Tactile Communications is a learning and education center for DeafBlind individuals located in Seattle, Washington. Our philosophy is an unwavering belief that DeafBlind individuals can achieve their dreams no matter what it is. If you want to own a business, work with animals, travel the world, create healthy meals, raise children, learn a new activity or be comfortable with who you are we want to give you the foundation to achieve that. TC seeks to provide wrap around services that surrounds the individual based on their needs and goals. Our services are custom to you so that you can discover your own autonomy in all matters of home, work, play and life.

Many DeafBlind individuals have been denied life experiences and have heard “no” and “you can’t” in many ways both directly and indirectly. At Tactile Communications, however, we look not at what you cannot see or what you cannot hear, but the skills, knowledge and experience you have and build on them. You do not have to re-learn everything! We teach critical skills such as Braille, computer navigation, everyday adaptive strategies, orientation and mobility skills, using transportation, Tactile ASL, hobbies and recreation, self- advocacy and how to experience the world through touch. Please visit our Services page for an expanded explanation on these skills.

We care about developing self-reliance so you know more about yourself and what works for you. These new tools make you more apt to educate, interact, and relate to others in a way you found difficult before. Personal relationships are critical, because as DeafBlind individuals our support system of family, friends and co-workers is vital. As our life changes we also need to include one’s new support system of interpreters, communication facilitators, support service providers, and the DeafBlind community into our way of living. Tactile Communications wants your world to open up and be everything you desire.

The TC Model

Our model is built around a commitment to autonomy and full participation in social life. Looking back on how things were before the protactile movement, we realize how much things have changed. Back then, we were dependent on sighted people and we lived in their world. As we became blind, we found that world harder and harder to connect with; finding work was difficult, hobbies were no longer enjoyable, relationships were strained. We identified with our medical conditions and even introduced ourselves that way, as though who we were, as people, was secondary. DeafBlind people want more out of life than this, and they are worth it. In the new, protactile world that we live in, communication and experience can happen naturally, opening up experiences and opportunities for us all.

Tactile Communications provides training within the larger community. There is no official center. Rather, we see the work we do as merging seamlessly with the real world. One way to understand our approach is to consider the choices available to people recovering from alcoholism. One can choose to go to a self-contained facility, where food, lodging, and professional staff are provided. This type of treatment is normally paid for by a third party such as an insurance company. The second option is to join an organization like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), where it is expected that you will rely on other people who have gone through the same experience, and that you will learn to be sober in the home area where you live. In AA, members learn to lean on one another, develop friendships, share tools for coping, help one another learn how to live with stress and frustration, how to take care of daily living tasks, and how to be of help to others.

This is similar to our approach at Tactile Communications. We know that being DeafBlind is tough, but when you experience and internalize lessons and skills first hand with other DeafBlind people, they are more likely to become an integral part of who you are.

Historically, training centers have not been well adapted to the needs of DeafBlind people. Instruction is often modeled on HearingBlind approaches, which assume a preference for auditory learning. Auditory cues are then relayed through a sign language interpreter. This results in a learning environment that is lacking the kinds of tactile cues that facilitate learning for DeafBlind people. Most individuals leave with major gaps in their training after spending unnecessary amounts of time trying to learn. Touch is the natural, innate way for DeafBlind individuals to learn, and Tactile American Sign Language (TASL) is our natural language. It is time to raise the bar; there is no limit to what we can learn if we are willing to change the style of instruction we use.

DeafBlind people know what it is like to be DeafBlind—no one else can truly capture the experience. They have been there, had the same frustrations and trials, they have found solutions, and they have become self-reliant. These experiences have made them into teachers, and they are ready to share their knowledge as part of our integrated, community-based training program.

To be in the community is to learn from the community. Tactile Communications is more than a training center; it is a gateway into a rich and quickly growing network of DeafBlind people across the country who have wisdom and insight to offer each other and the world. As the award-winning author John Lee Clark says, “Its an exciting time to be DeafBlind.”