Variations and dialects of spoken English, including what linguists refer to as African-American English, have been the subject of intensive study for years. But research on Black ASL, which differs considerably from American Sign Language, is decades behind, obscuring a major part of the history of sign language.
“If I need to identify a piece during a game, I will lightly touch the top of it and say ‘identify,’ not grasping the piece, but just brushing it,” she says. Aside from that, says Michael Aigner, who was recently her teammate in the first Online Olympiad for People with Disabilities, “Nobody can tell that Jessica is blind.”
In a typical year, more than 50 blind runners complete the California International Marathon with guides; 53 runners who identified themselves as having a vision impairment finished the New York City Marathon in 2019. Many others ran shorter races.
For pedestrians who cannot see or have limited vision, navigating the chaotic sidewalks and crosswalks of New York City was dicey enough before the pandemic. But the outbreak, blind people say, has made crossing the city’s streets even riskier and more harrowing.