SHARE: Media piece on Pro-Tactile ASL in Quartz, “A language for the DeafBlind”


Quartz wrote about Pro-Tactile ASL, link below, featuring faculty member Terra Edwards, her colleague and a DeafBlind user of PT Oscar Serna, and PEN faculty Clifton Langdon.

DeafBlind Americans developed a language that doesn’t involve sight or sound

“Pro-tactile ASL borrows bits and pieces from ASL, adapting them to be useful for people who can’t see. Rather than having the using their own hands as a reference for communication, people who convey information with pro-tactile ASL use the perceiver’s hands and body. The speaker will touch the perceiver’s body and mover his or her hands; in doing so, the speaker takes advantage of the perceiver’s proprioception, or sense of where his or her limbs are. “When we’re talking about a particular shape, instead of showing the shape in space, you’d show [by moving] the perceiver’s arm,” said Serna.”

To read more and see video, visit the Quartz site using URL below.

In case not available in original post, here is a transcript of captions and video descriptions with time stamps for Quartz’s “A Language for the DeafBlind” (compiled by Clifton Langdon):
0:00-0:05 Clifton Langdon & Oscar Serna facing each other. Oscar signs using PTASL. Text with an arrow above Oscar appears: “Oscar Serna.”
CC: Oscar Serna is speaking in a brand new language
0:05-0;11 Text appears: “I’m really stressed out” with “stressed out” in bold.
Oscar: “I’m really stressed out!”
0:12-0:16 Oscar standing, directly facing the camera.
CC: Oscar is both deaf and blind, or, “DeafBlind.”
0:17-0:19 Oscar and Clifton walk outside.
CC: He works at Gallaudet University, on a project tracking the evolution of a language for those who can’t see or hear.
0:20-0:22 Text on screen shows animation of “Pro-Tactile ASL”
CC: This new language is called pro-tactile ASL. The ASL stands for American Sign Language, which uses visual signs for words and phrases.
0:23-0:29 Clifton appears on screen and signs visual ASL version of what Oscar said about being stressed.
CC: The ASL stands for American Sign Language, which uses visual signs for words and phrases.
0:30-0:35 Oscar uses PTASL to talk about a car accident
CC: Pro-tactile ASL communicates entirely through touch.
0:36-0:43 Clifton uses visual ASL. Text appears: “I cut down a tree.”
CC: For example, here’s a sentence in ASL: Clifton: “I cut down a tree.”
0:43-0:50 Oscar uses PTASL. Text appears: “I cut down a tree.”
Here’s how Oscar would say the same sentence in pro-tactile ASL: Oscar: “I cut down a tree.”
0:50-0:59 Three circles appear showing ASL, Fingerspelling and Braille with “ASL” “Fingerspelling” “Braille” written above each.
CC: Historically, DeafBlind people communicated through American Sign Language, Braille, and fingerspelling, where each letter of each word is signed into a person’s hand.
1:00-1:02 Helen Keller photo shown with circle drawn around her hand on another woman’s hand emphasizing how she communicated.
CC: Helen Keller, maybe the world’s most famous DeafBlind person, used fingerspelling.
1:02-1:14 close up shot of Oscar, Clifton and his PhD student, Lauren Berger using PTASL together
CC: But those are limiting, especially when DeafBlind people want to talk to each other.
CC: Pro-tactile ASL emerged in the early 2000s, as once-isolated DeafBlind people began to form communities.
1:14-1:19 Clifton, Oscar, and a CDI on screen. The CDI is interpreting to Oscar from person off screen.
CC: DeafBlind people have been adapting American Sign Language and adding gestures for things many languages don’t have words for.
1:19-1:23 slow-motion replay with circle drawn around Clifton’s hand on Oscar’s arm to emphasize that Clifton is tapping on Oscar’s hand.
CC: For example, this tap on the hand is like nodding.
1:23-1:28 Oscar and Clifton walk down the hall and chat.
CC: The language has been evolving ever since.
1:28-1:42 Clifton sits and signs using visual ASL. A title appears: “Clifton Langdon. Professor, Gallaudet University”
CC: Clifton: “Now what’s new in pro-tactile is that we’re seeing things that were used in visual sign language be transition from the use of space to the use of the perceiver’s body.”
1:43-1:48 Two circles appear. The first contains cartoon eyes. The second contains a cartoon ear.
CC: Traditional theories of language defined it as something seen or heard.
1:48-1:49 A third circle appears containing a cartoon hand.
CC: But Pro-tactile ASL proves that language can also be communicated through touch.
1:49-1:54 Oscar talks to Clifton and Lauren outside.
CC: And for the people speaking it, it allows for a life with richer communication.
1:55-2:07 Oscar talks to Clifton. A title appears: “Oscar Serna. Research assistant, Gallaudet University”
CC: Oscar: “Since I became pro-tactile, all of the channels have opened up; information flows freely.”
“It’s like going from dial-up to broadband.”
2:07-2:11 Fade to black with credit to reporters: Nushmia Khan & Katherine Foley

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