scientific and technological projects,” Salazar told Reuters. 

Featured image courtesy of Google Images.

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  • Camila Dejesus

    Magazine & Media Editor, Camila Dejesus has been writing since she was a child and enjoys all forms from creative writing down to narrative analysis. She graduated from Brooklyn College with a bachelor's in Television and Radio Production and works full-time at Latinitas Magazine. In her free time, she loves writing stories, water coloring, or playing songs on her Baritone Ukulele. Now, her greatest passion is finding new topics that will engage and inspire Latinx youth.

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