In the whirlwind year of 2020, Nikolas Kelly and his innovative team took a leap, throwing their hat in the ring of their college’s business competition with their groundbreaking startup. Little did they know their idea was soon to be a winner. Nikolas Kelly is now the cofounder of Sign-Speak, a sign language translator and avatar made to bridge the gap between deaf and hearing communities. Not only did Nikolas’ idea win, but he was also awarded a plethora of prestigious scholarships alongside partnerships with Amazon and Google.

A photo of Nikolas Kelly arms crossed and smiling

Nikolas Kelly was born in Missouri and grew up deaf while becoming fluent in American Sign Language. He was a first generation college student at the Rochester Institute of Technology, where he became the president of the American Production and Inventory Control Society. Had then led a program called No-Voice-Zone, which was designed to teach hearing people ASL. 

Nikolas experienced the barriers that language can create and was determined to find a solution. He had been told his whole life that being deaf meant he wasn’t intelligent. Flash forward to 2020, he and his team were able to make language inclusive with their AI translating technology. 

Like any team, they experienced a couple challenges. Not only did they create Sign-Speak during a pandemic, but they also had to find funding for it as college students. Luckily, they were able to apply to various competitions and won the money they needed. Now Sign-Speak has joined with companies like Amazon, and Google which allow their users to access advanced technology.

A woman speaking american sign language with two other people in front of ipads.
Sign-Speak in Washington, D.C.

Nikolas’ journey first sparked from the spirit of his father. Witnessing his father’s dedication, he too was ignited with the desire to make a change in the world. His advice for the tech aspirants? Be unabashedly yourself. He firmly believes in the power of diversity and champions the call for inclusion. Now, Nikolas and his cohort have become entrepreneurs of change, echoing their message across conventions to inspire the next generation of leaders

Nikolas’ idea has opened the gates of society for deaf individuals. He’s shattered barriers, fostering a communication landscape that celebrates inclusivity. Sign-Speak, his own idea, has resonated deeply within the deaf community, sparking transformative changes. From education to employment, from heartfelt communication to simply connecting with others, they now experience a world teeming with opportunities. It’s minds like Nikolas’ that weave the tapestry of unity, crafting a more inclusive society.

To learn more about Sign-Speak follow their journey on Instagram!

Food for Thought

What do you think about ideas like Nikolas Kelly’s? Do you think all technology should be accessible?