Human language

A new protactile language emerges in Oregon

Jelica Nuccio is one of the founders of a new language called Protactile. It allows deafblind people to communicate directly without the need for an American Sign Language interpreter. Western Oregon University in Monmouth, Oregon, just received a $ 2.1 million grant from the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) of the US Department of Education to help train Protactile language interpreters.

Kristyna Wentz-Graff / OPB

It is not often that a new language emerges.

But over the past 15 years, a new language has been born right here in the Pacific Northwest. It’s called Protactile, and it was created by a group of deafblind people who favor touch.

One of the people at the center of the creation of this new language is Jelica Nuccio. She recently moved to Monmouth, Oregon, where Western Oregon University just received a $ 2.1 million grant from the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) of the US Department of Education to help train interpreters. of Protactile language.

Deafblind people traditionally use variations of sign language to communicate, but it can be easy to miss important details in a language designed to be seen. “We can’t grow up if we always only get second-hand items from other people who see them first-hand, because people are uncomfortable switching to tactile terrain,” says Nuccio. “There have been years and years and years of isolation for deafblind people. “

Protactile was born when Nuccio first took over the Seattle Deafblind Service Center. At that point, she began to advocate for deafblind people to communicate with each other without resorting to interpreters. “I said no, we don’t need interpreters between us 24/7. We can handle this thing on our own directly in contact with each other, ”Nuccio said.

The original intention was not to create a language: it was simply to be in direct communication with one another. “Once we made contact, we realized that we had different communication practices,” says Nuccio, “so we brought in other deafblind people and we started to interact using those communication practices. , we involved a linguistic anthropologist. We basically created a space where everyone is deafblind and protactile and we asked, “If the world was just full of deafblind – there were no hearing or sighted people on the planet – what would we do. -we ? How would we do it? ‘ “

Nuccio says the experience of learning and creating the Protactile language changed his life. She now runs a business called Tactile Communications, which trains deafblind people to be more independent. She is also the principal trainer of the DeafBlind Interpreting Institute at Western Oregon University. “I really realized how information about the human experience can be devoid of information about the human experience when people are not connected and directly affected,” says Nuccio. “So touch and Protactile language are the foundation of my life. It really is. I mean, it allows me to function in the world.

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