By Angela Higginbotham
It’s been said that “Kindness is the language in which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” For a group of volunteers in Mandarin, kindness and loyalty to the community of the visually disabled population is their only goal.
National data tells us that in Florida alone, approximately 489,700 people have a visual disability. Braille is an important part of the everyday lives of so many with vision loss, yet the turnaround time on braille documents, handouts, textbooks and other resources could take weeks and months to carry out. Sixty years ago, a group of volunteers set out on a mission to help and The Temple Sisterhood Braille Group was formed.
This special group remains a volunteer organization that transcribes printed materials into braille. Braille material is thermoformed and spiral bound. Children’s books are illustrated by raised thermoform or by sewing on tiny toys and materials. The types of materials produced include textbook and literary braille, books, pamphlets, charts, bus schedules, menus and letters. Tests may also be transcribed upon request. The Florida School for the Deaf and Blind in St. Augustine as well as many other private, public and individuals reach out to the group for help.
Approximately 20 active members give their time to meet the needs of teachers, homeschooling requests, and transcribers. Members take a rigorous nine-month course where they learn braille. The members then submit manuscripts to the Library of Congress to become certified. Some of the members connected with the group because they have relatives who are blind. Others were in search of community service.
“It’s nice to provide people with what they need to read,” said Lynette Taylor, a Braille Group member since 1989. “Teachers give us as much lead time as possible, but it’s nice to be able to help meet their needs right away so that they don’t wait for long.”
Members of the Temple Sisterhood Braille Group use their own personal computers and some have an embosser in their home, so that they can work from home when most convenient. The group’s work is paid for by the Temple Sisterhood, donations, grants and fundraising.
“We never charge anything for our services. The equipment is costly and we use approximately 30 boxes of braille paper a year. The Temple supports our need for space,” Taylor said.
Opening up a world for so many to read and learn is the life behind this organization. Each piece may take 10 minutes or an hour or more, depending on the intricacy required. The dedicated volunteers keep the mission going and there is always room for additional help. Contact (904) 752-3289 for more information.
Photo courtesy Temple Sisterhood Braille Group
Braille Group members Pam Wiker, Elaine Calvin, and Holly Cleveland volunteer their time to transcribe printed materials into braille.