More than just a seat at the table

How can we apply Pro-Tactile philosophy to social mealtimes with our DeafBlind kids?

Two 7-year-old girls sit on adjacent but different sides of a rectangular table, about 2.5 feet away from each other, eating mini ice cream cones. Kamirah (Deaf-sighted) is on the right and she is looking at the camera and smiling and flashing a cool kid v sign. Oona (DeafBlind) is on the left of the frame, she is eating her ice cream and looking straight ahead of her, unaware that the photo is being taken.
Oona and Kamirah sit on adjacent sides of a rectangular table, eating mini ice cream cones.

This month I am taking an online course on Pro-Tactile philosophy with DeafBlind poet and community leader John Lee Clark. If you read my earlier post introducing Pro-Tactile American Sign Language, then you may recall that I enthusiastically recommended his autobiographical work Where I Stand: On the Signing Community and my DeafBlind Experience (Handtype Press, 2014) as an introduction to DeafBlind culture. Check out this glowing review by deaf sci-fi author Kristen Ringman.

Back to the topic at hand: how do we convene at the dinner table, or any seated conversational space, with our DeafBlind kids? So often, the physical dimensions and layout of conventional sitting furniture make it difficult for DeafBlind people to maintain tactile contact even with the person sitting right next to them – let alone being able to touch everyone gathered around the table! This is just one of the many lessons I learned from our first reading in John Lee Clark’s Pro-tactile philosophy class: his essay entitled “My Dream House.”

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