MA DeafBlind Community and Friends Benefit from Weekend “Pro-Tactile” Training

by Lori Siedman and Elaine Ducharme

Pro-Tactile (PT) is the newest development in DeafBlind communication. It is a method, and an attitude shift and tool. Developed by Jelica Nuccio and aj Granda, two DeafBlind community leaders from Seattle, Washington in 2000, Pro-Tactile has been gaining support and recognition in the DeafBlind community since its introduction. The method fills gaps in visual information, making one-on-one and group discussions more inclusive for DeafBlind participants. Pro-Tactile supports everyone, enabling inclusive conversation and building bridges across communities.

Jelica and aj explain in their vlogs that just as Non-Deaf people use sound and voice to communicate, and Deaf people use sight to communicate, Pro-Tactile relies on touch. Touch is what promotes connection and understanding in the DeafBlind community. Pro-Tactile conveys facial expressions, environmental cues, and awareness about who is in a DeafBlind person’s proximity. Pro-Tactile uses touch to provide feedback cues, non-verbal responses to what is being communicated, what’s happening in environment around the conversation, for example, if someone is nodding or if an audience is applauding, laughing, yawning, or texting, and where the action is taking place.

In August 2013, Elaine Ducharme, Director of DEAF, Inc.’s DBCAN program, learned about Pro-Tactile. Elaine realized that the Boston DeafBlind community could benefit from it, and when she returned to Boston, DEAF, Inc. organized a Pro-Tactile workshop for Deaf, DeafBlind, interpreters, SSPs, and friends of the community.

DEAF, Inc.’s Pro-Tactile workshop was offered over the weekend of March 7 and 8, 2015, presented by Jamie Pope and Steven Collins, of Washington, D.C. The Saturday morning session had 16 DeafBlind participants. The Sunday morning session was for Interpreters/SSPs/Deaf Community members and friends;, approximately 50 took part. Sunday afternoon, the DeafBlind participants rejoined the training, and the whole group, nearly 70 people, joined together in activities and practice. Special thanks to Donna Boucher, Rachel Judelson, Jeanette Ocampo-Welch, and Cara Schwartz, our volunteer interpreters, and to volunteers Dana Haggar, Jennifer Kronmiller, Steve Perreault, Drew Pidkameny, Victoria Sengstack, and Eliza Swieczkowski. You helped make the day a huge success!

Funding for DEAF, Inc.’s Pro-Tactile workshop was made possible in part by generous donations from Boston University Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services, Deaf Blind Contact Center (DBCC), MassRID, National Interpreter Education Center, Northeastern University ASL Program, and individual donors.

Pro-Tactile is a radical form of communication and interaction. It empowers DeafBlind individuals and the DeafBlind community to make decisions about how they communicate and interact with their environment. Pro-Tactile can be utilized by anyone, whether they are able to see or hear or not. The PT way is pro-touch, pro-experience, and pro-responsibility – enabling DeafBlind individuals to choose how to handle themselves, their communication, and ultimately, their world. Thus, Pro-Tactile is also political. It challenges sighted privilege. Pro-Tactile is a rejection of the pressure from the dominant society to conform to sighted-hearing norms.

To promote the use of Pro-Tactile in Boston, Lori Siedman is introducing monthly Pro-Tactile Happy Hour (PTHH) meetups. Everyone is welcome! No experience required! An introduction to Pro-Tactile techniques will be offered a half-hour before the meetup. The first PTHH meetup will be Saturday, April 25, 2015 at 4:00pm at Patron Mexican Restaurant (formerly known as Sunset Grill) 138 Brighton Avenue, Allston, MA.

PTHH also has a Facebook page - please click “LIKE” and join the Facebook page at Pro-Tactile Happy Hour in Boston. To add your email address to the monthly PTHH mailing list, send an email including your name and email address to BostonPTHH@gmail.com.

Hands Waving for 2nd Annual Voices Off!

By Kelly Kim and the ASL Immersion Committee

Hands were waving for DEAF, Inc.’s 2015 Voices Off! - ASL Immersion. The second annual Voices Off!, which took place on Saturday, February 28, was a fun, jam-packed full-day ASL experience.

Thirty-six students, some with basic ASL skills, others who have been using ASL for years, came together to immerse themselves in the ASL language and culture, and support each other in developing their skills and fluency. During the day, they participated in workshops on DeafBlind experience and communication, taught by Elaine Ducharme and Lori Gonzalez; fingerspelling, taught by Kelly Kim; numbers and numbering, taught by Jim Lipsky; the family tree, taught by Jill Hatcher; and facial expressions, taught by Tim Riker.

As always, the day started with registration, breakfast and an ice-breaker. Students “turned their voices off” for the day. To get to know each other and start practicing their ASL, students were sent on a scavenger hunt. Each had a different set of characteristics and they had to find someone who matched them, like “Find someone who has an older sister”. During the day, they played games, like Deaf Jeopardy and Charades, led by Kendra Timko-Hochkeppel.

As part of the DeafBlind experience, students got the opportunity to wear special goggles that interfered with their sight in different ways. Some distorted what they saw or narrowed their vision to a very small point. Other goggles blocked their sight altogether. They took turns guiding each other around the area. They could practice using tactile ASL — signing into each other’s hands. With the help of DeafBlind Interpreters who volunteered during the day, Elaine and Lori showed off the new conversation and interactive method called Pro-Tactile.

Other ASL-English interpreters volunteered during the day - Rachel Judelson, Mikey Krajnak, Lena Laferriere, Joe McEachin, Celia Michau, Sara Patterson, Deborah Perry, Janine Sirignano, and Charley Thorn. ASL users from the Deaf community who volunteered for the day provided support in the workshops, conversation practice for students, and offered corrections and tips to expand students’ practical use of ASL. Volunteers included– Marlene Coleman, Dan Foley, Joan Hannah, Ellen Kennedy, Graham Lyons, Colleen McGilpin, Robin Raymond-Meehan, Steven Simmons, April Smith, and Matthew Tran.

During meals, there was time to socialize in ASL, get to know new friends, ask questions and share stories. Students, volunteers, and instructors enjoyed breakfast, lunch, and dinner, thanks to donations from local business (Bazaar Foods, Boston Liquors, Dunkin Donuts, Grasshopper Restaurant, In-house Café, Price Chopper, Stop and Shop (Allston), Starbucks Coffee donated by Sharon Applegate, Trader Joe’s (donated by Tim Riker), and from the kitchens of our own Sharon Applegate and Kendra Timko-Hochkeppel. We are grateful for the support of our business neighbors, and we encourage our friends to support them, too.

Photo credit: Daniel Peters

Honoring Tom Keydel, Retiring Board President

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Mustached male dressed in a tan jacket and tie stands with his award, smiling.

Tom Keydel with his award commemorating his seven years of service to DEAF, Inc.

Tom Keydel, DEAF, Inc.’s Board President, is retiring from the Board at the end of December, 2014.  For the past 7 years, Tom has been a committed member of the Board, a tireless contributor, and a wonderful fund-raiser for DEAF, Inc. Before becoming Board President, Tom served for 3 ½ years as Board Treasurer.

Tom has supported DEAF, Inc. not only with his time and energy but financially as well. He has always believed in DEAF, Inc.’s mission and goals. Throughout his tenure, Tom has contributed his time and expertise to almost all of the Board’s committees, including (but not limited to) the Strategic Planning Committee, the Fundraising Committee, and the Finance Committee. You will often see Tom at DEAF, Inc. events, such as our spring Run/Walk for Deaf Pride at the James Joyce Ramble; Flatbread’s fundraiser; our Annual Community Meetings; and the Annual Deaf Community Thanksgiving dinners.  Tom’s most recent initiative is a GoFundMe matching-gift campaign to support Communication Access services at DEAF, Inc.

Tom will continue working with DEAF, Inc. in an adjunct capacity, serving on our ASL Expansion Campaign Committee and our Anniversary Committee, which is planning for DEAF, Inc.’s upcoming 40th anniversary.

Thank you, Tom, for all you’ve done for DEAF, Inc. as a dedicated volunteer and member of our Board of Directors.

Boston Evening Clinic Awards Project HOPE

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Boston Evening Clinic Foundation. Keepers of the Flame.The Boston Evening Clinic Foundation has awarded Project HOPE a grant to support access to health information and health services for Deaf, DeafBlind, Hard of Hearing, and Late-Deafened people. The Boston Evening Clinic takes a special interest in programs, like Project HOPE, that help address barriers people’s access to health information and health care. DEAF, Inc. and Project HOPE appreciate the strong partnership we have with the Boston Evening Clinic Foundation and the difference they help make for our community.

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