“Online Braille Resources Opens ‘New Era’ for the Visually Impaired,” Ensign, Oct. 2005, 78
There was a time when Nolan Crabb of the Jefferson City Ward, Columbia Missouri Stake, rarely commented on anything out of the manual during priesthood meeting. When he did, it wasn’t because he had read it.
But that was before the Church introduced downloadable and printable Braille curriculum on www.lds.org.
Now Brother Crabb, who has been blind since birth, is able to search the manual using a specialized computer about the size of a laptop. He uses the device to read downloaded curriculum during class.
“This is just about as revolutionary as the Gutenberg press,” Brother Crabb said, comparing the way modern technology has opened scriptures to the blind with the way early printing equipment opened the Bible to the masses.
Thanks to the online Braille resources that the Church introduced last year, Brother Crabb and many other Church members who are visually impaired have easy access to the curriculum and scriptures that many members have had for years.
“With new technology, we knew providing Braille resources online was a possibility,” said Doug Hind of Special Curriculum.
In addition to the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price, Braille versions of the Friend, New Era, and Ensign are also available online. Each First Presidency Message and Visiting Teaching Message since August 2004 can be found as well.
“This is a great blessing for those who have the technology,” Brother Hind said.
In addition to having easier access to Church curriculum, people can save storage room with online Braille resources. Because Braille type requires more space than regular type, books in Braille are larger. The Braille Book of Mormon alone is five volumes long.
“I teach Sunday school, and I tell my children to bring their scriptures,” said Don Mitchell, of the Columbia Heights Ward, Vancouver Washington Stake. “But I can’t bring mine because if I did, I’d have to carry them around on a cart.”
Although Brother Mitchell doesn’t own a special device from which he can read Braille, he is able to choose the curriculum he wants to bring to church and print it on an embossing printer, thus eliminating the need to lug bulky books.
The Church is currently prioritizing what curriculum material to post online in Braille. Meanwhile, visually impaired members are excited for what is to come.
“It’s a whole new era for people who are blind,” said Brother Crabb.