Bible-based content conveniently available to blind or visually impaired; A religious nonprofit keeps pace with accessible technologies

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Chris McMillan

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Nov 7, 2023, 3:04:59 PM11/7/23
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*Important*

(I’m not a Jehovah’s Witness, but the content is streets ahead of anything I’ve ever seen in a Christian faith context). 


Bible-based content conveniently available to blind or visually impaired; A religious nonprofit keeps pace with accessible technologies

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

ILOILO City – Eliaz Azarraga is blind and can’t read the captivating content or see the vivid images of the website displayed on her tablet. Yet she’s not missing a single detail on the page.

That’s because the website employs a powerful accessibility tool: audio descriptions. So, like her sighted companions, she can consider the thrilling story of Daniel trapped in the lions’ den and visualize the strong angel standing with wings outstretched, protecting the aged prophet from the ravenous lions.

“Having the audio descriptions, it feels like I can see it myself,” said Eliaz of Roxas City. “Normally, I ask my mom what’s going on in the video, but now the Bible’s message comes to life for me. It makes me very happy.”

Eliaz is among the 43 million people worldwide who are living with blindness, according to a report by the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness’s Vision Atlas. Additionally, the report says that 295 million people have moderate to severe visual impairment. To acknowledge this large community, World Blindness Awareness Month was 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 – scripturally-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 Local Spokesperson for Jehovah’s Witnesses Seth Nono. “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.

“She loves the pretty voice in jw.org skill,” said Psykhe Azarraga of Roxas City, the mother of Eliaz. “We are so thankful to have easy access to the wealth of Bible-based information on jw.org.  It helps our daughter do her own personal study and research without taking too long to read.”

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.

The vividly narrated videos, photos and illustrations help Eliaz and feel included and cared for. “I truly feel like I belong to a beautiful worldwide family of fellow believers when I am able to learn from the same materials as everyone else. Braille is okay, but sometimes I feel tired to read. Now, by repeatedly listening to the audio, I can learn fast and prepare for meetings,” Eliaz added.

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 jw.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.


JW Blind and VI Project

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Nov 17, 2023, 4:13:03 PM11/17/23
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Thanks for sharing that Chris it was really informative.

Just to let you know, making it even more accessible, here in England the public editions of the Watchtower audios can be played on the British Wireless for the Blind (BWBF) Talking Newspapers app.  
For Amazon Echo smart speakers the first step is to add BWBF’s Skill to Alexa by saying:-
“Alexa enable Talking Newspapers”
Then say,
“Alexa open Talking Newspaper”
Alexa will ask you for the name of the talking newspaper that you want,
Say, “Watchtower.”

In other countries, the following links can be used:

If anyone would like a braille copy, a BRL or RTF file of this for free, please email us at jwbraill...@gmail.com and we'll happily send one.

Mel Brown and Thomas Rauch 

JW Blind and VI Project

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Dec 6, 2023, 1:40:58 PM12/6/23
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We've had a few enquiries in since this article regarding the Amazon Alexa Skill information, so we thought it might be good to share a copy here:  

JW.ORG Website

Use the JW.ORG Skill for Amazon Alexa

Play selected content from jw.org on an Alexa-enabled device using the jw.org skill for Amazon Alexa.

Setting Up Your Device

Use the manufacturer’s instructions supplied with your Alexa-enabled device to connect it to the Internet and set it up for use.

 To enable the jw.org skill:

 1.    Go to https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07YSRTQ27/.

 2.    Sign in to the Amazon account that your Alexa device is registered to.

 3.    Click the “Enable” button.

 Using the JW.ORG Skill

 Your command must include the skill name jw.org either before or after the description of what you want to play. For example:

 “Alexa, play original songs from jw.org

 “Alexa, ask jw.org to play original songs”

 Alexa plays the audio version of the content you ask for. Below are some examples of what you can ask Alexa to play.

Note: Some of the words are optional, and these are shown in square brackets. For example, you can say, “Alexa, read the daily text [for today] from jw.org.” In this case, the words “for today” are optional, since Alexa reads the daily text for today if you do not request a different day.

You can also ask Alexa to play content in other languages. See the heading “Play Content in a Different Language.”

Bible

Alexa plays recordings of the 2013 edition of the New World Translation if they are available. Otherwise, it plays recordings of the 1984 edition.

 “Alexa, play Genesis from jw.org

 (play the entire Bible book starting with chapter 1)

 “Alexa, play Matthew chapter 5 from jw.org

 (play the Bible book starting with the specified chapter)

 “Alexa, play Romans chapter 15, verse 4, from jw.org

 (play starting with the specified verse. Note: Starting to read from a specific verse is supported for the 2013 edition of the New World Translation only.)

 Music

 When you ask Alexa to play a music collection, it plays the songs in random order until you tell Alexa to stop.

 “Alexa, play music from jw.org

 (play a variety of music)

 “Alexa, play original songs from jw.org

 (play original songs)

 “Alexa, play Kingdom songs from jw.org

 (play instrumental and vocal arrangements of Kingdom songs)

 “Alexa, play vocal Kingdom songs from jw.org

 Also available: meeting Kingdom songs or instrumental Kingdom songs

 (play the requested arrangement)

 “Alexa, play [vocal] Song 38 from jw.org

 (play the vocal arrangement of the song)

 “Alexa, play meeting Song 3 from jw.org

 Also available: instrumental Song 3

(play the requested arrangement)

 Meetings

Alexa can play the assigned Bible reading, the Watchtower study article, the Meeting Workbook schedule, or the Congregation Bible Study material from last week, this week, or next week. In each case, the week begins on Monday.

 “Alexa, read this week’s Bible reading from jw.org” or “Alexa, read the Bible reading for this week from jw.org

 (play all Bible chapters assigned for this week’s midweek meeting)

 “Alexa, read last week’s Bible reading from jw.org

 (play all Bible chapters assigned for last week’s midweek meeting)

 “Alexa, read next week’s Bible reading from jw.org

(play all Bible chapters assigned for next week’s midweek meeting)

 “Alexa, read this week’s Watchtower Study from jw.org

 (play the study article for this week)

 “Alexa, read this week’s Congregation Bible Study from jw.org

 (play the material assigned to be studied at this week’s midweek meeting)

 “Alexa, read this week’s Meeting Workbook [schedule] from jw.org

 (play the schedule for this week’s midweek meeting)

 Specific Publications

 “Alexa, read the daily text [for today] from jw.org

 (Alexa reads today’s text and comments from Examining the Scriptures Daily)

 “Alexa, read the daily text for tomorrow from jw.org

 Also available: daily text for yesterday or daily text for next Wednesday or daily text for December 1

 (Alexa reads the text for the specific day)

 “Alexa, read Enjoy Life Forever! lesson 1 from jw.org” or “Alexa, read lesson 1 of Enjoy Life Forever! from jw.org

 (play the lesson)

 “Alexa, read the Teaching brochure study 1 from jw.org” or “Alexa, read study 1 of the Teaching brochure from jw.org

 (play the study)

 Additional Features

 “Alexa, play the latest morning worship from jw.org

 (play the most recently released Morning Worship program)

 “Alexa, play Morning Worship [programs] from jw.org

 (play Morning Worship programs in random order)

 “Alexa, play dramas from jw.org

 (play audio dramas in random order)

 “Alexa, play dramatic Bible readings from jw.org

 (play dramatic Bible readings in random order)

 “Alexa, play the [monthly] broadcast from jw.org

 (play the audio of the latest monthly broadcast)

 “Alexa, play the [monthly] broadcast for January 2019 from jw.org

 (play the audio of the monthly broadcast for the requested month)

 “Alexa, play the [latest] Governing Body Update from jw.org

 (play the audio of the latest update and continue in reverse chronological order)

 Play Content in a Different Language

 You can play audio content in a different language if the content is available in that language on jw.org.

 For example:

 “Alexa, read this week’s Watchtower Study in Russian from jw.org.”

 “Alexa, read this week’s Congregation Bible Study in Tagalog from jw.org.”

 “Alexa, play original songs in Korean from jw.org.”

 “Alexa, play the latest morning worship in Hindi from jw.org.”

 Please note these limitations:

You cannot request the daily text in a different language, since it is read by Alexa and Alexa can read only in the language of your device.

The jw.org skill follows the midweek meeting schedule used in English and other major languages. In some cases, congregations in other languages may use a different publication for the Congregation Bible Study.

 Playback Control

 You can control playback by giving commands such as the following:

 “Alexa, pause” or “Alexa, stop

 (stop playback until you ask Alexa to resume)

 “Alexa, resume

 (resume playing the last content that was stopped, whether from jw.org or another source)

 “Alexa, next” or “Alexa, skip

 (stop playing the current track, and play the next available one)

 “Alexa, previous

 (stop playing the current track, and repeat the one that played immediately before the current one)

 “Alexa, repeat” or “Alexa, restart

 (restart playing the current track from the beginning)

 “Alexa, loop

 (if a single track was requested, play that track repeatedly; if a collection was requested, play that collection repeatedly)

 “Alexa, loop off

 (complete the track or collection currently playing and then stop)

Kind regards, Mel Brown and Thomas Rauch

JW Blind and VI Project

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Jan 12, 2024, 4:58:31 PMJan 12
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We would like to update you.

Once each year, Jehovah’s Witnesses commemorate the death of Jesus just as he commanded when he said: “Keep doing this in remembrance of me.”—Luke 22:19.

Around the world, we will be distributing an invitation to two free events:
The special Bible talk “The Resurrection—Victory Over Death!”
The Memorial of Jesus’ death Sunday, March 24, 2024

The English RTF and BRL files are available to download from the website accessible with screenreaders www.jw.org/en/jehovahs-witnesses/memorial/

We have some embossed braille copies in English too.  If you would like one, or know someone who would like a braille copy, please email us at jwbraill...@gmail.com with an address and we would be happy to post one out.

Kind regards, Mel Brown and Thomas Rauch
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