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Posts Tagged ‘braille hymnal’

By Susan Marshall. Photo by Janet Chase.

“There’s an app for that” seems to be the answer for anything you need. But as we prepared to introduce our new hymnal, Celebrating Grace, during Advent 2011, there wasn’t a Braille application for the new hymnal or plans to produce one.

Braille hymnal
Mark & Melody RoaneFBC members Mark and 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.

Note: Watch a brief video about the Braille hymnal, produced by Chuck Batteau. Read more about Mark and Melody Roane.


Susan MarshallSusan Marshall joined the FBC staff as administrative assistant in the Ministry of Christian Worship in 1998. A native of North Carolina and a graduate of the School of Music at UNC at Greensboro, she taught public school music and directed adult, youth and children’s choirs in the churches she has served. She currently sings in the adult choir and serves on the Fine Arts Team at her church in Midlothian. She also assists with Carol Choir and rings with the Joyful Ringers at FBC. She and her husband, Ken, have two adult sons.

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