Deseret News
Utah Deaf and Blind takes part in new signing training

TAYLORSVILLE — People who are deaf-blind have to communicate and experience the world around them using mostly just one sense: touch.

Recently, a group of deaf-blind Utahns learned an emerging method of sign language that could change their lives.

Jelica Nuccio and John Lee Clark, both nationally recognized trainers, came to the Sanderson Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Nov. 8-10 to teach deaf-blind individuals and interpreters Protactile American Sign Language.

While tactile sign language helps the deaf-blind to understand by feeling someone’s hands while they sign, protactile signing provides a way for the deaf-blind to better communicate and understand conversations, and more fully experience the world around them. It utilizes the whole body, such as the legs, arms, chest, back and head.

For example, lightly tapping on a deaf-blind person’s arm or knee signifies that the listener is nodding in agreement. Quickly rubbing back and forth on the same areas would signify “no,” a disagreement or another negative reaction. Drawing a question mark on the deaf-blind person’s chest means the listener is confused or doesn’t understand.

Protactile ASL is new to Utah’s deaf-blind community, Stephen Ehrlich said. It was developed “organically” by people in the deaf and blind community starting in 2007, and he thinks Utah was just out of the loop for a while.

Ehrlich, who was born deaf and visually impaired before eventually losing sight completely, participated in the training. He said although having three full days of training was great, he wishes they had more.
“It was very rich experience for everyone involved,” he said in sign language via interpreter Clay Anderson.

Ehrlich teaches sign language at the Sanderson Center, particularly to adults who are developing deaf-blindness. He is also part of a committee that will discuss what the next step will be in continuing protactile education.

Printed in Deseret News
November 24, 2018