Haptics: Using Touch Signals to Convey Visual and Environmental Information to Individuals who are Deaf-Blind

ALERT: This course will expire at 5:00 PM Pacific Daylight Time (PDT) on July 17, 2019. Please complete all courses and download all completion certificates by 5:00 PM PDT on July 17, 2019. If you have any questions or would like more information about professional learning opportunities through HKNC, please email


Course Description

Purpose of the Training

This online course provides an introductory level of training in touch signals focusing on the fundamentals of touch signals including definitions, history, practical implementation and specific signal formation and use. The term “touch signals” is a generic term that represents the practice of using various methods of touch on the body to convey visual, social, and environmental information to a person who is deaf-blind. While there are several recognized bodies of knowledge and practice relating to touch signals, this course will focus primarily on Haptic Communication.

Course Structure

The course is structured so learners can follow at a pace that is comfortable for them. Each individual who purchases and successfully completes the course will receive an HKNC Touch Signals Certificate and will be added to the HKNC Touch Signals Registry. Participants are encouraged to take the course with a partner or in a small group. This structure provides learners with the opportunity to practice the techniques on others and complete all of the suggested activities. While this is encouraged, it is not mandatory. Those who study the course alone will learn the foundations of touch signals and be able to practice techniques when they are out in the community. This touch signals course is suitable for both beginners or as a “refresher” course for those who have already completed a hands-on workshop or training through HKNC.

While it is not mandatory for completing the course, participants are encouraged to purchase the book, Haptic Communication, The American Edition of the Original Title Haptisk Kommunikasjon. This book version will serve as a reference and resource to learners as they practice their skills using touch signals in the community.

Throughout this training series, we use the term deaf-blind to refer to a diverse population of individuals with varying degrees of combined vision and hearing loss. Helen Keller National Center has historically followed the guidelines that the consumer organization, American Association of the Deaf-Blind (AADB) established by using the term “deaf-blind.” Recently, AADB changed its use of the term to “DeafBlind.” HKNC is a federally funded agency authorized by the US Congress and, therefore, does not have the authority to change their use of the term deaf-blind to DeafBlind. HKNC recognizes the value behind the term DeafBlind, that each person’s experience is unique and includes much more than his or her vision and hearing loss. HKNC continues to align its philosophy and services with this meaning and recognizes the community’s preference for the term DeafBlind. HKNC continues to work with federal authorities to change the term from deaf-blind to DeafBlind.

Course Objectives

At the completion of this course, individuals will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate an understanding of the term “touch signals” and identify at least 2 important functions of touch signals.
  2. Explain the background and history of Haptics.
  3. Describe the relationships between touch signals, back-channeling, back-back-channeling and Haptics.
  4. Identify the components of Haptics including reference signals, common Haptic signals, structure (places of articulation, hand shapes, movement, pressure), and mapping.
  5. Explain how to prioritize visual and environmental information when using touch signals.
  6. List the roles and responsibilities of both the person providing and the person receiving touch signals.
  7. Modify use of touch signals to meet individual needs.
  8. Provide and/or receive information regarding size, amount or intensity and direction using Haptic signals.
  9. Provide and/or receive context and distinguish between similar signals using reference signals.
  10. Provide and/or receive a description of various actions, rooms and people using Haptic signals.
  11. Explain what is needed to be a successful communication team as a provider and/or receiver of Haptics.

This course is approved to earn 1.7 RID credits through the TIEM Center, Betsy Winston, Approved RID CEU Sponsor. Please contact her at for information and fee. In addition, the course is also approved for 17 ACVREP credit hours.

Welcome and Introduction

Video: Touch Signals: Using Touch to Convey Visual and Environmental Information, Maricar Marquez

Touch Signals: Using Touch to Convey Visual and Environmental Information

Maricar Marquez, M.S.

Hello, I'm Maricar Marquez. We are thrilled to welcome you to the FIRST EVER online training series on touch signals. This course will provide you with an in-depth look at touch signals and how you can incorporate them into your life. The course is broken up into modules. We will provide you with an overview, background and history of touch signals and Haptics. We do not support the sole use of Haptic Communication to the exclusion of other systems, but, rather, we support and recognize an array of systems and incorporate them, as well, in addition to the philosophies they are founded upon.

(Title Slide) HKNC's Collaboration with Hapti-Co

Haptics was developed in Norway. The Helen Keller National Center began to collaborate with Hapti-Co, the company that developed and disseminated Haptic Communication worldwide.

(Title Slide) HKNC Fully Supports and Incorporates Use of All Touch Signals Systems

HKNC has a long history of investigating types of touch systems used in the community and have incorporated many in the development of touch signals.

(Title Slide) What will be covered in this course?

This course will afford you a wide array of information and history on Haptics and touch signals. We will discuss how to prioritize information and what information to include.

(Title Slide) Haptic Communication

This system has a definitive structure that includes particular signals, in a specific order, that will provide a comprehensive description to the person receiving the information.

(Title Slide) Who can benefit from this training?

This training is not only for receivers who are deaf-blind, but for anyone and everyone. Professionals who work with deaf-blind people, and also this course could be utilized by interpreters, SSPs, teachers, doctors, etc. Anyone who works with deaf-blind people. This course could be utilized by family, friends or people who socialize with deaf-blind people. The purpose of touch signals is to provide parity to deaf-blind people in terms of communication and environmental information as their hearing, sighted or Deaf peers.

(Title Slide) Course Format

The format of this training is not exclusively lecture. We will incorporate functional learning activities to augment learning. There will be situations where you will use the actual signals both as a receiver and as a provider so that you can feel what it's like to use or receive the selected signal. There will also be a detailed description of each signal.

(Title Slide) Accessibility

This training is intended to be accessible to all. It is conducted in American Sign Language with spoken English interpretation, as well as open captions. Remember, it is the description of ones' environment that is being conveyed.

(Title Slide) Conclusion

I hope this training will enrich the quality of life for deaf-blind people by providing seamless access to information about one's environment in social and work settings. I also hope that it benefits with people who socialize with people who are deaf-blind and it provides a greater understanding of accessibility issues that deaf-blind people encounter in their daily lives, whether it be at work or at home. The provision of these signals will enhance their knowledge of their surroundings and equalize the playing field for deaf-blind people in social and employment settings. I truly hope you enjoy this course and wish you much luck!

Price: $179

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