Dr. Deanna Gagne, a faculty member in the Linguistics program, working with deafblind community co-investigator Hayley Broadway, E-’05 & G-’18, has been awarded a $2.5 million, five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to investigate the trajectory of Protactile language acquisition for DeafBlind children aged 0-5 years old. 

Protactile is a new, fully tactile language that has been emerging among DeafBlind adults over the last 15 years. However very few DeafBlind children have had any opportunity to learn Protactile up to mpw. Protactile is now very different from ASL in many new and exciting ways. This new project will work with families and schools to provide support and direct learning from DeafBlind adults fluent in protactile, with a goal of learning how DeafBlind children can learn Protactile.

Broadway, from Touch Seeds, takes on the role of Lead Project Manager in addition to being the community co-investigator. She is a DeafBlind Protactile expert. Other members of  the core team include DeafBlind Protactile experts and researchers Jelica Nuccio, John Lee Clark, E-’01; and Roberto Cabrera. 

Dr. Jenna Gorlewicz from St. Louis University will contribute expertise in using effective technology to investigate the cognitive underpinnings of protactile; Dr. Terra Edwards of the University of Chicago contributes expertise on Protactile language structure, and Dr. Marie Coppola of the University of Connecticut will contribute expertise on language acquisition and development.

Heather Holmes of Protactile Language Interpreting (PLI), from Western Oregon University, will be consulting with us to continually provide free online resources for DeafBlind children and their families across the country.

Dr. Gagne and her team are honored to work with the DeafBlind community over the next five years and to grow an expert team of DeafBlind protactile experts along the way. 

About the two funding departments under the National Institutes of Health: NEI and OBSSR

NEI: The National Eye Institute (NEI), under the National Institutes of Health (NIH) was established by Congress in 1968. NEI research improves the quality of life for people of all ages with diverse vision needs. NEI-supported research has also advanced our knowledge of how the visual system—from the eyes to the brain—works in health and disease. NEI supports vision research through approximately 2,100 research grants and training awards made to scientists at more than 150 medical centers, universities, and other institutions across the country and around the world. 

About OBSSR: The Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research focuses on the systematic study of behavioral and social phenomena relevant to health. It includes the multimodal and multilevel influences on behavior, from genetic to societal, and aims to understand the dynamic interactions that can influence health outcomes of individuals and populations. A project is considered a BSSR project if one or more of its specific aims include understanding and/or modifying behavioral or social phenomena relevant to health. 

Details of the award are as follows:

Dr. Deanna Gagne, Principal Investigator, Linguistics Program, School of Language, Education, and Culture

Award title: Evaluating the rehabilitative potential of tactile number expressions for multisensory vision and hearing loss using wearable haptics

Award No.: 1R01EY033761-01

Dollar amount of federal funds awarded for FY 2022-2023: $508,202 from August 1, 2022 through July 31, 2023

Percentage total cost of the program financed with federal funding: 100%

Percentage and dollar amount of the total costs funded by non-governmental sources: 0%

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