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Tadoma Method:

Valerie Huffman
June 19, 2007


Deafblind: Tadoma Method vs. American Sign Language

            The Tadoma Method of communication involves a deafblind individual placing their thumb on a speaker's lips and spreading their remaining fingers along the speaker's face and neck.  Communication is transmitted through vibrations, motions of the jaw, and facial expressions of the speaker. (Tabak 2006)  Although the Todoma Method is very difficult and time-consuming to learn, it has proven successful, granting fluent Tadoma users the ability to comprehend up to forty words a minute. (Tabak 2006)
            Sophia Alcorn first taught this method to students Tad Chapman and Oma Simpson in the 1920's.  (Tabak 2006)  Tadoma became ‘the' method of communication for the deafblind at the Perkins School for the Blind.  During this time, oral education was a dominant philosophy in American Deaf education.  Gertrude Stenquist, a teacher at Perkins believed the manual alphabet would interfere with the acquisition of speech. (Tabak 2006) He regards signing as even more of a problem; his view was if a student learned to sign, they would have no interest in using speech.  

            The domination of the Tadoma method began to subside in the 1950's due to the difficulty in acquiring the skill of use of the method and often inaccuracy. Despite the vast successful of few individuals there are approximately only fifty users of the Tadoma method worldwide, half of which live in the United States. (Tabak 2006)
            American Sign Language is much more widely used to date than the Tadoma method.  ASL for the deafblind consists of the individual resting their hands on top of the signer's hand, and going through the motions of the signing, almost as if they were signing themselves. (Tabak 2006)
           Communicating American Sign Language to a deafblind individual posses a few difficulties that are not apparent with two sighted individuals, such as, a deafblind comprehending sign if often slower, there is difficulty deciphering between questions and statements, and following when some signs ‘feel' the same. (Tabak 2006) These problems can be solved however; in a different manner than sighted ASL.  Questions can be asked by first pointing to the deafblind individual and then forming the question.  Another way is to sign the ASL sign for question.  When dealing with signs that are created similarly such as "dry," "summer" and "ugly" the signer may first fingerspell the word in question, or rely merely on context of word usage. (Tabak 2006)
             Back-channel feedback is a common act in all forms of communication.  In the English language, two speakers conversing will say phrases, "right" and "uh-huh" to let the speaker know the listener is following and understanding what is being said.  In American Sign language, the Y hand shape is often bounced a few times to allow the signer to know the recipient of the conversation is following.  In signing with a deafblind individual, often the individual taps the signers hand a few times throughout conversation to mean the same thing. (Tabak 2006) 
             Regardless of the method one chooses to learn, a deafblind individual faces extreme obstacles in the field of communication.  These individuals complete tasks far beyond most sighted individuals could even imagine. The advancements of the deafblind population have completely awestruck the American population and people worldwide.


Works Cited

Gallagher, James. (2002). A-Z to Deafblindness. James Gallagher. Retrieved 31, May 2007:                         
Reed, Charlotte M. The Implication of the Tadoma Method of Speechreading for Spoken Language Processing.  Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved 31, May 2007:            <>
Tabak, J. (2006).  Significant Gestures.  Westport, CT.  Praeger Publishers.


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