contributed by Rebecca Buchan

There have been many times in my life people have amazed me. With their generosity. Their humor. Their tenacity. Their resourcefulness. And I try to take stock of these moments. To figure out why I was taken aback.

“What is it about this situation that restores my faith in humans?”

“What is something new I can learn from this experience?”

I asked those exact questions the day LUNA hosted a one-of-a-workshop.

But first, let’s go back a bit. Over the last two decades I’ve had the opportunity to work with different Deaf-Blind consumers with varying language modalities and ways of dealing with life. To be honest, only recently have I gained a comfort level working with this population. I’ve never been formally trained in tactile interpreting or how best to offer language accessibility. Like most community ASL interpreters, it’s a skill I’ve just picked up along the way…only bringing it out to use when needed.

Several years ago, when the national conference was held in Indianapolis, I helped with the silent auction table. Right next door was a booth hosted by a Deaf-Blind organization from Seattle. For days, I sat back and watched Deaf-Blind women interact with their environment and the crowds coming and going. I saw their working interpreters, some hearing, some Deaf, provide information in their hands and on their back. ON THEIR BACK? WHAT???

At first I missed it. But as I whiled away the hours at the silent auction table, I could watch what I now know to be called ProTactile interpreting in action. I remember venturing over to talk to one of the Deaf-Blind attendees about the ProTactile process. Asking questions. Reliving my observations. And, honestly, thinking that this type of interpreting was darn cool, but something used far away from the Midwest. They were a visiting exhibitor, after all.

Fast forward three years. Through my work on various task forces around the city, I began crossing paths with Suzi Guimond. Suzi is Deaf-Blind and a very active advocate in the Deaf community. After several conversations, Suzi asked if LUNA would be interested in hosting a training for ) on the basics of ProTactile. Not only that, but Suzi wanted to include Jason “Jaz” Herbers, a nationally known ProTactile trainer.

I of course jumped at the chance! I wanted to learn how to interpret on somebody’s back! Little did I know that there was much more to it than that. But I wanted to learn and I wanted to provide the opportunity for the Deaf and interpreting communities to learn as well.

So, LUNA hosted the training. And I was amazed. I was amazed that Jaz, Deaf-Blind himself, I shouldn’t have been so amazed…but I was. I was amazed at the poise Suzi exhibited when she adeptly and creatively interacted with the room of participants while helping train during the SSP workshop. Yet again, I shouldn’t have been so amazed…but I was. I was also amazed when Jaz, an avid football fan, pulled out a tactile replica of a football field he uses when a game is airing on TV so his family or friends can show him what’s happening on the screen. And, I was amazed to watch the incredible Certified Deaf Interpreter/Deaf interpreter team of interpreters, five in all, work with Suzi and Jaz as they presented. Once more, I shouldn’t have been so amazed…but I was.

And this takes me back to my opening statement. People amaze me. THESE people amazed me. What amazed me the most was the way these Deaf-Blind folks went through life, not only existing, but making their world a better place through exposure and education. What amazed me was that this was everyday life for them. Something unremarkable for them. Something so totally UN-amazing for them. At the end of the training, my faith was restored in humans. I was completely amazed at the generosity, the humor, the fortitude, and the resourcefulness that was displayed to me.

And, at the end of the day, after watching Suzi and Jaz present outstanding trainings, after watching Deaf interpreters work together to open the environment to them, after watching participants learn a new way of communicating, after learning new things, myself…I smiled.

For more information on using ProTactile and for a demonstration of it, click here.

Keep your eyes on the upcoming events for LUNAcademy to see what other interesting and relevant workshops and trainings we are offering!