“Thirty-four volunteer typists entered all the text in one week.”
This is an amazing story of love and labor that was recently published on the First Baptist Church website. I had seen it but hadn’t read it until yesterday. It blew me away. Thanks to Susan Marshall for writing it, and to all those people who are part of this story–Mark and Melody Roane, Robbie Hott, the staff at the Braille Circulating Library, and those thirty-four volunteer typists.
“There’s an app for that” seems to be the answer for anything you need. But as First Baptist Church prepared to introduce its new hymnal, Celebrating Grace, during Advent 2011, there wasn’t a Braille application for the new hymnal or plans to produce one.
FBC members Mark & Melody Roane, who are blind, depend upon the Braille version to participate in hymn singing. They had translated about 50 hymns from our previous hymnal into an electronic format for use in worship. And we had a three-volume Braille edition in the library. We wanted to continue to provide an option for sight impaired members. So how did we create a Braille hymnal?
First we needed an electronic format for all the hymns. But that was unavailable through the publisher. So we started from scratch.
Robbie Hott, an FBC member, designed a web-based program for entering the texts of all 707 hymns and readings. Mark suggested formatting guidelines for the Braille translation. Thirty-four FBC volunteer typists completed entering all the texts in one week.
The next step was proofing all those hymns, word by word and verse by verse. A smaller volunteer task force took on this focused and arduous process, making sure everything was spelled, numbered, punctuated, and formatted correctly. On July 1, 2012, we received the final, proofed, electronic master hymnal document.
But as the infomercials say, “Wait…there’s more!” And indeed, there is. Since that time, Mark has been formatting the electronic document for translation into Braille. This has been a challenge and a learning experience for him. Braille, like American Sign Language, uses shorthand. Rather than spelling out an entire word, there may be a symbol or single letter to represent a word. Additionally, moving from verse to verse, repeating refrains between verses, entering page breaks and numbers, require specific formatting. Mark received guidance from the staff of Richmond’s Braille Circulating Library, and expects the process toward embossing the Braille edition of Celebrating Grace to be completed soon.
While this has been a long journey, God has provided the resources for each step. Without the volunteers from our congregation, the Braille edition of Celebrating Grace would not have been economically feasible. The Braille Circulating Library is printing it for the cost of materials, which is being contributed by the Roanes.
The hymnal will be available in two versions. The electronic version is available now in its entirety by contacting Mark. The hard copy Braille embossed version is in production and will be available in the library when it is completed.