Discourse Part IV: Tactile Classifiers and Maps Chapter 4.3.2
Overview • Tactile ASL is emerging as a variety of ASL that is used by fluent ASL signers who are blind. • This presentation describes the technique of signing on the listener’s arms and/or hand in order to make spatial relationships more clear.
Size, Shape & Location • ASL is particularly efficient at identifying and describing things using the characteristics of size, shape and location. • Without vision, this is often not clear. What is especially unclear is the relationship between and among parts.
Tactile Classifiers • ajgranda, Terra Edwards and Jelica Nuccio have theorized and played with ASL to modify the signs and their execution to make them clear tactually. • Instead of using the signer’s body to show relationships, the signer uses the listener’s body (the body of the DB person).
Tactile Classifiers and Tactile Maps • Because this is so new, using the body of the DB person requires an explicit agreement the first time. Ask; some people are much more comfortable with touch than others. • It is both cultural and personal. Communicate with the DB person about this and then continue to watch for non-verbal feedback.
Cat Sitting in the Tree In the next slide, the signer (on the right) is using the DB listener’s arm as the ‘tree classifier’ instead of her own arm. This makes the spatial relations of cat to tree clear to the blind listener.
Laptop Power Plug • In the next slide, the signer (right) first signs “laptop” in top-down discourse and then shows where the plug for the power cord connects. • She does this using the listener’s hands (what granda calls ‘tactile classifiers’). • Again, this makes the position of the socket clear because it is signed on the DB person’s body (hand).
“ThepowercordconnectsHere” The DB listener’s hand represents the laptop as the signer indicates the relative position of the hole for the power cord.
Tactile Maps and Classifiers • Tactile classifiers (using the listener’s body) is more clear and communicates more effectively than signing in an unmodifiedformofvisualASLorasigned form of English with many adjectives. • The same principle operates when describing spatial relations such as in describing the location of various things in a room.
Describing a Room • Typically we enter a room or store and point saying “Over there is xyz; over there (in a different location) is the xyz” and so on. But the pointing does not give the blind person a sense of how far in that direction or how this xyz relates to that xyz. • UsingtheDBperson’shandasthepalette on which to draw a map is more clear.
“We are Here” Just like maps in large complexes such as a mall or airport, one begins with the overall space and... “we are here” and then marks or locates different points of interest.
The Hand as Map In the next few slides the SSP describes the waiting room in which they are sitting. She uses the DB woman’s hand as the outlines of the room. She starts with where they entered, and then where they are now relative to the rest of the room. She then describes the relative location of other objects in the room.
Notice the Listener • In the “…are Here” slide the DB person is nodding “umhm” slightly to acknowledge her understanding. • In the last slide (“…Here.”), she is using her limited vision to look in the direction indicated (where the two chairs are located across from where they are seated).
Conclusion: Putting it Together • In previous presentations, we have described ‘figure-ground’ and ‘top-down’ which then come together in this tactile classifiers and maps approach. • Now you are ready to begin thinking about how you use your vision – how we process what we see.