[Ads-l] Tactile language by & for DeafBlind community

Mark Mandel markamandel at GMAIL.COM
Fri Jan 7 20:11:44 UTC 2022

*A new language has been born in the Northwest*

By Sage Van Wing (OPB)
Jan. 5, 2022 5 a.m.

It’s not often a new language emerges.

But in the last 15 years, a new language was born right here in the Pacific
Northwest. It’s called Protactile, and it was created by a group of
DeafBlind people who prioritize touch.

One of the people at the center of creating this new language is Jelica
Nuccio. She recently moved to Monmouth, Oregon, where Western Oregon
University just received a grant for $2.1 million from the U.S. Department
of Education’s Rehabilitation Services Administration, or RSA, to help
train Protactile language interpreters.

DeafBlind people like Nuccio have traditionally used variations on sign
language to communicate, but it can be easy to miss important details in a
language that is designed to be seen.

“We can’t grow if we always are only getting things secondhand from other
people who are seeing them in the world firsthand because people are
uncomfortable shifting to a tactile ground,” Nuccio said. “There have been
years and years and years of isolation for DeafBlind people.”

Jelica Nuccio is one of the founders of a new language called Protactile.
It allows DeafBlind people to communicate directly, without having to rely
on an American Sign Language interpreter.

Protactile was born when Nuccio first took over the Deaf-Blind Service
Center in Seattle. At that point, she began to advocate for DeafBlind
people to communicate with each other without the use of interpreters. “I
said no, we don’t need interpreters between us in our midst 24/7. We can
run this thing ourselves directly in contact with one another,” Nuccio said.

“The original intention was not to create a language: it was simply to be
in communication with each other directly.

“Once we got in touch we realized that we were happening upon some
different communication practices,” Nuccio said. “So we brought in some
other DeafBlind people and we started interacting using those communication
practices. We got a linguistic anthropologist involved. We basically
created a space where everyone is DeafBlind and Protactile and asked: ‘If
the world was just full of DeafBlind people — there were no hearing or
sighted people on the planet — what would we do? How would we do it?’”

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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