Thoughts on ProTactile (PT)

Guest Post by Jasper Norman

I am too humble to share earlier till now. I realized this may help people understand where I come from. I want to THANK YOU Jelica Nuccio and Socorro García for whole support and believed in me. I grateful for Tactile Communications (TC) happening in DeafBlind Community! I can’t images what would we DeafBlind would do without TC!  If you wish to have me visit your school please email me:

Published on Mar 23, 2018
1st Grade Students at California School for the Deaf, Fremont prepared a presentation for an ASL Festival at school. The theme of the ASL Festival was “Deaf Heroes with Intersectional Identities.” The class used information from DeafBlind Latinx ProTactile Teacher/Activist, Jasper Norman. The class learned about the DeafBlind community from Jasper’s biography he provided the class and by meeting and interacting with a DeafBlind person in our CSD community.

(Video Description: First grade students are taking turns signing the biography of Jasper Norman. All of the students are wearing the same plain black t-shirt and standing in front of a plain background. There are images throughout the video in the corner of the screen to support the ASL. The video is in black and white.)

We chose Jasper Norman as our DeafBlind hero.  Jasper is Latinx and he is DeafBlind. Jasper is tall and thin with short curly dark brown hair and wears glasses. He has a mole by his mouth and has hair on his chin. He has brown skin and brown eyes.  We aren’t showing a picture of Jasper because of “sight privilege”.  Sight privilege is your ability to easily see while people who are blind do not have that privilege.  All Blind people can see differently.  DeafBlind is one identity.  It is not Deaf and Blind separate, it is written and signed together: DeafBlind.  Now that we explained sight privilege, we are ready for our presentation.

Jasper’s family is from South America.  His mom is from Medellin, Columbia and his dad is from Vina De Mar, Chile.  Jasper was the first person in his family to be born in the USA. Jasper was born in Mount Kisco, New York. His parents found out that he was Deaf when he was two years old. They were shocked and didn’t know what to do!  In South America, there wasn’t a lot of information about Deaf education. They didn’t know how to teach a Deaf child. When Jasper was three years old, he started attending New York School for the Deaf.

When he was thirteen years old, Jasper found out that he has Usher’s Syndrome.  Usher’s Syndrome can vary from person to person.  Some people can’t see anything on the sides, only the area in front of your face.  Jasper couldn’t believe that he had Usher’s Syndrome and was in denial.  He didn’t want to accept it.  During elementary school, Jasper felt fine socially. However, in high school, kids picked on him and bullied him.  In high school, most of Jasper’s teachers were white. Jasper would share his experiences from his culture and his home, but his teachers disagreed with him.  This made Jasper feel colonized.  Everyone was picking on him and Jasper felt like he had to always protect himself.

In 2002, Jasper graduated from New York School for the Deaf.  He still felt like he was struggling with his identity and decided to move to Seattle, Washington.  In Seattle, he analyzed himself and explored his DeafBlind identity.  As time went on, Jasper met many other DeafBlind people and realized that DeafBlind people are smart and skilled.  He was amazing and felt relieved!  Finally he was able to accept himself as DeafBlind.  He started to learn something called ProTactile or PT.

(Video des of two DeafBlind women: AJ Granada and Jelica Nuccio explaining PT:…  for transcript-
(Jelica Nuccio: That’s right, aj. And I wanted to add—I am DeafBlind and Ushers. Aj is also DeafBlind and Ushers. We both live in Seattle, and most of the people who have contributed to the development of these practices also live in Seattle. Some come from outside of Seattle as well. We want to thank those people. You might notice that aj and I are taking turns and tapping each other’s knees as we communicate [aj pats Jelica’s knee emphatically]. That is part of PT. Now, aj, can you explain why we call these things “pro-tactile”?
aj granda: Yes, absolutely. Many people have asked me why we call it “pro-tactile”. Well, when we put pro- before another word, we usually mean that we support whatever that second word stands for. Tactile, you might think means tactile reception of signs. So many people assume that what “pro-tactile” means is essentially “support tactile reception”.
Jelica Nuccio: But that’s not it! [aj taps Jelica’s knee hard, two times, in agreement].
aj granda: Right. It doesn’t mean that at all. In the DeafBlind world, people do not all use tactile reception. Many people do, but we are not saying that people have to do that. That’s your decision. Remember what tactile really means is “touch”. “Pro-tactile” really means that we value touch for purposes of communication. During this presentation, Jelica and I have been giving each other tactile feedback the whole time, tapping on each other’s legs, and hands, and shoulders, and arms. That is pro-tactile.
Jelica Nuccio: Yes, and when you start from there—from a place of valuing touch for communication, this leads you to the DeafBlind way. So for example, Deaf people communicate a lot using facial expressions and the particular ways that they do that is part of their culture [aj taps emphatically on Jelica’s knee]. Even if one Deaf person uses Visual ASL, and the other one does not, they are still both visual people, who respond to visual cues as communications. We know there is a lot of diversity in our community in terms of communication, and that is fine. The only thing that matters is touch. Without a mutual understanding of the value of touch, there can be no communication. [Jelica points to aj’s hand, where it is tapping excitedly on her knee]. What aj is doing right now is a perfect example. That is how I know that she is listening and how she feels about what I am saying. When Deaf, sighted people communicate with each other, they know that the other person is listening because they nod their heads, their jaw might go slack in amazement, their eyes might widen. DeafBlind people miss out on that kind of information [aj continues to tap on Jelica’s knee enthusiastically, and also signs YES repeatedly on Jelica’s knee]. Hearing people say “hmmmmmm…” when they are listening to one another and this accomplishes the same function as facial expressions for Deaf people. But when Deaf people are talking to hearing people, they don’t attend to those sorts of noises. They focus on the hearing person’s facial expressions and body language and that is how they establish a connection with them. That is how they get a sense of who that person is and how they can relate to them. Deaf people have visible ways of doing that. Hearing people have audible ways of doing that. Being pro-tactile means recognizing that DeafBlind people have tactile ways of doing the same things. When aj taps my leg in certain ways at certain times, it tells me something about what kind of person she is and I have a sense of how we are relating to one another. Touch is our way of being present with one another. It’s about touch. It’s that simple!
aj granda: Yes, although, its simplicity can be deceiving. To reiterate what Jelica has just said— you can see that I am nodding my head right now. Does Jelica know that I am nodding my head? How do you know?
Jelica Nuccio: Head nodding is not natural. [aj taps Jelica’s knee rapidly several times]. That [pointing to aj’s hand] is natural.
aj granda: [nods head and taps Jelica’s knee in the same rhythm]. The head nodding and knee- tapping match. They serve the same function [Jelica nods and smiles at the camera]. If you’re going to nod your head, you have to tap on the knee of the person you are nodding at the same time. Otherwise, they don’t know you are agreeing with them. That is the kind of thing that allows us to share information with one another, and that is being pro-tactile is all about)

Jasper studied PT really hard and finally graduated from Tactile Communications.  Now, he travels all over to teach others about PT.  Jasper’s goal is to continue traveling to teach the world about PT and how DeafBlind really cherish and value PT.  This summer, he will go to Europe, again, to teach about PT.

Our class would like to thank Jasper so much for sharing his story with us. He really taught us the importance of touch for DeafBlind people.  Now we will show you a picture of Jasper. What does the picture look like? It is a picture in black and white.  Jasper is smiling and standing in front of white bricks.
Jasper has a black t-shirt on. Jasper has a necklace with braille on it and a heart.  Here is his picture.  Jasper lives far, so unfortunately we weren’t able to meet him. Hopefully in the future we can meet.

#jaspernormanpt #protactile #deafblindlatinx #tactilecommunications #chilean #colombian

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