Protactile-A New Language

protactile-a new language

Protactile is a new language used by the deaf blind.  I’ve known blind people and I’ve known deaf people, but I’ve never met someone who is deaf and blind. And as we know from the history of Helen Keller, they not only exist, they are able to communicate. How they do that has been an evolution and will no doubt continue. In  Helen Keller’s day people could communicate by spelling words in the other’s hands.  Then  sign language  and Braille were developed, and over time deaf blind people realized they were somehow not given the same consideration as others, they had to adapt to others’ way of communicating.  For example signing involves the use of  the space around the person, certain signs depend on it, not much use to a blind person.  The deaf blind then had to depend on interpreters and that made them less independents. In 2005 a group of deaf blind women who were then at the Deaf Blind Service Center in Seattle began to seek another way, for them a better way.  They use touch. They sit with knees touching and use touching  to communicate. Different gestures have come to mean certain words, usually what the word means or evokes. The word oppression can be expressed by pushing down on the arm or thigh. A large car will be translated with something that means it is heavy such as a weight upon the arm or some other gesture conveying the importance of the car. A pat on the back is a sign that the person is here. As a more formal way of communicating  Protactile was developed about 15 years ago by Jelica Nuccio a deaf blind person at the center in Seattle. She is now aided by one of her co-founder Aj Granda and was later joined by John Clark and together they founded the Deafblind Interpreting National Training and Resource Center through which they teach this new language which has attracted the attention of linguists who are beginning to  think of it as a language all its own. Having had a sister who was a quadriplegic and could not move at all I am familiar with the handicaps humans can conquer and still thrive. Protactile is not only a reminder it stands as a testament to that conquering and thriving.

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