`Pro-tactile` is

Pro-Tactile Workshop
MRID Conference
Rochester, MN
October 19, 2014
Presented by
Lee Clark
Kimberly Williams
With Credit to aj Granda and Jelica Nuccio
The DeafBlind Way
aj Granda and Jelica Nuccio
Pro-Tactile Training
• ‘Pro-Tactile’ is the socio-cultural
philosophy currently shaping all
deaf-blind practices: linguistics,
interpersonal, and politics.
• DB Community has contributed to
this philosophy and method in close
collaboration with aj Granda, Terra
Edwards and Jelica Nuccio.
Definitions & Distinctions
‘Pro-tactile’ is:
• a philosophy,
• a method, and
• an attitude.
It should not be reduced to
Haptics (relating to the sense of
touch) although it is very much
about touch.
The philosophy of ‘Pro-Tactile’ is
centered in the DB experience but it is
also about responsibility of the DB
person to:
take the initiative,
think for themselves,
seek out information, and
do tasks on their own rather than
passively receiving information
second-hand at the discretion of
Pro-, not Anti• ‘Pro-Tactile’ is pro-touch i.e. protactile, pro-experience and proresponsibility.
• It is not anti-vision, anti-hearing or
• Just as being “pro-reading” is not
being “anti-math”, pro-ASL is not
• While ‘Pro-Tactile’ promotes the
use of touch, it does not discourage
any additional access a DB person
may be able to make use of.
Pro-Tactile as a Method
As a method ‘Pro-Tactile’
supports ‘hands-on’ learning and
‘hands-on’ experience rather than
an experience limited to the DB
person’s partial vision / hearing or
vicarious information.
Sighted Pro-Tactile Method
The way sighted people and
deafblind people use touch will be
different, but when sighted people
are with DB people, this method
instructs them (sighted people) to
use touch to:
• Maintain a presence (stay in touch
with the DB person)
Staying in Touch
The next slide shows a picture of
a sighted person using touch to
communicate non-verbally. This
may simply be “I’m here” or it
may be back-channel information
(feedback) during a conversation.
Notice the interpreter on the left
staying in touch with the DB man.
The interpreter on the right is doing
the same, while the two DB people
are using one hand to talk and one to
listen and do back-channeling.
Pro-Tactile as an Attitude
‘Pro-Tactile’ as an attitude or value
1. The responsibility and ability of DB
people to seek out and get direct
information on their own, rather
than to depend on mediated
experiences as filtered through
SSPs or others.
2. A rejection of the pressure from
the dominant society to conform to
sighted-hearing norms.
Pro-Tactile is for
sighted people too
Sighted-hearing person
Sighted-hearing person
• Sighted people listening tactually
(as well as with their vision) is a
radical thing. It is parallel to
hearing people communicating
with each other using Sign
Language (and no voice) when in
a deaf environment.
• Thus ‘Pro-Tactile’ is also political.
It challenges sighted privilege.
• Ergonomics is the study of
efficient use of space to save our
energy and prevent injury.
• The work of communication is
both mental and physical.
• Focuses on the physical aspects
of working and communicating
with DB people.
• ‘Back-channeling’ is the linguistic
term for the response we give to
the speaker as we listen. In
English, it’s the “oh,” “umm,”
“sheesh” to show our response.
• In ASL it is all the facial
expressions and head nods as
well as the signs “[Y-hand-nod]”
and “awful”.
Back-Channeling, cont.
• Back-channeling can be verbal, or
non-verbal, auditory, visual or
• Back-channel signals indicate you
are paying attention and listening.
• They indicate your response or
reaction (including feelings) to
what is being said.
Tactual Back-Channeling
• In the next slide, aj granda is
talking to a group. Co-instructor
Jelica Nuccio on her left is
listening. Notice Jelica’s left
hand ‘nodding’ on aj’s knee, as
she listens.
• The interpreter on aj’s right is
also leaving her hand on aj’s knee
to indicate her passive presence.
Reporting Back-Channeling
• Back-channeling is what the
listener gives while listening.
• Feedback might come as verbal
reporting of the responses of
• For example, an SSP might inform
the DB person that the clerk is
TASL: Tactile ASL
• TASL is a new language that is scaffolded on,
but distinct from VASL (visual ASL).
• Since the beginning of the pro-tactile
movement in 2007, TASL has been diverging
from VASL, becoming its own distinct
• Current research shows that new
phonological, semantic, and deictic stems are
emerging in TASL.
Signs Located on the Head
• In visual ASL, signs made near the
face are in the focal area of vision
and thus can make minor
distinctions that have meaning. For
example the signs for ‘onion’ and
‘apple’ are only distinguished by a
shift in location of 3-4” on the face.
• Other sign pairs (e.g. ‘man/woman,
brother/sister’) are similarly
distinguished by such minimal
differences in location.
Minimal Pairs: Spatial
These spatial distinctions are not
clear tactually and thus the
custom is to modify them slightly
either in sign choice or in
context. The sign chosen for
‘man’ for example is the one
related to ‘boy’ but made with
one firm movement.
Elements of TASL
Elements of TASL include
• Movement (including rhythm)
• Tension (intensity)
• Percussion (e.g. one hand striking
• Location
• Handshape
TASL Classifiers
• aj granda, Terra Edwards and
Jelica Nuccio have theorized and
played with ASL to modify the
signs and their execution to make
them clear tactually.
• Instead of using the signer’s body
to show relationships, the signer
uses the listener’s body (the body
of the DB person).
TASL Classifiers & Maps
Classifiers and describing space are
especially different in TASL than in
visual Sign Language.
You will, for example, sometimes
need to use both hands to show
relationships regardless of whether
the DB person typically reads using
only one hand.
TASL Classifiers and Maps
• Tactile classifiers (using the
listener’s body) is more clear and
communicates more effectively
than signing in an unmodified form
of visual ASL or a signed form of
English with many adjectives.
• The same principle operates when
describing spatial relations such as
in describing the location of
various things in a room.
Size, Shape & Location
• ASL is particularly efficient at
identifying and describing things
using the characteristics of size,
shape and location.
• Without vision, this is often not
clear. What is especially unclear
is the relationship between and
among parts.
Cat Sitting in the Tree
In the next slide, the signer (on
the right) is using the DB
listener’s arm as the ‘tree
classifier’ instead of her own arm.
This makes the spatial relations
of cat to tree clear to the blind
Tactile Classifier: Cat in Tree
• Pro-tactile is the sociocultural philosophy currently
shaping all deaf-blind
practices: linguistics,
interpersonal, and politics.
• Back-channeling is important
• TASL is a new language
Experience is the Best Teacher!
Thank you for
Jelica Nuccio:
[email protected]

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