A Study of the Tactual and Visual Reception of Fingerspelling A method of communication in frequent use among members of the deaf-blind community is the tactual reception of fingerspelling. In this method, the hand of the deaf-blind individual is placed on the hand of the sender to monitor the handshapes and movements associated with the letters of the manual alphabet. ... Research Article
Research Article  |   December 01, 1990
A Study of the Tactual and Visual Reception of Fingerspelling
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Charlotte M. Reed
    Research Laboratory of Electronics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Lorraine A. Delhorne
    Research Laboratory of Electronics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Nathaniel I. Durlach
    Research Laboratory of Electronics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Susan D. Fischer
    Department of Communication Research, National Technical Institute for the Deaf, Rochester, NY
  • Requests for reprints should be sent to Charlotte M. Reed, Research Laboratory of Electronics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Room 36-751, Cambridge, MA 02139.
Article Information
Research Articles
Research Article   |   December 01, 1990
A Study of the Tactual and Visual Reception of Fingerspelling
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, December 1990, Vol. 33, 786-797. doi:10.1044/jshr.3304.786
History: Received March 6, 1990 , Accepted July 13, 1990
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, December 1990, Vol. 33, 786-797. doi:10.1044/jshr.3304.786
History: Received March 6, 1990; Accepted July 13, 1990

A method of communication in frequent use among members of the deaf-blind community is the tactual reception of fingerspelling. In this method, the hand of the deaf-blind individual is placed on the hand of the sender to monitor the handshapes and movements associated with the letters of the manual alphabet. The purpose of the current study was to examine the ability of experienced deaf-blind subjects to receive fingerspelled materials, including sentences and connected text, through the tactual sense. A parallel study of the reception of fingerspelling through the visual sense was also conducted using sighted deaf subjects. For both visual and tactual reception of fingerspelled sentences, accuracy of reception was examined as a function of rate of presentation. In the tactual study, where rates were limited to those that could be produced naturally by an experienced interpreter, highly accurate reception of conversational sentence materials was observed throughout the range of naturally produced rates (i.e., 2 to 6 letters/s). In the visual study, rates in excess of those that can be produced naturally were achieved through variable-speed playback of videotapes of fingerspelled sentences. The results of this study indicate that performance varies systematically as a function of rate of presentation, with scores of 50% correct on conversational sentences obtained at rates of 12 to 16 letters/s (i.e., rates roughly double to triple normal speed). These results suggest that normal communication rates for the visual reception of fingerspelling are restricted by limitations on the rate of manual production. Although maximal rates of natural manual production of fingerspelling correspond to the presentation of a new handshape on the order of once every 150–200 ms, the data from the sped-up visual study suggest that experienced receivers of visual fingerspelling are able to receive sentences at substantially higher rates of fingerspelling (which are, in fact, comparable to communication rates for spoken English).

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
This research was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Grant No. 5 ROI NS14092. We wish to thank the subjects for their enthusiastic cooperation in this research. We also wish to acknowledge the contributions of Susan Hajjar to this project, including her services as interpreter for the tactual study and her work in the preparation of the videotaped materials. Finally, we are grateful to Michael Spencer of the National Technical Institute for the Deaf for photographing the handshapes of the manual alphabet for use in Figures 4 and 5, as well as to Bob Priest of RLE for the illustrations taken from the photographs.
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