Touch the Future: A Manifesto in Essays

Touch the Future: A Manifesto in Essays

by John Lee Clark
Touch the Future: A Manifesto in Essays

Touch the Future: A Manifesto in Essays

by John Lee Clark


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A revelatory collection of essays on the DeafBlind experience and the untapped potential of a new tactile language.

Born Deaf into an ASL-speaking family and blind by adolescence, John Lee Clark learned to embrace the possibilities of his tactile world. He is on the frontlines of the Protactile movement, which gave birth to an unprecedented language and way of life based on physical connection.

In a series of paradigm-shifting essays, Clark reports on seismic developments within the DeafBlind community and challenges the limitations of sighted and hearing norms. In "Against Access," he interrogates the prevailing advocacy for "accessibility" that re-creates a shadow of a hearing-sighted experience, and in "Tactile Art," he describes his relationship to visual art and breathtaking encounters with tactile sculpture. He offers a brief history of the term "DeafBlind," distills societal discrimination against DeafBlind people into "Distantism," sheds light on the riches of online community, and advocates for "Co-Navigation," a new way of exploring the world together without a traditional guide.

Touch the Future brims with passion, energy, humor, and imagination as Clark takes us by the hand and welcomes us into the exciting landscape of Protactile communication. A distinct language of taps, signs, and reciprocal contact, Protactile emerged from the inadequacies of ASL—a visual language even when pressed into someone’s hand—with the power to upend centuries of DeafBlind isolation.

As warm and witty as he is radical and inspiring, Clark encourages us—disabled and non-disabled alike—to reject stigma and discover the ways we are connected. Touch the Future is a dynamic appeal to rethink the meanings of disability, access, language, and inclusivity, and to reach for a future we can create together.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781324035367
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 10/17/2023
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 439,430
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

John Lee Clark is an award-winning writer and Protactile educator. He has received the Krause Essay Prize and a National Magazine Award for his prose. His poetry collection, How to Communicate, received the Minnesota Book Award and was a finalist for the National Book Award and the Kingsley Tufts Award. A 2021–2023 Bush Fellow, he lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota, with his partner, the ASL Deaf artist Adrean Clark, their three kids, and two cats.
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