‘Never in its nearly 90-year history had the National Braille Press undertaken a project as large as the one it completed in 2011,’ writes James Sullivan this recent Boston Globe article.
Creating a Braille edition of the 1,600-page “New American Bible,’’ with its freshly approved revisions by the US Catholic Bishops Conference, was something else entirely.
Commissioned by New York’s Xavier Society for the Blind, the full run, destined for private homes, consisted of 150 copies. To mark the occasion, a set was presented to Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican in 2011.
An affiliate of Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New York, Xavier Society for the Blind was founded in 1900 by the Jesuit priest, Rev. Joseph Stadelman, SJ, and a group of lay women as the only Catholic publishing house to make writings on religion and spirituality available to the blind.
One of its first major undertakings was to transcribe the Bible into Braille. It also became the first to transcribe the entire Catechism of the Catholic Church into Braille.
Now, as it receives U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops approval, it adds Braille translations of Scripture, readings and prayers. By adding large print, records, audio cassette and most recently digital formats to its Braille offerings free of charge, Xavier Society for the Blind continues its pioneering mission of providing services so that those without sight may see.
Although the Xavier Society paid about $1,400 per copy to produce “The New American Bible,” these books are given away to families with a certified sightless person in the household, says Margaret O’Brien, the organization’s operations manager.
She adds that although mainstreaming of blind children into public schools, which began in earnest in the 1970s, served an undeniable social benefit, it significantly hurt Braille literacy. Literacy rates for blind students plunged from 50-60 percent to about 12 percent today, says National Braile Press president Brian MacDonald.
Meanwhile, with technological advances such as talking books and screen-reader software, students were being told they would no longer need to read Braille.
‘We know today that was a big mistake,’ said MacDonald.
Seventy-four percent of blind adults are unemployed, he said. Of those who do have jobs, the vast majority are Braille readers.
‘There’s such a strong correlation,’ he said. ‘Investing in kids understanding Braille is an investment in them becoming taxpayers, ultimately. That’s a big deal.’
Learn more about Xavier Society for the Blind.
Find out about the breadth of programs Catholic Charities provides for people facing physical and emotional challenges.
Read the full story in the Boston Globe.