Technology helps Christian charity reach out

Torch celebration2009: Christian charity for the blind and partially sighted, Torch Trust celebrated their fifty year anniversary in Norwich when beneficiaries and supporters came together to celebrate, worship and socialise. The speakers gave tips for churches to make life easier for blind people and ideas for more accessible websites.
 
A team from the charity’s headquarters in Market Harborough joined with members and friends of the Norwich Torch Fellowship Group on Saturday 10 October at Douro Chapel, Norwich.
 
Office team leader Carol Nokes described this anniversary year as a “year of opportunity” for the charity to reach more people and tell churches and other groups what resources are available to them. She said, “Sight loss shouldn’t be a barrier for people to come to know Christ. Blind and partially sighted people need good Christian books and fellowship so they can enjoy the fullness of good Christian life.”
 
The Torch Trust produce Braille, giant print and audio material. Carol explained, “Over the years, technology has helped with the speed and efficiency of producing material. The whole Bible in Braille takes up a lot of storage space – about 5ft of shelving. In giant print it is 94 volumes! Now people have access to the audio version of the Bible which can be played on a Daisy machine.”
 
Reading the Bible on a Daisy machine allows a person to find a book, chapter and verse in seconds using a keypad and the text is read aloud through the machine. The reader can use an index, place bookmarks and skip forwards or backwards.
Torch also produce Bible study notes in audio format – and some of the people behind the voices were at the celebration! Torch has a lending library of over 3,000 different titles, produced by volunteer readers and transcribers after a lengthy process of proof-reading and checking. Tapes, discs and books are sent to thousands of people both in the UK and overseas.

Demonstration of a Daisy machineThe importance of fellowship

A recent RNIB survey asked blind people what aspect of life they find most difficult. The majority of people didn’t mention practical difficulties but said loneliness and isolation. People tend to withdraw when they experience sight loss. Torch fellowship groups provide support and company for people and are a way of reaching people with the gospel.


How churches can help

Church can be difficult place for blind people. As a blind person can’t make eye contact with people, it is difficult to make friends at church. It is also hard to get to know people if you can’t recognise them to go to talk to. However, a blind person needs to feel accepted and part of the body of the church rather than someone who needs to be helped.

Accessible websites

  • Blind people can surf the web by using speech readers or Braille readers. These browsers read out the text or convert it to Braille as the user touches a sensor strip on the keyboard. These browsers only read text, so it is best to avoid using image maps as navigation bars on websites.
  • Images make websites look attractive and illustrate the information on your site. This information is important to a blind user too. When you insert images, make sure you use descriptive ALT text that reflects the nature of the graphic - for example, the ALT text on the image above reads, "Demonstration of a Daisy machine".
  • When inserting a link, rather than simply saying click here, instead make sure that text links will make sense if read out of context, so link the whole sentence click here to read more about Torch Trust.
  • There are far more partially sighted people than totally blind people so consider how your website looks to someone with a visual impairment. Try to avoid scrolling and moving text that can cause the screen to flicker. Avoid using pictures or patterns for backgrounds as this can make text difficult to read. Coloured backgrounds and coloured text can be difficult to read if they do not contrast enough.
  • Many blind or partially sighted people will navigate your site without a mouse. Be aware that your website can be navigated using the tab key.
  • Network Norwich and Norfolk has a low graphics version of the website which is accessed by clicking on the “low graphics” link at the bottom of every page and the top left on the homepage.  The size of this text can be increased on the website browser. On Internet Explorer, this is changed by clicking "View" then "text size".

., 18/10/2009


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