Wednesday, November 2, 2016

By Faith and Not by Sight: A Blind Minister’s Vision Realized

By Carl Stagner
A complication of premature birth, blindness has been an ever-present struggle for Sarah Blake LaRose. Though she’s had to endure the great challenges of blindness, and a variety of other physical hardships, she’s also seen clearly the beautiful nuances of life that many with fully functioning eyes may never see. Moreover, her contributions to society, particularly for the blind community, have been astounding. So astounding, in fact, that she was named one of this year’s Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award winners by the National Federation of the Blind. Sarah, who envisioned equal accessibility to scholarly study of the Bible for the blind, has, in many ways, contributed herself to the realization of that dream. 
At the award ceremony earlier this year, Sarah explained that she used to receive e-mails from prospective students asking her if is possible to pursue studies of biblical languages and yet be blind. Reflecting back on the experience that led to this moment of accomplishment, she explains, “What we are doing didn’t become real to me until I stood on the stage and I realized that this project has the power to make the difference in whether a student gets exempted from biblical languages or whether a dean suggests they change their major. These are the things that have actually happened to blind people who have gone to Christian colleges and seminaries.” Concluding her speech that day, she remarked, “There should be no more exemptions for anybody who wants to study these languages!” Thanks to a group she’s partnered with, dubbed the Semitic Scholars, there doesn’t have to be.
Well-suited for the task, Sarah has been using Duxbury-brand translator products since 1993. The Duxbury Translator, software that can turn a standard file, such as a Microsoft Word document, into a format readable by a braille embosser, has been steadily expanding its language base since it was first developed. When Sarah needed the tool for her Greek course at Anderson University, she found it coming up short. Corresponding with a Duxbury employee about the 
issue, she ended up working with them to update the product, using her own knowledge of the JAWS screen-reader for the blind. Ultimately she began serving as a beta tester for a feature that made multilingual documents accessible to the blind, and helped the team of Semitic Scholars develop a product designed specifically for biblical languages. Much has been done, but there is much left to do.
Sarah’s ability to read biblical languages also came in handy for her contribution to these award-winning efforts. Today she not only manages a blog and website replete with tools for those special needs and helpful resources for the general public, she also serves as an adjunct professor of Hebrew for Anderson University School of Theology and Christian Ministry. Together with her blind husband Kevin, they share an inspirational blog on the ups and downs of married life amid the unique challenges associated with blindness and compounded by other health issues.
When asked about what she wishes more people understood about the blind community, she cites the frequency of people assuming she would want to pastor a church of blind people. “We like to participate in the community, make friends with our neighbors, and do many of the same things you do,” Sarah explains. “Please ask questions about our interests, our jobs, our families, etc. We think about a lot of things and would enjoy talking about them. Also, I would like people to feel less anxious about how to help. Start by just saying hello and giving us a chance to get to know you. Trust us to ask for help if we need it. We aren’t afraid to ask. The most important part of helping is being available, and the best way to do that is just to be a friend and have an open and teachable spirit.”
Were you blessed by reading this story? Support the ongoing work of Church of God Ministries with your gift to the World Ministry Fund at

Thursday, August 25, 2016

How I Found Out I'm Going Blind By Erin Going

In this video I share my story of how I found out that I'm losing my vision and other things that changed my life forever. Feel free to leave a comment below...

Friday, April 1, 2016

How Apple Saved My Life By James Rath

Born legally blind, the 20-year-old Rath says he was severely bullied as a child and had difficulty learning. He attempted suicide when he was 11 years old, and was diagnosed with depression at the same age.
But when he got his first MacBook Pro on his 14th birthday, he found that the computer's accessibility features allowed him to see things he otherwise wouldn't have been able to see. He could read his schoolbooks and zoom in on software that allowed him to edit video.
"My whole outlook on life changed after I got my first Mac," Rath told CNNMoney. "I stopped doubting myself."

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Franklin Delano Roosevelt -

Franklin Delano Roosevelt - (January 30, 1882 - April 12, 1945) Franklin was the 32nd President of the United States of America and played a big role during World War II. Roosevelt eventually aided the poor and un-employed of America and restored order at various times during his Presidency. He was also the only President to ever get elected 4 years in a row mostly because of his help for the recovery of the economy. It has been said that Roosevelt had several disabilities including vision impairment. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Marla Runyan

Marla Runyan

Olympic runner Marla Runyan never let her disability slow her down. Born in 1969 in Santa Maria, California, Runyan has Stargardt’s disease, a degenerative eye condition that caused her to become legally blind. A three-time national champion in the women’s 5000 meter, Runyan competed in the 1500-meter finals at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia.
An avid marathon runner with a master’s degree in special education, Runyan is a professional motivational speaker, encouraging people to look past barriers and reach their full potential. She said she was inspired to succeed as a young child, after a doctor told her that her blindness would prevent her from achieving success in life.
Runyan also reaches out to children and families dealing with vision loss. “The future is not written and you have control about how you respond to the vision loss,” she has said. “Your child will show you what he or she wants to do.”

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The last slave: ‘Blind Tom’ Wiggins’ remarkable tale

Black History Month, as the late president Gerald Ford eloquently said in 1976, encourages Americans every February to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

Prominent black Americans like Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver often figure prominently in this discussion, whereas pathbreaking but lesser-known figures mostly get overlooked.

Like Thomas “Blind Tom” Wiggins.

Blind Tom may well have been one of America’s greatest musical prodigies, yet remains far too obscure in American culture and history.

Born a slave in Harris County, Ga., in May 1849, Blind Tom was unable to work the plantation owned by Gen. James Neil Bethune. He was therefore allowed to wander around freely and discover the world in a way that other black Americans of the time couldn’t have even dreamed of.

As the story goes, he was intrigued by the piano after listening to Bethune’s daughters play it. He was able to memorize pieces in a flash and, by the age of 5, wrote his first composition, “The Rain Storm.”

Bethune immediately recognized the young boy’s talent. He was moved into the family home in an adjoining room with a piano, and reportedly played for many hours each day. 

As Blind Tom got older, he was loaned out to concert promoter Perry Oliver and toured the country. He was an immediate sensation, earning more than $100,000 per year and was often compared to great composers like Ludwig van Beethoven and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. 

He astonished audiences, and could apparently play several songs at once. He had memorized somewhere in the neighborhood of 7,000 pieces of music. His magnificent 1861 composition, “The Battle of Manassas,” beautifully fits in with other great music from the Civil War era. 

His admirers included then-president James Buchanan (he was the first black American to perform at the White House) and Mark Twain.

On the surface, it sounds rather idyllic. Alas, Blind Tom’s life was anything but. 

Blind Tom had several strikes against him: his race, blindness and the fact that he was, most likely, an autistic savant. For all of his natural ability in music, the author Willa Cather once described him as little more than a “human phonograph, a sort of animated memory, with sound producing power.” 

He was unable to take care of himself, couldn’t communicate his own wants and needs and often spoke in the third person. Some have even suggested he wasn’t aware of the fact that he was an African American.

Moreover, Blind Tom has been called the last legal slave in America, and there may be some truth to this. He went through a series of custody battles within the Bethune family, and bounced from city to city. He served as little more than a sideshow attraction to an adoring audience, and died a pauper in June 1908.

Hence, he was never really a free man.

There’s another sad part to this tale. No original recordings of Blind Tom appear to exist. His sheet music is available, but only a small number of musicians have ever recorded his original songs. The most well-known album, “John Davis Plays Blind Tom,” was brought out in 2000. The irony? Davis, a talented musician and historian, is white. 

Blind Tom’s life was a living hell — there’s no denying this. At the same time, the musical legacy that this incredible (albeit troubled) pianist born into slavery left behind is worthy of greater discussion and, in turn, national recognition.

Indeed, Blind Tom is precisely the figure we should be celebrating during Black History Month (or anytime, of course). Blind Tom Wiggins’ difficult journey and neglected accomplishments mask a classic American tale of genius, talent, determination and inspiration.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Andrea Bocelli He is a famous Italian tenor who had become blind at the age of 12.

Andrea Bocelli - (born 22 September 1958) He is a famous Italian tenor who throughout the course of his career has recorded more than 20 classical and pop albums, and seven complete operas, selling a total of more than 65 million albums throughout the world.

Andrea Bocelli had become blind at the age of 12 years old following a football accident in which he was hit in the head. At 6 years old Bocelli was taking piano lessons before also learning the saxophone and the flute. His family would always ask him to sing, bocelli once said "I don't think a singer decides to sing, it is the others who choose that you sing by their reactions". Bocelli has also sung with other great singers such as Pavarotti. He’s one of the world’s most famous opera singers, and he’s totally blind. Andrea Bocelli is a man that overcame many odds to become a household name worldwide. Born in 1958 in Lajatico, Italy, Bocelli went blind at age 12, when a blow to his head during a soccer game further complicated his congenital glaucoma.Though he is known for his angelic and soaring opera tenor, Bocelli did not find a career in music until later in life. He worked for years as a lawyer and practiced his “hobby” of singing in piano bars and parties on weekends. A talent scout happened to hear him sing at a party he attended and signed him to a recording deal.Andrea has worked with the famous Luciano Pavarotti and Sarah Brightman, and has sung for the Pope. He is best known for his sweet songs, such as “Con Te Partirò”, a duet with Sarah Brightman and has released several multi-platinum albums throughout Europe and the United States.Bocelli’s velvety voice and inspiring personality have won him fans worldwide. “All that counts in life is intention,” he is quoted as saying. “You have to persevere, you have to insist.”