For deaf-blind people, touch, smell,taste and thought define life. Without some way to connect these senses to the greater community, access and autonomy can be frustratingly elusive. In Seattle, one the nation\'s largest deaf-blind communities has grown up around access to services- transportation, employment, training -allowing autonomy to be a choice of degree. It has become a mecca of sorts for the deaf-blind. For some deaf-blind people, as for Helen Keller, daily assistance remains paramount. Others prefer to navigate much of their world themselves. Within the community, the deaf-blind experience ranges from totally deaf and blind to extremely limited degrees of sight or hearing. People who are deaf-blind also develop language differently, everything from spoken English to tactile American Sign Language (ASL). Most deaf-blind people were born with one or both of these senses and lost them through age , brain injury, illness, or a genetic disorder called Usher\'s syndrome. It is this latter group who have helped give Seattle its reputation as a unique deaf-blind community.
Donna Ruble makes loud rhythmic sounds into her son Joseph's ear, hoping to make him laugh. Born totally blind with moderate to severe hearing loss, his mother says “He is incredibly intuitive through his sense of touch.” “He instinctively knows your mood, your strength, and your willingness.”