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August 30, 2021

Braille and ASL Bibles

The 2010 filmThe Book of Eli stars Denzel Washington as a drifter in a post-apocalyptic America. As he and the other survivors are hunted by gangs, Eli closely guards his prize possession: the last known copy of the Bible. Eli, it turns out, is blind, and his Bible is written in Braille. In the real world, carrying around a Braille Bible would be challenging. Because Braille takes up much more space than printed words, a Braille Bible spans forty volumes and weighs about ninety pounds. Yet millions have benefited from the Braille Bible, which now exists in forty languages. The Bible has also been adapted for people with other disabilities. Portions of the Bible have been recorded in American Sign Language. The Accessible Bible allows struggling readers easier access to Bible stories. And the dramatic rise in audiobooks and e-readers opens up new avenues for engagement with the Bible. As a blind person, Helen Keller relied on the Braille version of the Bible. She once wrote it was the book she had read more than any other: “I have read and reread it until in many parts the pages have faded out—I mean, my fingers have rubbed off the dots, and I must supply whole verses from memory, especially the Psalms, the Prophets, and the Gospels. To the Bible I always go for confidence when waves of doubt rush over me and no voice is near to reassure me.”

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