Have you ever wondered how people who are deaf-blind communicate among themselves? There are diverse communication methods that use, for example, variations of sign language, tactile alphabets or Braille displays. The disadvantage of those methods is that most of them require of an interpreter and the methods themselves limit the spontaneity of a conversation. That started to change in 2007, when a group of deaf-blind people in Seattle thought of a way of interacting directly among themselves.    

They created protactile. According to AJ Granda, one of the protactile pioneers, protactile "means that we value touch for purposes of communication." Protactile is to explore the world through touch, and to communicate through touch.

It is important to remember that not two deaf-blind people are the same because they have different levels of visual and hearing impairment, and that is why touch gives a superior mean of communication. Jelica Nuccio, another one of the protactile pioneers, explains that, for example, "when Deaf, sighted people communicate with each other, they know that the other person is listening because they nod their heads, their jaw might go slack in amazement, their eyes might widen. DeafBlind people miss out on that kind of information."   Something similar happens to people who are blind but have good hearing. In the case of deaf-blind, communication using the touch is more effective.

Let's see what we are talking about.  The digital publication Quartz created this fantastic video showing how a protactile communication works. The video features Clifton Langdon, a researcher at Gallaudet University who is deaf, and Oscar Serna, his research assistant who is deaf-blind.

If you want to see a more in depth explanation of protactile, check the document "Protactile Principles" published by AJ Granda & Jelica Nuccio.



- "How do Deaf-Blind People Communicate?" American Association of the Deaf Blind, February 11, 2009, http://www.aadb.org/factsheets/db_communications.html

- A. Granda and J. Nuccio, "Pro-Tactile Vlog #1." Welcome to Protactile: The DeafBlind Way, February 14, 2013, http://www.protactile.org/2016/03/pro-tactile-vlog-1.html

- S. Morrison and R. Voight-Campbell, "What is ProTactile and What Are Its Benefits?" Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Fall 2017, https://www.tsbvi.edu/fall-winter-2017-issue/573-tx-senseabilities/fall-2017/5651-what-is-protactile-and-what-are-its-benefits

- A. Granda and J. Nuccio, "Protactile Principles."  World Association of Sign Language Interpreters, http://wasli.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/PT-Principles-Movies-Final.pdf

- K.E. Foley, "DeafBlind Americans developed a language that doesn’t involve sight or sound." Quartz, October 31, 2016, https://qz.com/758851/deafblind-americans-developed-a-language-that-doesnt-involve-sight-or-sound/


back to index blog news