With the arts, people think about what they see or what they hear. In the White House earlier this month a DeafBlind woman, Julica Nuccio, and her colleague, Dr Clifton Langdon, from Gallaudet University gave a presentation.

One section in particular struck me: 

“Historically, adaptations have been created by sighted people. But imagine what would happen if a community of DeafBlind people began to exert natural social pressures on these adaptations. What kind of language would emerge?

“True languages evolve naturally in communities. However, until now, social norms about what counts as appropriate or inappropriate touching prevented DeafBlind people from developing a natural human language through the sense of touch.

“DeafBlind people have started pushing back on these social restrictions, recognising that touch is a powerful way to connect with the world. They are calling this effort ‘the protactile movemen’. The radical claim of this movement is that you do not need eyes or ears to fully experience the world.

“When we let go of old ideas about what touch is supposed to be used for, we realise that it can open up channels for the full range of human experience.”

This serves as a reminder to let go of how we think the arts should be appreciated by others. Let people create the space to connect freely with art, to create our own means for appreciating art. On our terms. With our language. 

Letting go of traditional ideas is also about freedom. Freedom to be who we are and freedom to enjoy the world in a way that allows us to experience the world on our terms. Inserting our language into the global language of art appreciation offers a new insight for all people too. Let go to open channels.

Rachel Noble MNZM is Deaf and based in Wellington. She has established a company called Ennoble to advise people who are determined to do things "right" so all people, including disabled people, can proudly say they are citizens of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Let go to open channels


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