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The story I'm thinking of is from the 80s, and it's set in a world where the Great Depression never ended, and so in the "present day" the main character, a wanderer, stumbles upon a society of deaf-mutes. This all came to pass because of a drug that created deformities in children when ingested by pregnant women (like the thalidomide controversy) and so years ago a group of these people set out to create their own society in the middle of nowhere - I think it was in the desert. This man approaches the outskirts of the village and sees a man approaching on a cart. The wanderer only realizes belatedly that the man can't see or hear him. I think the man on the cart might have used a pole so he could feel where the road's boundaries were by whacking it against the fence posts on either side. The wanderer follows the man and encounters a strange sight: braille paths to different buildings. The paths had different patterns that corresponded to particular locations. I believe as a consequence the inhabitants walked barefoot, and I believe they communicated by "writing" in each others' palms. I think the wanderer befriended a little girl, who took him to a cafeteria of sorts in a pitch-black building. That's all I remember.