Tactile American Sign Language

Hadley Learning Expert Elyse Heinrich and Learning Designer Diane O'Neill presented this week on Tactile American Sign Language (ASL).

November 7, 2019

Don't miss the next episode

Audio Transcript


Embracing Braille – Tactile American Sign Language

Presented by Elyse Heinrich and Diane O’Neill

November 7, 2019

Elyse H: Welcome everybody to Embracing Braille. My name is Elyse.

Beth: Thank you.

Rhonda: Thank you.

Elyse H: As some of you may know, Vileen, my usual cohost is out of town, so today myself and the cohost Diane will be here to lead the way for our call. I want to start out just give a little bit of background of myself and then I'll introduce our cohost and tell you what we'll be talking about today.

This is Elyse. My background is in working with students who are blind or visually impaired as a teacher of the visually impaired. I worked in school-age program for five years with kiddos from three years old all the way to 21 and working on a lot of braille and technology, some low vision, some magnifiers and that. I love teaching but I was getting a little bit of restlessness and thinking, "What I could do next?" I started going back to school at UW in Milwaukee for American Sign Language, doing some deaf culture and deaf studies there, and really started picking up sign language more and more. I had always dabbled with it in the past, but formally did sign language when I was in different courses for that and started looking around at how could I marry this braille low-vision world with the deaf hard of hearing world?

One of my teachers at the university had encouraged us a volunteer opportunity to work with adults with both hearing and vision loss, or adults who are deaf-blind. And so I jumped in there and started learning and working with both adults with a combination of some hearing and some vision loss. Sometimes when you hear the word deaf-blind you might think of just Helen Keller. We're going to describe a little bit more of that. It's a range of abilities. I was working at the Center for Deaf-Blind Persons, and as you know the story keeps going.

I was looking for something different and a new opportunity came across my desk, and that is Hadley. I've been with Hadley for seven months here and really loving it, bringing all my experience and some expertise to the field here and meeting everyone here. That's a little bit about me. I'd like to turn it over to Diane who can also introduce herself. You might have seen her from Writers' Circle group with Hadley, and she'll be our fellow discussion group leader today.

Diane O: Hi everybody. This is Diane. Yeah. If you've been to the Writers' Circle we've met, if not, hello. I've been with Hadley since 2002 and I'm a learning designer, writing courses, designing courses. It's funny, my educational background is creative writing but that kind of fits the writing I do, but I also have experience in the field of visual impairment. I worked at the Chicago Lighthouse in the deaf-blind program for eight years and I managed the deaf-blind program. Before that, I worked at Chicago Hearing Society for about five years, and there I used regular sign language.

When I worked at the Lighthouse managing the deaf-blind program, as Elyse just said, deaf-blind doesn't mean just like Helen Keller. There's a range. You can be hard of hearing and low vision, and if it significantly impacts your life you can be considered deaf-blind. This word is scary, but there's a big range. Again, you can be low vision and hard of hearing. We use a whole bunch of different communication methods. I'm excited to talk about, to hear Elyse and everybody talk about tactile ASL, I did use tactile ASL with a lot of people I've worked with, but I also used a lot of other things. Some people have listening devices, [inaudible] for somebody who was newly deaf-blind, print on palm if there wasn't any other communication method, a lot of braille devices. It was just a lot of communication strategies.

Anyway, it's cool that we're discussing this and talking about deafblindness and braille because I think that of any group, braille is probably the most useful to people with hearing losses just because if communication options shrink in any way, it's just wonderful to have braille out there. That's a little about me.

Elyse H: Thanks so much. Yes. Go ahead, Beth.

Beth: This is Beth. I was going to say I'm real curious how deaf-blind people use a cane because I would think travel would be very difficult, like crossing streets because obviously they can't hear the cars.

Elyse H: Definitely. Yeah. That's a great question. How does someone who's deaf-blind use a cane in navigating their environment?

Beth: Yeah.

Elyse H: Yes. Well, let me segue because that's a great segue over to explaining a little bit more about deaf-blind, and I'll get back to that cane question.

Beth: Okay. Yeah.

Elyse H: To give a little background, people who are deaf blind is an impairment of both hearing and vision, but it's also a unique disability whereas our senses, our vision and hearing sense help us with some long-distance queues. Maybe at one point you're able to look in the room and see who is there or scan the room and see where an open seat is. You might be able to listen for some sound queues, maybe the birds chirping or traffic going by, maybe there's a vacuum cleaner going in the other room or a telephone ringing. With your vision and hearing you can catch those more long-distance queues.

With your smell as you know, it's more of a medium distance. Maybe you're smelling the soup that's warming up or I had oatmeal this morning for breakfast and I could smell that when it was in the microwave. The senses of your taste and touch are more that arm's length away distance.

Beth: Right.

Elyse H: When you taste something or you're touching it it's in your hands or it's near your body, and it's giving you those environmental queues. As we talk about this with the vision and hearing loss, your vision is lower or you may be totally blind that you're not able to look across the room and find a chair or find a friend or find a door, and tapping your cane like you said isn't giving you that auditory feedback so you're more reliant on things that are within an arm's length reach in your environment.

The medical definition of deaf-blind is a severe hearing and vision loss, but I really want to talk about the personal definition because these are people, we are all people, and it's a lower incidence of a disability but within this there's a very great variability of things that we can and cannot do. People are considered to be deaf-blind when the combination of their hearing and vision loss causes such a severe communication and other developmental delays in your daily life needs and requires significant and unique adaptations on daily life for communication and technology, and just daily living tasks.

Diane and I are here to talk about some tools that someone with low vision or hard of hearing or a combination of those could use to be successful, to be independent, to be connected with those in life. One of them is American Sign Language. Diane, do you want to chime in and explain a little bit about ASL?

Diane O: Sure. American Sign Language is a beautiful language. Basically, it's a language just the same as ... It's recognized by linguistics as being a language the same as French, German, you name it, Spanish. It's the same as any other language as far as being a full-fledged language. It has all the different grammatical aspects of that. It's not English and the word order is not the same as English. For example, instead of saying, "I'm going to visit my mother's blue house," you might say, "Blue house my mother's I go visit." I'm not saying it correctly, Elyse you probably know, but I think you say when, what you’re talking about, what about it. It's a different structure.

If you see somebody trying to write and their native language is American Sign Language, it may be difficult to understand because they're using a different syntax. What's interesting is when I started working with people who are deaf-blind, a lot of people who were born deaf they use tactile ASL which is basically you would use regular American Sign Language and they feel it and they understand it. One of the key things when you do that is to remember that the person can't see your facial expression the way somebody could if they were watching the American Sign Language. We have to make sure in the sign language that you give the kind of queues or have the information. Elyse is going to tell more about that.

Elyse H: Yes, definitely. I'll piggyback. Sign language uses different hand shapes, different movements, different locations whether in front of your body or to the side, and the orientation of your palm is facing or if your palm is facing down or left side, right side, all is involved in ASL. Using a lot of those non-manual markers creates the language, that visual gestural language. As we said, if you're not able to see the hands moving or the facial expressions and the location of the signs, tactile ASL is both tracking or hand under hand signing. That arm's length away comes to the person where there's a receiver and a provider who are communicating by touch. The person who's deaf-blind may hold the person's forearm, their wrist, or place their hand gently in the palm of the provider's hand.

Beth: Okay.

Elyse H: So they're close to each other and following the movement from the visual language through touch in the air. And then, also going on that non-manual markers, your facial expressions, your eyebrows, your head tilting, your nodding, some of those that you might miss are now going to be conveyed through pro-tactile, which is touch that's practiced on the body. I will put a blanket statement out there and say not everyone who's deaf-blind likes or even uses pro-tactile, so please don't rush up to someone and start tapping their arm or their shoulder trying to get their attention. It can be very off-putting.

Diane O: Can I add something really quick, Elyse?

Elyse H: Yes, yes.

Diane O: One thing that I forgot to mention before, for example when you are signing to somebody who is deaf-blind versus signing to somebody who's sighted, I think the thing you'd be aware of since they can see your expression, you might want to add things like, "Ha ha," or smiling, just something to indicate the emotion. I'm thinking of a person who doesn't do the pro-tactile. Pro-tactile is relatively new, so an older person may not know it unless they've had the specific training. I just want to add that. That is what I was kind of meaning as far as being aware of the fact that they cannot see the facial expression.

Elyse H: That's a great point.

Beth: With sign language, sometimes deaf people just feel the hand but they don't ... Any other part of the body. Is that still pro-tactile, like they just feel the hand? Is it like spelling into the hand like Helen Keller did?

Elyse H: Some people do that, yeah. They can do finger spelling into the hand. They could also if they're familiar with the print alphabet, there's an option called print on palm where you would create and draw the letter with a finger into the person's palm spelling out a word or spelling out a name or sentences even. That's called print on palm. And then there's also one that Diane and I were talking about earlier this week, I forgot to mention, is using the person's fingers, so your index fingers, middle fingers and ring fingers as if it were the keys on a brailler. The provider would gently squeeze which finger according to what that combination would make a letter.

I've seen this in person in real time, and it goes really, really quick, but the two people communicating are familiar with each other and with their style, that way they can do letter by letter to create words, to create sentences, to create a conversation with each other by using their own fingers and just a gentle squeeze as if they were brailling, but using their own hands. Yeah. All right.

Deaf-blind is a spectrum. You may have experience for yourself, you can have low vision or based on the time of day sometimes the lighting is harder or your field of vision may change or you're having a progressive loss, then adding that to a hearing loss, sometimes you have hearing aids or an amplified telephone or some vibrating devices attached to an alarm clock or a doorbell to alert you of what time, of if you're cooking something when the timer's going off. There's a lot of different tools out there to help someone who's deaf-blind.

I think we'll talk a little bit about alternative communication methods. Diane, I'll ask if you want to jump in, and then open the floor for some questions and discussion from everybody.

Diane O: Let's see. I know the braille communicator and I think there's something even more recent as far as technological devices that use braille. One thing I wanted to add at one point, I don't know if now is a good time to give the quote from Jerry Lawhorn about how important braille was to her. Would this be a good time for that?

Elyse H: I think that would be great.

Diane O: Yeah. Like I said before, I think braille seems to be from my experience [crosstalk] losses just because it's another alternative communication thing, plus it's a beautiful system. Jerry Lawhorn, she lived until she was like 99 years old. I was blessed to be her friend for about 20 years, whatever, and she knew braille and she loved braille. She wrote the epilogue to this book called Louis Braille: A Touch of Genius by Michael Mellor. She wrote the epilogue. It was about her visiting Louis Braille's hometown.

I just want to quote a couple of paragraphs mentioning how it impacted her life. She became totally deaf-blind when she was a teenager. For me a teenage girl with exciting daydreams, the future looked hollow, just a hole out there in front of me. The teachers there had her come back to school, they put everything back in braille, and she wrote that, "Rapidly braille filled the empty hollow with possibilities. I turned to braille for learning, for employment eventually working as an instructor at the Hadley School, and for entertainment." Later in this epilogue she writes, "Computer technology has opened new doors: I now join my hearing and sighted friends by sending and receiving email messages and chatting over the phone all because we have electronic devices with braille displays."

Jerry and I used to chat and email a lot. She lived by herself and she was in her 90s and I thought that gave her the independence to be able to do that because she had all those braille devices and knew braille so well.

Elyse H: I love that story. The picture that it paints that her world was a void, an empty hole, but that braille filled into that for her. With my time working at the Center for Deaf-Blind Persons I also met a woman who was deaf-blind who also was the founder of the agency. Just a quick story background. Her name is Ruth Silver and when she was in her 50s, she ... Back in high school she had started losing vision due to retinopathy of prematurity, and her visual field was just closing in and in more and more, and by age 16 she was totally blind with no light perception. And then throughout her life had learned braille and was a teacher in several different schools.

In her 50s she realized she was starting to lose some hearing and wasn't catching the phone ringing or the doorbell or her husband calling from the other room. She thought, "Oh, my gosh. What can I do? What's available to help?" 35 years ago, this was not as widely known or might not have had as many resources are there are now, so she decided in her own backyard she was going to start a group and find like-minded adults and other adults needing support for the dual sensory loss. I was fortunate enough to work with Ruth for a few years when I was working at the Center. She was an avid braille user and reader, had two braille writers on her desk as a backup in case one was failing.

A moment's notice and you could always hear that chunk, chunk, chunk, going on in the background when she was on the phone. One of the skills we were working on was using a refreshable braille device linked via Bluetooth to her iPhone, the iOS device with VoiceOver on. Instead of using gestures to manipulate the device, it was handled by different cords and braille letters or dot combinations on the braille device. She was working with the refreshable braille display and cords in order to get into Facebook. When I first talked with her, I said, "Really? You want to do Facebook? That's your next goal?" She said, "Well, my grandkids only talk to me through Facebook, so I have to be able to talk back to them."

There, it clicked for me and her and we just dove feet first into learning this new refreshable braille device to get into Facebook and to read the messages right back and forth and stay connected with her grandkids. It was a great experience and Ruth is now home in heaven, but her stories and her teachings and her passion for braille has really driven me in my career, and I love hearing on these calls that everyone is in some stage of learning braille or has learned it and used it, and how it continues to help you throughout your daily life. If you feel that you are having a hearing loss or maybe your hearing isn't as great as you thought, please reach out to me or Diane after the call, email or call us. We can definitely offer you some resources or some more contact information for that. We'd like to open it up to Diane if she wants to add anything else, and then open it up for questions from everyone on the call.

Diane O: Diane speaking. One thing I wanted to mention was I'm trying to learn braille tactilely myself. I know it visually, but I'm starting to learn it tactilely. I finished Braille Lit One, I'm in Braille Lit Two. I find it challenging but I'm really enjoying it, so I just thought I'd bring that up because yeah, I'm working on it too.

Elyse H: Which is neat. Beth, I know you had a question before about how someone uses a cane crossing the street.

Beth: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

Elyse H: I'll open that up. Does anybody have any ideas? I'm more than happy to speak to that. If other people had experiences meeting someone with dual sensory loss, I'd love that you could share.

Diane O: Diane speaking. Could I mention one little story really quickly, Elyse?

Elyse H: Yes. That's be great.

Diane O: Yeah. Thinking of how important braille can be, I knew one person when I was at the Lighthouse. He was blind and he was hard of hearing, but he communicated through speech just fine. All of a sudden, he just totally lost his hearing almost overnight. Luckily, he knew braille, and so he communicated with people through a TeleTouch which unfortunately isn't made right now, but it was a device where you could make one braille letter at a time and a person could feel it. That really helped him until he got a cochlear implant, in which case he's back to doing work just communicating through voice.

I just remembered how vital braille was for him and what a big difference that made. I just thought I'd share that story with you because I thought that was a good example of how critical it can be sometimes.

Elyse H: Definitely, definitely, having that background. Thanks for sharing. We have a hand up here. Your phone number starts 303. Can you tell us your name, please?

Estelle: Sure. My name is Estelle. I'm calling from Colorado. I just got in the call late and it sounds like you're talking about deaf-blind, but I'm wondering if there might be some hints you would have for people who are losing vision, enjoying braille but losing the sensory, the touch in the fingers, and that's become a problem. I wonder if you had any hints about how to overcome that so I could continue using the braille.

Elyse H: That's a great question. Talking like a neuropathy or just losing a little bit of sensory in your hands and fingertips?

Estelle: Yeah. I think it's some kind of neuropathy. There is a little bit and I'm trying to find other fingers that will work better, but it's just really frustrating because it's really slow.

Elyse H: I hear that. I'm going to open that question up for our group because I know we have a lot of braille readers with some tried and true techniques.

Dorothy: Hi. This is Dorothy, in Texas. I hear you, Estelle, about the touch. One of the students, and I don't know if he's on the line today, but he has guitar callouses really bad and actually has learned to use the sides of his fingers. I don't know if you've tried to use like a different part of the finger. Maybe that would help. Over.

Elyse H: Thanks, Dorothy. That's a great option to try a different finger or maybe the sides of your finger. I don't know. Is Allen here today? I know he always has some great ideas on how to warm up your hands so to speak, kind of like when you're getting ready to do exercise, warm up your muscles and stretching a little bit. I see some more hands, so let's go to the phone number starts 863. Can you tell us your name, please? This is Allen. Great, great.

Allen: This is Allen. There are several things you can do. One thing you can do is you can take your reading finger and read back and forth, up and down and in circles rather lightly but quick for about a minute. That helps to stimulate some of the blood in the fingertips. If you have a massager, like a neck massager, you can turn that on and set your fingers on there and let that vibration do the same thing, or you can shake them out. That's pretty much it. Or the side of the fingers like Dorothy said. That's a little bit harder to do because the alignment, trying to read across the page might be a little bit difficult. Those are some of the things you can try. Make sure your hands are warm and dry. If they're cold, it's not going to work as well. Over.

Elyse H: Thank you, Allen. Those are some great suggestions. I see we have a few more hands raised. I will keep calling and unmute Cyrille. Can you hear us?

Cyrille: Hi.

Elyse H: There you are.

Cyrille: I have a question. How long does an adult learn tactile ASL?

Elyse H: That's a great question. How long would it take an adult to learn tactile ASL? The adults that I've worked with kind of gradually incorporated that as their vision changed. Some of them knew ASL from years ago, and bringing it more to the arm's length away, maybe the transition would be six months to a year if you're familiar with ASL. Diane, jump in if you have experience too.

Diane O: Yeah. I remember at the Lighthouse we started a sign language class there for people who were visually impaired or blind. They found it helpful to learn. How long it'd take them to completely learn it, so they were fluent? I don't know, but I think within at least maybe six months or something they still could learn some communication and then keep going until they became fluent.

Elyse H: Going from my experience, for me to be fluent in sign language was three years of intense schooling, practicing and going to different social events to ... They call it hands up, so your hands are up and signing instead of voicing and speaking. It's like another language of Spanish or French. It's intense study to learn all the grammatical and verbs, the words, the vocabulary. If I needed to do a tactilely, I think that would be a bigger learning curve for me to feel the location and the movement and then process that, and then to understand the thoughts or the conversation that way.

Diane O: Diane speaking. I just had a thought too. A lot of times people who lose their vision and they learn sign language, sometimes they don't use actual tactile ASL. They might use more of a sign English or tactile, I think it's called contact sign where you're basically using sign language but in a regular English order. I have worked with people who they sign tactilely but it wasn't using ASL because they weren't born deaf and they hadn't known ASL before. They were basically learning as a communication method after they were becoming deaf-blind. That's another way that I found people communicate.

Elyse H: Yes. I'll piggyback before I get to the next person. I've also met people who use home signs whereas it might not make sense to someone they meet, but in their family they are familiar with the sign and they've developed gestures at home, so they call them home signs that people have used or can use for more familiar settings or family members to communicate with them. Roderick, I see your hand is up. Would you like to join in?

Roderick: I was just going to say something that I remembered. I was gonna say about running fingers slightly over the braille for about a minute, but he already started. I do have a question though about tactile ASL. I guess it's not completely new. It's sort of like when Anne Sullivan wrote the word “water” in Helen Keller's hands and going beyond that. This is an interesting subject. I guess I'm wearing hearing aids now and also, I'm going blind. I can see some light, but it doesn't help me get around. I can hear pretty good with hearing aids even for the most part, but I miss a lot of things. I was afraid of going deaf-blind myself. I wondered if there was even anything out there that could help me if I ever went that way, which I hope I don't but now I'm glad to know there is. Sorry for taking so much time. Over.

Elyse H: I'm glad you could join, and you're right. There are a lot of resources and a lot of tools and adaptive technology available for compensating for low vision and hard of hearing definitely.

Diane O: Diane speaking. Yeah. Making sure you give Elyse and me an email. Email us because we do have resources like organizations. I know there's one organization, they give us devices for free to people who are deaf-blind for technology if they qualify for certain things, for communication.

Elyse H: Right, right. I see another hand up here. Beth, you're next in line. Go ahead.

Beth: Yeah. Back to the finger thing. I don't remember who was about fingers, but does occupational therapy work to, say somebody who loses a thumb, like they can't feel braille as well, like for circulation? Over.

Elyse H: Okay. Utilizing occupational therapists for finger sensitivity?

Beth: Yes.

Elyse H: Has anybody had-

Beth: Yeah. Not that I have that problem, I was just asking.

Elyse H: Sure, sure. I know we were talking earlier about finger sensitivity when you're touching the braille. I personally don't have experience with an OT. If anybody else does, please join in.

Estelle: Hi. This is Estelle again. I have tried PT and OT. Mostly they encourage certain kinds of exercises which I do work on. Maybe it's just going to be a matter of time, giving a time to help out. I think for some people it does work. In fact, in the occupational therapy they even give you a brace to wear on your hand while you're sleeping so that you won't put it in improper bends or twists or turns that might make it worse. There's possibilities, and I've been trying them. I was just looking to see if there was any other suggestions. I really appreciate the comments. Thank you.

Elyse H: Thanks for sharing, Estelle. That's good information and can help everyone here. Allen, I see your hand is raised.

Allen: Yeah. I have a question about when you're trying to do the tactile braille like you're typing on a braille writer. How would you do that? Would you face each other and touch each other's fingers? And if you do, are you typing backwards to them or what?

Elyse H: That is a great question, yeah. Usually, you're sitting face to face, your knees might be touching, or your legs are one between the other so neither you are reaching or leaning forward. That's something you have to establish with the person, so the provider is the person giving the message, and the receiver is receiving. Are you going to braille it what your orientation is to each other?

I had mentioned the two people that were doing that on the fingers with that light squeeze were very familiar with their system, and it was that the provider was treating the fingers almost like a slate and stylus. The person would read left to right, and the provider was doing it right to left. I hope I said that correctly, if that makes sense. You can just determine between the two people communicating what your orientation will be.

Allen: Okay. Thanks.

Elyse H: Yes. If it doesn't feel too invasive, you can sit side by side and one person's arms are reaching over to the other person and their hands if that would be easier, and then somebody wouldn't have to do it in reverse.

Allen: Okay. Thanks.

Elyse H: You're welcome. Great. Jonathan, I see your hand is raised. You're next in line.

Jonathan: Hi. I didn't realize you have my name. That's cool. I was just thinking about this idea of the braille writer. I've never done that before, but if two people sit across from one another facing one another, if they hold your hands so that your own palms are facing each other so your index fingers at the top and then your ring fingers towards the bottom, one person could sort of cross arms as to ... Well, basically your right index finger would be touching the other person's right index finger, your right middle finger touching the other person's right middle finger and like that, and then you could push against the other person's fingers in the same pattern as working on a braille writer.

Elyse H: Yeah.

Jonathan: You would be using the exact same fingers that you use on a braille writer, and the other person would be feeling that same pattern as when they're typing on the braille writer.

Elyse H: That's definitely an option and a great workaround, especially if the receiver and provider are comfortable with that setup and they know that's what's going to happen, so if it feels a little weird at the beginning or one hand may be touching another arm, that is definitely an option for that communication. Definitely ... Great. I see another hand up. We'll keep this conversation going. This is great. Beth, you're next in line.

Beth: Yeah. If one deaf person is deaf-blind and then the other is deaf and doesn't know braille, then they'd probably spell into the other one's hands. If one deaf person who's sighted and doesn't know anything about blindness, then they would probably spell into the deaf-blind person's hands, right? That's how that works? Over.

Elyse H: Yeah. That's definitely an option. There's also interpreters who someone who's deaf could be signing to an interpreter who would then translate the message to the preferred mode of communication whether that's tactile or verbal or tracking signing like that. I've seen interpretation between four people, so someone who's deaf is signing to an interpreter, that interpreter is voicing for someone who can hear, and that third person is then either signing tactilely to the person or using their fingers like a brailler or doing some print on palm between the two people communicating, but there's other people in the room facilitating that communication too. Yeah. Right. The person who's deaf doesn't necessarily have to know how to sign tactilely as someone who's deaf-blind or vice versa.

Beth: Right.

Elyse H: Feel free. Anybody else would like to add in or comment or share any experiences they might have had? Let's see. Dorothy, I see your hand is up.

Dorothy: Hello. Thanks, Elyse. I only have about a 20% hearing loss, but I wanted to say that I noticed in trying to listen to the video, and of course this is going to be real important in terms of what Hadley is trying to do with the website, but I noticed that the background music and any saying, even if I'm trying to listen to an audio that say has, The Bible, I’m listening to Scripture, and if it has a background noise and music it deters for my being able to hear the part that I'm actually trying to hear. I don't know if that extra confusion is because of the 20% loss. What happens even when somebody has a minor loss like that that's considered minor and that they don't see that you need a hearing aid at that point, that it would make things worse instead of better, but it does affect the sense of direction that you get and it just makes hearing more complicated. I thought this might be helpful to somebody who either doesn't know if they have lost it yet but they're having difficulty, or like in my own case because I am nearly totally blind now and I’m a Lit Four student at Hadley, it was important to me to find out what my loss is so that I would know what my future is going to be.

By the way, while I'm speaking, I'd like to say that it encouraged me very much to hear you all say about the lady that was using the braille display to continue to be able to I guess read and write. Thanks for talking about email, and also the mention about Facebook. Our grandchildren and great-grands, they want to be on that kind of communication, and so it's amazing what us grandparents will do to be able to still reach out to a kid. Over.

Elyse H: I'm smiling, Dorothy. Thank you. Yes. Definitely, definitely. Two great points. I'll go back to the background noise on videos. It can be distracting to myself as well. A lot of developers for websites or instructional materials, I really hope and I would encourage them to look at their accessibility for the universal design that everybody needs those bells and whistles going out in the background, it takes away from the speaking and the message.

Dorothy: It does.

Elyse H: Right. Also, sometimes videos are really noisy. Is there a transcript available that somebody could just get the text from? I've made a note here to make sure that I post that, both the video and the transcript on our show notes for today.

Dorothy: Right. That's a really good point. Thank you for pointing that out, Elyse.

Elyse H: Yes, yes. And then the part of staying connected, I think it's our human nature that we want to stay connected to our family or friends or coworkers or colleagues, people in our lives. Using the newer platforms or the different modes that you may or may not have grown up with but it's now here, technology is evolving and now it's Facebook or Twitter or Snapchat. So how do we connect and adapt to using our method of communication to then connect with others is really important. That was a great point. We do have some other time. Diane, what else am I missing? Are there other things we can share with the group?

Diane O: Diane speaking. It seems like you've shared a lot. Nothing I think that I have to add. I'm trying to think.

Elyse H: Okay.

Diane O: We have resources if anyone needs resources.

Elyse H: Right. I do have a list of some videos and shows I can talk about. I see some other hands. Great. Opening up to the floor. Roderick, you are next in line.

Roderick: Oh I didn't know you'd call on me.

Elyse H: All right. There you are.

Roderick: I'm unmuted. Okay. I was wondering how do you talk to somebody other than that person's talking to somebody on the phone who doesn't have the understanding or the technology that you may. I'm having a hard time formulating these questions because I'm ... I'm just trying to understand, get over to some periods that I've had in the past and still do. That's part of it too. How do you talk over the phone to a friend, or to somebody else who might not-

Elyse H: Or if you're making an appointment, right?

Roderick: What about TV? It is some other stuff that I don't know about.

Elyse H: Sure. Those are good questions, Roderick. Those are very good questions. I think Diane might have some information on relay calls and TTY.

Diane O: Yeah. There's relay calls where there's a relay operator who can interpret back and forth between your device and a regular phone, and there's also a caption telephone that now exists. They have them both where it's captioned for somebody who's sighted, they also have a new device, I think it's a caption braille device. In other words, whatever the person is saying, you're going to get on a braille, for a refreshable braille device and they're going to hear what you say. There's a lot of devices that are like that. Elyse, do you want to-

Roderick: Expensive too.

Diane O: But they are free, if they're free through the ... What is it? EyeConnect? Yeah.

Elyse H: There's a program for adults with both hearing and vision loss for a long-distance communication called I Can Connect, and the I is just the letter I like indigo. The trainer comes out and works with you on what you'd like to accomplish, say making a phone call. If it's difficult to hear on the phone or it's difficult to speak on a phone for someone to understand you, what are some workarounds. Diane was saying that caption phone. There's also a video phone where the person who's deaf can sign, there's a third person that's interpreting and can either sign the message or voice that message, or they can also type that message so the other one, other person, signing voice or typed, and if you're not able to see the type, there's the caption telephone for braille which then takes the typed words and will come into a refreshable braille display with Bluetooth, so you can then read the braille in real time on the phone call and you can either braille your response or if you're comfortable you can voice your response back. Great questions. Beth, you're next in line.

Beth: Yeah. Going back to that street crossing one.

Elyse H: Yes.

Beth: That question. And that phone question, what does TTY stand for? Over. When they say TTY?

Diane O: TTY stands for teletypewriter device. Basically, it looks like a little typewriter but there's a little screen at the top where the words form, where you can see what the other person types back. You would type, "Hi. How are you?", on your teletype. The other person on their teletype would say, "Fine," and you would be able to read “Fine.” Also, with a TTY they have a large display that they can make it larger if you have low vision, and there are also braille devices that do the same thing now.

I think when I left the Lighthouse it was a braille communication device, [inaudible] deaf-blind communicator. I think there are even more recent things than that too. The TTY from what I hear isn't being used quite as much anymore but it's still out there.

Elyse H: Yeah.

Beth: Okay. Closed captioning, is that where ... Like if a deaf person watches TV because I think somebody said that they could read what's on the screen. Is that-

Elyse H: That's another option, yeah. The captioning is very similar to the TV. It's captioned where your telephone call would be captioned, except the telephone is a single person sitting in an office somewhere, a third-party person.

Beth: Yeah. Like blind and deaf-blind, I'd bet it'd be hard for them to watch TV obviously.

Elyse H: Yeah. Sometimes, yeah.

Diane O: I don't know if there's any device that does captioning for deaf-blind. I don't know if the technology's caught up with that yet. Do you know, Elyse?

Elyse H: Not off the top of my head, no.

Diane O: Yeah. I wouldn't be surprised if somebody is working on it though.

Beth: Oh, yes. Probably.

Elyse H: Yeah. Your question quick Beth about crossing the street. Depending on how confident you are in your orientation and mobility skills, you can use a crosswalk with a controlled lighting and listen as best as you can for that. Sometimes people will wear a button or a little sign on a lanyard when they're out in the community that says, "I do need help crossing the street," or, "It's difficult for me to hear and see. Can you tell me when it's safe to cross?"

Beth: Okay. If they can't hear the cars, they can't hear the full traffic. Yeah.

Elyse H: Right. There's some workarounds. There's definitely an option to go with a buddy. I know you don't always travel with someone, so if you are by yourself that button or the sign on the little lanyard can be a quick tool to get someone's attention when you are in the community. We have a couple more hands up. See if we can fit in a few more comments before we wrap up. Allen, you're next in line.

Allen: Yeah. I was just going to mention the TTY thing. I want to ask how you sometimes know the people that are only calling by phone by area code. I assume you change the names of their area code to their name.

Elyse H: Yes.

Allen: That you have that option. Yeah. That's how sometimes they will know your area code and then know your name because the host can change that information.

Elyse H: Yeah. On our program on the background. Thank you. Rhonda, you're next in line.

Rhonda: Hi. For Roderick, Elyse, relay in Wisconsin is 711. Is that national?

Elyse H: I believe so. Sometimes you'll see that on different businesses on their websites, if you are looking to make a relay telephone call that you're hard of hearing or sometimes your speech is hard to understand on the phone, that you could use the 711 phone number. Great suggestion and comment. Thank you, Rhonda.

Rhonda: Thank you for this topic today.

Elyse H: You're welcome. One more hand up before we end here. Lisa, you're next in line.

Lisa: Two quick comments. First of all, I don't know that there is a closed captioning device yet for blind people or deaf-blind people. If for example a deaf-blind person has a service like Netflix and they have an iPhone paired to a braille display, they can read closed caption, so they can enjoy TV that way. Also, this is just on the borderline probably of technically being beyond what we're discussing, but Tuesday, Orbit Research who makes the Orbit Reader braille display announced that they have a new app now. At this point, it's only available for Android, but I suspect that given the popularity of iPhones, that will be coming as well. It's a way for a sighted person to type to a deaf-blind person using an Orbit Reader, so they're basically using a text message kind of interface and they're texting and you can save transcripts of the conversation and share files. I haven't actually gotten yet to play with it, but I certainly intend to and it looks really neat.

Elyse H: That's really neat. Coming out soon. Orbit Research is going to be using this app.

Lisa: Yeah. It is out.

Elyse H: Oh, it is. Excuse me.

Lisa: It is. I can send you a link for the show notes.

Elyse H: That'd be great. Thank you. Yeah. My next question. That's really neat. Thank you.

Lisa: Yeah. I mentioned that one specifically because the app is free and the Orbit Reader is one of the lowest cost braille displays out there, so it might be affordable to someone who might not otherwise be able.

Elyse H: Sure. Something to look at for sure. Thanks everybody. We are moving past 12:30 so I do want to say thank you to my cohost Diane for coming on and helping and sharing your great stories and your expertise.

Diane O: Thanks for having me. This was fun.

Elyse H: Right. Thanks for calling everybody. See you next time.