Teen’s fingerspelling ‘chat’ with deaf-blind man goes viral

Clara Daly, 15, used sign language skills to help lonely plane passenger

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(Image credit: Alaska Airlines)

A US teenager has become a viral sensation after coming to the aid a deaf and blind plane passenger by signing on his hands.

Clara Daly, 15, was travelling with her mother from Boston to Los Angeles last week on the same flight as Tim Cook, a blind and deaf man returning home alone after visiting family.

A staff member from the assisted living community where Cook lives was ready to meet him after landing - but for the flight itself, he was alone.

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In a Facebook post, fellow passenger Lynette Scribner said that airline staff had been struggling to communicate with Cook before Daly’s intervention.

“The flight attendants sincerely wanted to assist him, but had no way to communicate,” she wrote.

One of them then suggested asking passengers if anyone on board knew sign language - and Daly stepped forward.

The high schooler, who is dyslexic, told local news channel CBS-LA that she started learning American Sign Language around a year ago.

“English is already a hard language for me,” she said. “I saw sign language as a way to communicate without having to read and write."

Daly used fingerspelling to sign individual letters onto Cook’s hand, spelling out words and sentences which he could answer using the same technique.

“You could tell Tim was very excited to have someone he could speak to,” a flight attendant told the Alaska Airlines blog. “And she was such an angel.”

Although conversation was necessarily slow, she told CNN that their interactions went beyond simple requests.

“I went to him a total of three times, once to get him water, another to tell him the time, and the last hour of the flight to just talk to him,” she said.

“We talked about our family in Massachusetts and he asked me about my plans for my future.”

Fellow passengers were moved by the teen’s kindness. “All of us in the immediate rows were laughing and smiling and enjoying his obvious delight in having someone to talk to,” Scribner wrote in a Facebook post that has now been shared more than 650,000 times.

Daly said the response to her good deed had been “overwhelmingly lovely”.

“I hope this helps other people realise that in the world we are living in, it is everyone's duty to help each other out, no matter what,” she said.

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