London, England, Jan 8, 2015 / 14:00 pm
Close your eyes. Now try to go about your regular life without your vision. What challenges would you face at work? What about in your personal life? What about in your relationship with God?
Of the 285 million people in the world with severe visual impairments, the majority live in developing countries with few opportunities for education or escaping poverty. That's where United Bible Societies is hoping to make a difference.
The England-based Christian organization is the largest translator, publisher, and distributor of the Bible in the world. It also teaches braille, a reading language for the visually impaired. It distributes braille Bibles to the visually impaired throughout the world, transforming not only their faith but their daily life as well.
"Learning to read braille turned my life around. It made me independent and I realized I could do something with my life," one blind woman from Burkina Faso told United Bible Societies.
Producing braille Bibles is a tall order – literally. Because braille is printed on thicker paper and takes up more room than standard printed text, a full Braille Bible is typically made up of a stack of at least 40 volumes, weighing nearly 90 pounds altogether.
It's also an expensive endeavor – it costs about $600 to print a full Braille Bible, around 50 times the cost of a standard printed Bible. United Bible Societies relies on donations in order to provide the braille Bibles free of charge, as the majority of the people who need them are among the poorest people in the world.
Audio versions of the Bible for people with visual impairments are readily available in multiple places. So why go through the expensive process of printed Braille editions?
"Reading is something personal. There's a huge difference between listening to someone reading the Bible and reading it yourself," said Edson, a Brazilian reader of the Braille Bible.
Currently there are active braille ministries through United Bible Societies in over 50 countries around the world, with the full Braille Bible available in over 40 languages. Partial braille versions of the Christian scriptures are available in over 200 languages.
Expanding the languages in which the Braille Bible is available is a goal of the Bible societies, though it faces two difficulties. First of all, the needs of the blind in the Church are often misunderstood or overlooked, and many languages have yet to develop a braille version.
Besides the Bible, United Bible Societies also provides braille scripture booklets covering topics such as HIV or loneliness. Their ministries reach tens of thousands of people with visual impairments every year.
United Bible Societies also prints and distributes the standard text Bible in over 200 countries, in addition to work with AIDS prevention and disaster relief. They are an inter-confessional group, meaning they will work with any Christian faith and many international non-governmental organizations.
To learn more about their organization, visit www.UnitedBibleSocieties.org.