Some have the idea that blind people will always be the recipients, rather than the givers. One thing I appreciate about where I live is how inclusive people are. Using my church as an example, when someone goes into church, the bulletin for that week is on a piece of paper on their chair. However, it’s also offered by Email. The Email is sent a couple of days prior so that when I go into the service, I’m as informed as everyone else. There is a little bit of room for improvement here because if a blind person went in who wasn’t a member, and they didn’t have their Email address, they couldn’t then access the bulletin. Perhaps one of the people on the door could sit with them before the meeting and read it to them.
When the meeting starts, there’s a time of singing, which is fine if you know the songs, but if an unfamiliar song is up on a screen and you can’t see it, you’re stuck. Worship for All helps churches provide material in large print or Braille, but if you’re in a church where it’s very spontaneous, the worship-leader might not know what the next song is themselves until it comes into their head and they start playing it. As a blind person myself, I wouldn’t want to take away from the flow of a service, I.E. “We must have this song next because it’s the one Sarah’s got in Braille.” I’d hate that, so how to get around this problem? I have had people offer to read the words. While I appreciate this, I’ve always felt it takes away from their worship-experience. If you’re reading a line out-loud, then trying to sing it, what time have you got left to focus on God and how He might be speaking to your heart? What I found really helped when I first started going to a church was, they gave me the songs on a computer-disc (we still had floppy discs back then), but churches could also do this by Email. I could learn the songs at my own pace and, as I got to know them, participate in worship the same as everyone else. Having been on the worship-team at church, when we’ve had new songs to learn, my pastor has Emailed us the lyrics beforehand with a YouTube link to the song. Fantastic idea! And if there’s a blind person in your congregation who’s not on the worship-team, you might want to include them in those Emails too.
Sometimes, people will show a DVD/YouTube video during a sermon. Very often, these videos will be music with pictures on the screen to illustrate a point. I appreciate it more than words can say when someone plonks themselves in the chair next to mine and whispers to me what’s going on. It can be hard to hear them sometimes over the music, but it makes me feel like part of a church-family. If a blind person is new to the church, it might be helpful for the preacher to approach them beforehand, say they’re showing a video, and give them some idea what it’s going to be about. If you’ve got a TV in your house, some programmes will be audio-described. Why not put the audio-description on for a programme or two, to get a flavour of the sorts of things blind people might miss out on?
It’s definitely possible, both at church on Sundays and during the week, for me to give as well as receive. Thanks to the speech software on my computer, I can type. With Voiceover and the Kindle app on my phone, I can review books. Thanks to my Braille Bible, I participate at Bible-studies. Thanks to RNIB’s transcription service, I can go into school assemblies with a Braille copy of the story we’re acting out. I think this needs applauding.