Gloria: The Other Man’s Shoes

04/03/2009 15:13

Yesterday I was doing a training on tactile signing for staff at a residential setting who had a new student who is deaf-blind. I had been in this place before but the people and the particular room were we where meeting, were new. I did not know anyone there.

In this training I asked people to close their eyes so they can feel the signs tactilely. This time I closed my eyes and asked a trainee to tactilely sign to me so she could practice tactile signing with me.

I was standing up in the middle of the room and the person started signing to me. I felt her hands moving under my hands, then not feeling anything and then again her hands under my hands. This interaction went for less than a minute.

For the first time, I felt something that I don’t remember feeling before: not having any sense of my body. The only sensation was the trainee’s hands. I couldn’t even feel my feet on the floor, or anything else, only her hands under mine moving, and not having any control when they would touch me, or not touch me.

That scared me. There was a disconnect.

I decided to keep the eyes closed and not open them in fear because I wanted to explore this sensation a little bit longer. I started to think of my students who are deaf-blind and their sense of their body in space, the little control they may have when other people are interact tactilely with them, and how critical is physical contact when you are deaf-blind.

This experience reminded me some of the things that we always hold as true in the field of deaf-blindness:

The importance of knowing the person interacting with you.

The importance of trust.

The importance of routine and structure so the person who is deaf-blind can feel confident in his environment.

The difficulties of having a good sense of one-self when you are deaf-blind and have limited contact with the physical environment.

The crucial teaching I get from this experience is to have felt the lack of control people who are deaf-blind may have when interacting with others and how desperately important is to be sensitive to this.

Gloria Rodriguez, CDBS Education Specialist


Topic: Gloria: The Other Man’s Shoes

Date 04/21/2009

By Ian Squibb, DHH teacher

Subject The Other Mans Shoes


Thanks for your insightful blog. We all learn through stories, and other peoples experiences. Nobody enjoys being surprised constantly as a deaf/blind person experiences on a daily basis. Keeping physical contact is vital, as is knowing who the person is interacting with you.

Date 04/14/2009

By Jill Brody, OT

Subject Gloria's experience


That was a terrific insight that was well explained. I think it's particulary relevant for OTs and PTs who work with individuals who are deaf-blind. It helps to remember how important a sense of position-in-space and control can be to one's sense of well-being and control. Way to go, Gloria!

Date 04/13/2009

By Terri Moss, VI teacher

Subject The Other Man's Shoes


Excellent info that all educators should read. Will certainly help me to think more deeply about interaction and planning with students.