She watched the deaf-blind students talking with each other, signing into each others’ hands, feeling the words.
Tania and Jose Amaya are both a little shy, but ask them how they met and they’ll light up. She’ll blush. He’ll grin.
She was a computer teacher at the Braille Institute in East Hollywood, soft-spoken and sweet. He was a volunteer, deaf and legally blind, unable to speak. She was enrolled in deaf studies at Cal State Northridge. He’d help with her sign language homework.
They’d speak in a language for the deaf-blind, called tactile sign language. She’d sign, and he’d hold his hands over hers, reading the movements of her fingers. They’d make each other smile.
By the time they learned to communicate, something else happened: They fell in love. Next month, they’ll celebrate five years of marriage.
Asked recently what attracted them to each other, Tania signed the question to Jose, and they chuckled.
“How do you explain love?” she asked.
It’s the kind of thing that happens often at the Braille Institute. People — many of them sad and scared after starting to lose their vision — find community. They find friends. They find mentors. And, sometimes, they find love.
The institute recently lauded those relationships in a social media campaign called #loveatbraille, with couples and friends cheesing for the camera beside cutout hearts to “celebrate finding hope and love in our community.”
“It’s about redefining hope. People come here thinking they’re useless to other people and that they’ve lost their independence,” said Anita Wright, executive director of the institute’s Los Angeles center. “As students come here, they start to understand that there’s more to life than just the eyes, and that the eyes are to look through but the vision is through the heart.”