June 15, 2024

Saul Kekana who is blind, enjoys reading from the book, Enjoy Life Forever, which is available in braille.

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[Johannesburg] – In an ongoing Bible-education outreach to all people, a global organization of volunteer ministers has made major advancements in assisting the blind or visually impaired.

Worldwide, 43 million people are living with blindness and 295 million people have moderate to severe visual impairment, according to a report by the International Agency for the

Prevention of Blindness’s Vision Atlas To acknowledge this large community, World Blindness Awareness Month is observed in October to bring attention to the realities of living without sight.

Realizing the challenges, Jehovah’s Witnesses have been providing, free of charge, scriptural-based audio, video, and print content in formats compatible with the technology used by those who are blind or visually impaired.

“The message of comfort and hope found in the Bible should be made available to everyone,” said Jehovah’s Witnesses Regional Spokesperson for Gauteng, Brian Mnkosana. “For this reason, we have made a concerted effort to reach those in our communities who are blind or visually impaired.”

To help the blind or visually impaired navigate jw.org, the nonprofit’s official website, the Witnesses developed the jw.org skill on Alexa. The skills allow Alexa-enabled devices to play or read aloud Bible-based content from jw.org.

The Witnesses are also incorporating accessible tools into their growing library of educational videos. For instance, audio descriptions in more than 90 languages are available for most of their online visual content.

In 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, they launched their first virtual global convention that featured 114 videos equipped with audio descriptions explaining the on-screen action.

Similarly, electronic versions of their publications include audio descriptions of images.

In South Africa, a total of 741 items in braille were shipped in 9 different braille languages, including Afrikaans (Braille Grade 2), Chichewa (Braille Grade 1), English (Braille Grade 1 and Grade 2), Portuguese (Braille Grade 1), Sepedi (Braille Grade 2), Sesotho (Braille Grade 2), Setswana (Braille Grade 2), Xhosa (Braille Grade 2), and Zulu (Braille Grade 2). This included 11 volumes of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures in English (Braille Grade 2) (see A Six-Foot Bible for the Visually Impaired (jw.org)).

To keep up with the pace in South Africa, about 117 volumes of our teaching aid Enjoy Life Forever in English, Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, and Zulu were shipped between September 2022 and August 2023. A full book of Enjoy Life Forever takes 12 volumes. Each volume contains 4-5 lessons, and each lesson concludes with an easy-to-use QR code system that allows braille readers to access audio-descriptive videos.

35 copies of The Watchtower Study Edition are produced every month for regular subscribers within South Africa in the following languages: braille English, Setswana, Sesotho, Sepedi, and Zulu.

The Witnesses offer literature in several languages for the blind or visually impaired in these formats:

  • Audio files via their official JW Library app and org website
  • Large print, Rich Text Format (RTF)
  • Braille
  • Electronic files for notetakers (portable electronic devices with a speech synthesizer and a refreshable Braille display)
  • Electronic files for screen readers (computer programs that read audibly whatever is on the monitor)

In 1988, the organization produced the first edition of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures in English Braille. It is currently available in more than 14 languages. In 2009, they began offering their flagship Bible-based magazine, the Watchtower, in electronic Braille and soon after added more publications and articles for Braille computers for download on jw.org. The Witnesses now print Braille in 48 languages.

For more information on Jehovah’s Witnesses, their beliefs, and what they have to offer, visit

jw.org.

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