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Blind Southern Baptist helps produce braille, large-print hymnal editions

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP)–The sparkle in Leigh Scott’s eyes belie the fact that he has been blind for the past 30 years.

Scott, a member of Fairfield Highlands Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., is helping to produce the new braille and large-print editions of the Baptist Hymnal, 1991, published by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

A native of Pretoria, South Africa, Scott grew up healthy and sighted, the third of four boys in what he recalls as “a house of love.” But at the age of 14, he was mysteriously taken with a high fever. While in the hospital, he was given an accidental overdose of a drug that left him clinically dead for three and one-half minutes and paralyzed and comatose for the following four months.

Scott believes it was through his mother’s prayers and the prayers of others that he awoke from the coma.

“I think the Lord hears a mother’s plea more so than he hears those of men,” he reflected.

When he was able to resume his schooling, Scott left his classmates behind to attend a school for blind children. His education continued well into adulthood, including studies in massage therapy, hydrotherapy and acupuncture.

A resident of Birmingham since 1994, Scott is a trained physical therapist and a doctor of acupuncture. He has taught massage therapy, reflexology and aromatherapy. He has been affiliated with the University of Alabama and is completing steps to attain United States citizenship next year.

Meanwhile, he met and married his Birmingham-born wife, Jacalyn, who introduced him to Fairfield Highlands Baptist Church.

Not one to be easily discouraged, Scott had been searching for a braille hymnal when he contacted LifeWay, inquiring about such a resource. When he learned none was available, he asked to speak with someone in music.

Dan Johnson, team leader for production and process in LifeWay Music Ministries, became Scott’s contact. As conversations continued, Scott agreed to partner with LifeWay to produce the hymnal’s braille edition.

The words-only braille hymnal, released Oct. 1, includes a table of contents, hymns, responsive readings and information on how to become a Christian. Hymn numbers and responsive reading numbers will correspond to those in the print edition, though the braille edition will have different page numbers. The set consists of two 3-inch-thick, three-ring polyurethane binders for easy access and removal of pages. The binders have extended handles with snap closure, for easy carrying.

Each page has 25 lines with 38 characters per line in interpoint braille on 80-pound paper. A rigid polyurethane sheet, found in the front of the hymnal, is provided to support the Braille pages removed from the binders for use in worship times.

Preparation for the new edition required transcription of all the words to computer disks, a task that took three transcriptionists approximately three months, Scott said. Disks were sent to a company in Boston for the initial production of braille copies. Soon Scott expects to have an electronic braille printer that will produce 400 pages an hour, and he will handle all the production in Birmingham. For now, his 180-page-an-hour printer is deemed inadequate for such an undertaking.

Large-print editions in either words-only or exact replicas of the pew edition in 18-, 20-, 22- or 24-point type are also available for persons with low vision.

Scott said that having been previously sighted “gives me empathy to help others.” While he said he has not felt frustrated with being blind, he admitted, “I’ve wished I could see something in particular, such as the beauty of creation.”

Theological studies may be in his future, he said.

“I just pray I am going in the right direction. I just want to work for the Lord. This is my calling in life.”

Braille hymnals are available at $195 per set, plus shipping charges. Large-print editions in spiral-bound, two-volume sets are $145, plus shipping charges. All are available only through Blind-Sight Ministries at 1919 Oxmoor Road, #306, Birmingham, AL 35209, by telephone or fax at (205) 324-4339 or by e-mail at [email protected]
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at www.sbcbaptistpress.org. Photo titles: READING BRAILLE, DAN AND LEIGH, LEIGH SCOTT.

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  • Charles Willis