“It’s okay to touch. Touch provides equal access to someone who cannot hear or see.” We heard this message loud and clear from our DeafBlind tour guides while visiting the DeafBlind Retreat at the Seabeck Conference Center on August 31st, 2016.

DeafBlind Retreat Coordinator AJ Granda and Lighthouse President and Interim CEO Harry Egler.

DeafBlind Retreat Coordinator aj granda and Lighthouse President and Interim CEO Harry Egler.

As our DeafBlind tour guides spoke about the facility and the retreat, American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters voiced their words and a Support Service Provider (SSP) provided crowd feedback on the tour guide’s back through touch.  When the SSP traced downward on the guide’s back with their finger it meant audience laughter; a motion diagonally from center of back to the shoulder alerted them to a question from someone in that direction.

Our tour guides shared that campers from all over the world enjoyed daily activities such as biking, boating, yoga, crafts, games, and discussion groups. They excitedly told of the upcoming dance where the bass would be turned up allowing DeafBlind campers to feel the vibrations of the music.

Although deservedly the day could have been all about our delicious salmon lunch, it truly was so much more.

A highlight for me was walking on the expansion bridge. When learning I was totally blind, our tour guides asked me to go along with them ahead of our group. So I did, not knowing of the fun they had planned for me. They began to jump, bounce, whoop, and holler with excitement as the bridge danced merrily under foot. Their excitement grew as they learned of my squeals and attempts to walk across without losing balance. Their joy was contagious.

I had the pleasure of attending this event with my husband as my guide. One thing he said which resonated with me was, “This place is a sea of smiles.” The wonderful thing is I could feel every single one of them.

-Submitted by Cindy Van Winkle