Sometimes, it’s fun to envision what life would have been like a hundred or more years ago. Imagine a life without digital media, for example, or consider how different transportation was when cars had only just been invented. What interests me, though, is how life must have been different for the blind.
Some blind people did live independently, had children, and held jobs, like the famous hymn writer Fanny Crosby. But what was it like?
On the one hand, I’m a bit jealous. Any society before the invention of cars must have been a great deal more pedestrian friendly, and therefore, blind-friendly, even in the absence of modern infrastructure. On the other hand, I wonder how blind people managed without ways to independently access printed materials around them, or easily produce them on their own.
I’ve written a few songs in my time—it’s hard to avoid when you live in music city—but Fanny Crosby had over 8000 hymns published! Then, she would have had to memorize all of her texts and music, written it down in braille and had it transcribed, dictated it to a sighted person to pen them, or penned them herself. Of course, the only way she could have accessed them again would be through her memory, braille, or a sighted reader. Evidently, her memory was impeccable. According to the website I referenced earlier, she memorized five chapters of the Bible a week.
I definitely do not exercise my memory quite that often or to that extent, so perhaps that’s another advantage that antiquity has over modernity for blind folk. Otherwise, I’m thankful that now a days, accessible technology means that I can easily record music (even as I write it) on my phone, type the lyrics into my computer, review what I have written, and share them with sighted friends, all independently and with very little extra effort on my part.
I am especially thankful for the way assistive tech has made the bible available to the blind in a way it never has been before. I don’t have to carry volumes and volumes of braille bibles around with me to have constant access to the word of God, nor do I have to have it read to me and memorize five chapters a week, though there’s no doubt that would be a profitable exercise. But no. All I have to do is have a charged iPhone with a wifi connection, safari or a bible app, and voila. The whole word of God is at my fingertips…
“Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” (Psalm 119:18)
He has made his word known to us, and not only known, but accessible for study, teaching, comfort, evangelism, truth. Accessible technology means I, along with other blind people, get to behold the wondrous things of his law by myself, on my own time, in essentially whatever format I choose, and whichever book or verse I prefer to study. I do not think there is any more valuable gift.
And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them. (Isaiah 42:16)