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Tactile Interpreter

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Tactile Sign Language Interpreting: Bridging The DeafBlind Community

Cal Interpreting & Translations highly values inclusivity, especially when it comes to communication. We believe equal access to information and communication is a fundamental human right.

Our company recognizes that communication cannot always be conveyed verbally, so we provide visual and tactile interpreting services for the Deaf and DeafBlind communities. Our goal is to empower individuals to lead more fulfilled and engaging lives.

What Is Tactile Sign Language?

Tactile Sign Language is a vital mode of communication used by an individual who is DeafBlind or has both vision and hearing impairments. This communication method is conveyed through touch and signed language.

How Does Tactile Sign Language Work?

Tactile signing works through different methods of touch signals and movements between a sender, usually a signer, and a recipient, usually a DeafBlind individual. The recipient senses the tactile sensations and translates them into information such as letters, words, or phrases.

In one approach, called hand over hand, a DeafBlind individual places their hands over those of the signer's hands to follow what is being communicated through sensations of touch and movement. Messages can also be produced through different sensations of touch on the palm of the hand.

In Protactile Language, an evolving combination of different tactile signing methods is utilized to help make DeafBlind communication more fluid.

DeafBlind Manual Alphabet

The DeafBlind manual alphabet is a communication method where the hands are used to spell words and phrases using a specific set of hand shapes. The hand shapes correspond to different letters of the alphabet. DeafBlind individuals use their sense of touch to recognize the handshapes to spell words.

Types of Tactile Signing

Hand Over Hand Signing (also known as Hands on signing)

In hands on signing, a signer's hands are placed over the hands of the DeafBlind person, and the signer physically guides them to produce signs usually given in the local sign language.

Protactile Language

Protactile Language is a dialect of ASL that is a distinct language using its own linguistic components and vocabulary in contact space.  Proctactile Language uses vibrations, tapping, brushing, squeezing, and other movements to convey messages about the timing, location, and nature of events and objects of the surrounding environment, along with specific ideas and concepts. The goal of Protactile conversations is to make communication more efficient and fluid for DeafBlind individuals.


The DeafBlind person's hands are placed on the forearms, wrists, or hands of the signer, allowing them to track the movement of the signs through the movement of the signer's hands or arms.

Tactile Fingerspelling

The signer fingerspells words letter by letter onto the palms of the DeafBlind individual's hand, and the DeafBlind individual responds using the same method.

Lorm (also known as tactile alphabet)

Lorm involves tracing or tapping on the palm of the hand to produce a series of characters that represent the alphabet, numbers, punctuation, or even whole words or phrases.

Tracing (also known as print on palm)

Words or letters are "written" in large clear print on the palm of the hand using a finger or stylus.

Braille signing

A signer uses a combination of braille letters (raised dots) and tactile signing to convey a message.

Tactile American Sign Language (ASL) vs. Protactile Language?

In tactile ASL, the signer will use their hands to communicate in ASL, while the DeafBlind individual will place their hands on top of the signer's hands to feel the sign.  

Protactile Language is a newer and more suitable method for DeafBlind persons. Touch is the primary mode of communicating rather than supporting other senses. It encourages the DeafBlind person to use their entire body to communicate and not just their hands. Protactile Language includes haptic signals such as tapping, rubbing, patting, body movements, facial expressions, and other forms of nonverbal communication.

Tactile ASL is a visually-based language while Proctactile Language is rooted in touch and practiced on the body.  ASL interpreters should learn Protactile Language to more effectively communicate with DeafBlind inviduals.

Is Tactile Sign Language The Same As ASL?

Tactile sign language is not the same as American Sign Language. American Sign Language is a visual sign language utilized by the deaf community. It uses visual body movements and gestures to communicate. Tactile signing is a touch or tactile based language developed and used by the DeafBlind community. It is rooted primarily in the sensation of touch and can sometimes be used in conjunction with American Sign Language.

What is Tactile Interpreting?

Tactile interpreting is a service that provides access to spoken language for those of the DeafBlind community. Skilled interpreters use tactile sensation, or touch, to convey spoken language to the DeafBlind person.

Tactile Interpreter

In tactile interpreting, the interpreter places their hands on the DeafBlind individual's hands or another part of their body to convey the spoken message through a series of touch cues. Touch cues can include variations in speed, pressure, and location on the body which can help convey nuances of the spoken message, such as sarcasm, tone, and emphasis.

Here at Cal Interpreting & Translations, we know that tactile interpreters require a high degree of experience, skill, and training, as conveying messages through touch can be complex. We are sensitive to the needs and preferences of our clients and are available 24/7 to help assist in meeting those needs.

CIT By The Numbers

12,000 +

Worldwide Linguists

250 +


1,350,000 +


12,000 +

Clients Served

12,000 +

Worldwide Linguists

250 +


1,350,000 +



Clients Served

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