by Susan Povinelli
From the Editor: Susan Povinelli and her husband Larry are members of Lamb of God in Madison, Alabama. Her article was originally published in the church’s special ministries publication His Hands on May 5, 2017, and can be found in its online version here: https://wels.net/the-blind-can-participate-in-worship-and-bible-study/. Many blind people struggle with the way to be active in the parts of their church service that involve reading: Bible verses, hymns, and leading in readings to the congregation. Some of us have felt the discomfort that comes from being passive, but others have been more proactive and have found ways to participate fully. Here is just such an example:
As a sighted child I can remember flipping through The Lutheran Hymnal during church. As my eyesight began to deteriorate during my college years, I had to find other ways to read the hymnal and devotional materials. For many years I received meditations and sermons on cassettes produced by the volunteers of our WELS Mission to the Visually Impaired (MVI).
But studying the Bible using a cassette tape was extremely difficult because you could not easily jump between books, chapters, and verses. Then I began using a device called the Victor Reader Stream. This device allows me to quickly and efficiently move between Bible books, chapters, and verses. For details on the Victor Reader Stream, please visit humanware.com.
Today I am able to download countless Bible applications to my iPhone. The iPhone is completely accessible to a blind person because of its VoiceOver feature, which allows a blind person to translate printed words into speech. Our own Northwestern Publishing House is e-publishing most of its books, such as the People’s Bible series, and they can be bought at the Kindle store. In addition, I am able to read Forward in Christ and other periodicals through the wels.net website or using the WELS app. For the price of a subscription, I am able to enjoy daily devotions through the Meditations app. A free option is to sign up for daily email devotions at wels.net/subscribe.
Most worship materials are also accessible using my iPhone. Since our worship folders and the majority of our pastor’s Bible studies are available electronically, he sends me these materials via email. I can access them through my iPhone by connecting a Braille display or listen audibly through a headphone. This enables me to participate fully in worship and Bible study.
Finally, there are many scanning applications that can take a picture of a printed page and convert it into different formats, such as PDF, Word, Text, etc. This software will read the converted page on your smart phone. The number one application, which was developed by the blind, for the blind, is the KNFB Reader Application. Go to knfbreader.com for more information.
As the population ages and their vision decreases, congregations should accommodate all visually impaired people so that they can fully participate in worship and Bible study. For those who have some vision and don’t read Braille, Northwestern Publishing House has Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal available in large print. In addition, your church secretary can print out a few worship folders in a large font (fourteen-point or greater).
With modern technology, which is not difficult to learn, and pastors willing to work with visually impaired congregants, there is no reason why a blind person cannot participate fully in worship or Bible study. As technology improves, blind people will have more and more information readily available to them.To God be the glory for such advancements!