Actually, Biblica has answered this call and produced the first gospel of a new accessible Bible. Matthew’s Gospel in the New International Readers Accessible Version was launched at the No Limits conference in November. Excitedly I picked up a few copies to bring home with me and gave one to each of our Good News Group Leaders. We all agreed that for those of our group who could read, it was a fantastic resource. The sentences are short, the text is large print and the paragraphs are spaced with clear breaks. The language is simpler but faithful to the original. The occasional illustration breaks up the text visually and makes the whole gospel of Matthew accessible to people who couldn’t either understand the language or read the text because it was too small.
We bought 20 copies from 10ofThose and planned our teaching programme with texts and stories from Matthew’s gospel. We are teaching about prayer and found our stories and Bible verses to explore different aspects of prayer each week. As we always plan a multi-sensory approach – we’ve made a 3D prayer reminder from a wooden spoon and done drama and puppet sketches, used sensory experiences, Makaton and songs to support each session.
There are still many of our group that cannot read so I took the text we were using and produced symbol pictures using the Communicate in Print software we use. I’ve put these in a folder so that they are becoming like a visual Bible story book.
Here’s an example:
When we read the Bible passage now, we give out the Matthew Gospel books and the folders with the symbol sheets to each table that sits about 6-8 people. Each group then reads the Bible together. Taking it at the slowest reader’s pace, the members of the group who can read, read out loud together and those who can’t read follow the story on the pictures. They can say the key names, places and words along with the Bible reading, whilst pointing to each picture to see the story unfold.
Here’s a photo of us all reading the Bible together!
From the first time it has been so wonderful. Instead of one person reading the Bible from the front, we are reading it together and our members are learning that the Bible is accessible to them. We’d love a audio version for our blind and non-reading members but we feel that the Matthew’s Gospel version has got off to a great start and we are really excited about more to come.
The accessible Bible has huge implications. There are so many people with learning disabilities who can read but who find the complex sentences, complex language and small text in a regular Bible impossible to access. I hope anyone wh reads this will buy some copies for their church and make them available to people in their congregation and community. It has the potential to be life changing, faith changing and community changing.