Advertisement for Christian Services for the Blind and Hearing Impaired in the South Pacific Church magazine.

From Record, November 30, 2019.

Christian Services for the Blind and Hearing Impaired

By Lee Dunstan

×

Grenville Dunstan, B.Ed. (Avondale College of Higher Education, Cooranbong, NSW, Australia), is manager of Christian Services for the Blind and Hearing Impaired (CSFBHI). Australian born—and better known as Lee—he has served the church for some 45 years: first as a teacher then as editor of the SPD and associate editor of the North American Signs of the Times magazines respectively until 2018. He has authored a number of books and numerous Signs of the Times articles.

Christian Services for the Blind and Hearing Impaired (CSFBHI) is a service of the South Pacific Division of Seventh-day Adventists.

Background

The Seventh-day Adventist Church began its work with the blind and visually impaired in 1899, when American Austin O. Wilson, legally blind himself, personally published an Adventist magazine in braille, which he called the Christian Record.1 This initiative became the Christian Record Braille Foundation (CRBF).2 In the Australasian Division (now South Pacific Division) Max G. Townend, division Sabbath School director in the early 1970s, had a list of some 70 persons who were receiving a braille Sabbath School Lesson Quarterly supplied by CRBF,3 along with the Review and Herald and other American magazines. He also ran an informal audio Sabbath School “class” for the visually impaired on tape.4 Pastor Townend was officially appointed as “liaison” to CRBF in March 1971,5 thus formally beginning the ministry.

Christian Services for the Blind (1973-1986)

In August 1972, a committee was established to study the work of CRBF upon which an Australasian Christian Services for the Blind (CSFB) would be modelled.6 The impetus for a formal ministry for the visually impaired came from Ivan White, himself blind, who presented the concept to the division president.7 The clientele was subsequently expanded to include any who were unable to read regular print media due to any physical condition, such as having suffered a stroke or being unable to hold a book.

A steering committee, meeting on May 24, 1973, proposed the new entity, Christian Services for the Blind. It was voted to register Christian Services for the Blind (CSFB) as the entity business name in the state of New South Wales at the November 7, 1973, with its “business” described as “the sale and/or supply of reading and audio materials for the blind.”8 Local conferences were encouraged to do likewise in the various Australian states.

The establishment of the entity was then formalized at the May 29, 1974, Australasian Division Executive Committee, with aims as follows:9

     (a) To publish and distribute free literature for the totally and partially blind, and physically handicapped who are unable to read normal ink-print conveniently.

     (b) To further by all proper and legitimate agencies and means, religious, charitable and educational work for the blind.

     (c) To solicit and receive gifts, legacies and donations from any source – not for personal profit or gain to any individual or organization whatsoever, but to be used and expended for the purposes and objects for which this organization is established.

Its free services were listed as:

     (a) Personal visits and assistance by District representatives

     (b) Consultations to clients and their families

     (c) Referrals to individuals and organizations

     (d) Employment assistance

     (e) Helpful representation of clients before welfare and other organizations

     (f) Assistance to interested people to become Braille transcribers in their home

     (g) Lending library of hundreds of books in Braille, in large print, on records, reel-to-reel tapes and cassettes

     (h) Holiday camps for the blind and visually impaired.

The first CSFB director was Pastor Ron Vince, then speaker for the Church’s radio programs in Australia. He was located in the Adventist Radio and Television Productions (ARTP) facility in Wahroonga, New South Wales. Advanced recording facilities were readily available. The service was modelled on CRBF, with Vince as the reader of the audio Sabbath School Lesson Quarterly. A library of audiobooks, which were mostly but not exclusively denominational, began with the arrival from the United States of two master recordings of the January 1974 issue of The Student.10 These were copied onto cassette tapes. The library grew so that by 2010 there were almost 1000 titles across some 4500 cassettes, with as many as 1200 cassettes in circulation in any one week.11 By 1975, CSFB was registered as a charitable organization in most states of Australia with tax exemption.12

According to Jan Mitchell, the service was located at 176 Fox Valley Road, across the road from the Division offices, at Wahroonga. Mitchell ran the library for some 17 years.13

Clients, numbering 550 at its peak, received CSFB audiobooks on cassette tape in pouches via post. Some continued to receive braille materials sent from CRBF. The services of CSFB were—and remain—free to its members, funded by personal donations and bequests, division grants, and a biannual offering.

Noteworthy among volunteer book readers was Les Pascoe, who read more than 200 (one record says 350) books, even as he approached his centennial year. Others included Joan Baldwin and Muriel Ferris, who each read more than 100 books.14 Percy Harrold, director from 1995 to 2005, had read the Sabbath School Quarterly weekly lessons for more than 22 years at the time of this writing.15

Because sight impairment often accompanies aging, the CSFB clientele are largely older people. A second service supporting younger persons was added through local conference youth departments, with camps for visually-impaired teens and youth instituted in 1979. CSFB provided substantial subsidies for campers, helping the conferences to provide appropriate activities and the high level of supervision required.16

The first such camp was conducted at the Yarrahappinni, New South Wales, youth camp, in 1979 by the North New South Wales Conference. The camp was led by Eric White, a youth pastor, with the support of expatriate Division Youth Director Jim Harris. This “New Vision” camp provided the model and inspiration for other conferences, with most conducting their own camps. Through the 1990-1995 quinquennium, an average of 85 visually and hearing-impaired youth—Adventist and otherwise, some of whom were eventually baptized—attended New Vision camps across all conferences in Australia.17

Christian Services for the Blind and Hearing Impaired

The demographic of the deaf is the largest unreached people group confronting the Adventist Church with some 460 million worldwide.18 Those with deafness or a hearing impairment often withdraw and isolate themselves from the world of those who hear. To meet this challenge, in 1986, CSFB expanded its scope to include the deaf and hearing impaired, necessitating a change in name to Christian Services for the Blind and Hearing Impaired (CSFBHI), as it is known today. A procedure manual was published in 1989 to give direction to those wishing to utilize the services of CSFBI.19 In July 2009, in anticipation of the organization’s transfer to Adventist Media, CSFBHI’s aims and objectives, as well as roles and job descriptions, were updated. 20

CSFBHI’s main work for the hearing impaired was to encourage the installation of hearing aid loops in all churches. Further and significant changes in its services were the product of the advances of the digital age, which have hugely benefitted the blind and the deaf. Voice to text (for the deaf) and text to voice (for the blind), Bluetooth devices and smart phones with GPS locating technology have revolutionized how those groups access information and communicate. Entire books can be stored on a single CD (the Bible took 60 cassettes), for example, and video viewing for the Deaf became economically and technologically feasible with easily added optional closed captioning on video.

Given that the new technological and digital audio skills are resident in Adventist Media (AM), the Church’s media production organization, CSFBHI, physically relocated to Adventist Media in January 2010 in order to begin the process of digitizing its outmoded cassette library and convert it to the easily navigated DAISY file format—the global standard for accessible print and audio product.21 The role title of “Director” was changed to “Manager,”22 given its altered functioning and shift in management responsibilities to AM.

At the time, library service was outsourced to Vision Australia Library (VAILS) in Melbourne, Victoria (the peak body for the Blind in Australia), with its sophisticated system of processing book requests, digitally printing them to CD, and dispatching to clients.23 The CSFBHI library was first reviewed for duplicated titles or poor quality recordings, culled, processed from cassette into DAISY, then merged with the VAILS library. Because of legal and funding constraints, and the Australian copyright regulations, only those registered as legally blind or medically certified as unable to read print (and resident in Australia or New Zealand) could access the full VAILS library of books. International members could still receive CSFBHI titles and Sabbath School Quarterly, along with a free Daisy player. While this was a negative, members within Australia and New Zealand were able to access the VAILS library of some 25,000 books, newspapers and magazines, in addition to its comprehensive range of general support services for the blind.24

The increase in “accessibility” and “equal opportunity” regulation and social awareness has given CSFBHI a new raison d'être, promoting accessibility awareness and greater inclusivity in programs of churches, and providing “accessible” resources, such as closed captioning, to AM video product as appropriate, and assisting in the closed-captioning of Hope Deaf Channel content.25

In 2015, as a result of entreaties from the newly formed General Conference Office of Special Needs, a proposal was presented to the South Pacific Division Executive Committee to further expand the scope of CSFBHI to include the wider range of special needs people, namely the intellectually challenged and their families.26 However this was not carried and it remains a service exclusively for the visually and hearing impaired, with only casual promotion and awareness-building excursions into the broader “special needs” field.27

Directors/Managers of CSFB/CSFBHI

Max G. Townend (CRBF liaison 1971); Ron Vince (CRBF liaison 1971-1973); Ron Vince (director 1973-1985); Ernest C. Lemke (director 1985–1991); Ray Coombe (director 1991-1995); Percy Harrold (director 1995-2005); Les Relihan (manager 2001-2009); Greg Evans (manager 2010-2011); G. Lee Dunstan (manager 2012-).

Contribution

CSFBHI continues to make a significant contribution to the quality of life of those who have visual and/or hearing impairment. It has expanded its operations since it began in 1971 and its clientele includes the Seventh-day Adventist and non-Adventist community.28 It operates as part of the Adventist Media Network with headquarters in Wahroonga, New South Wales.29

Sources

Australasian Division Executive Committee Minutes, May 29, 1974, South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives. Wahroonga, New South Wales, Australia.

Christian Services for the Blind Committee Minutes, November 5, 1973. Held in Box 1831: Christian Services for the Blind. South Pacific Heritage Centre, Avondale College of Higher Education, Cooranbong, New South Wales.

CSFBHI Steering Committee Minutes. July 29, 2009. Christian Services for the Blind and Hearing Impaired. Adventist Media, Wahroonga, New South Wales.

“Detailed History.” Christian Record Services for the Blind, 2019. Accessed July 10, 2019, https://christianrecord.org/info/detailed-history.html.

“Deafness and Hearing Loss.” World Health Organization, March 20, 2019. Accessed September 10, 2019, https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/deafness-and-hearing-loss.

Dunstan, Lee. “Christian Services for the Blind and Hearing Impaired.” Record [South Pacific Division], January 27, 1918.

Dunstan, Lee. “Conference Focuses on Special Needs.” Record [South Pacific Division], May 19, 2018.

“History.” Christian Record Services for the Blind, 2019. Accessed July 10, 2019, https://christianrecord.org/info/history.html.

“Making a Difference in Their world.” Record [South Pacific Division], August 16, 2014.

“New Booklet Inspires Churches to Cater for Hearing Impaired.” Record [South Pacific Division], April 20, 2019.

“Overview of the Christian Services for the Blind & Hearing Impaired.” February 12, 2010. Held in Box 1831: Christian Services for the Blind. South Pacific Heritage Centre, Avondale College of Higher Education, Cooranbong, New South Wales.

“Procedures Manual Published for Christian Services.” Record [South Pacific Division], August 26, 1989.

“Report, Christian Services for the Blind.” Undated, circa 1991. Held in Box 1831: Christian Services for the Blind. South Pacific Heritage Centre, Avondale College of Higher Education, Cooranbong, New South Wales.

“Report of Christian Services.” Held in Box 1831: Christian Services for the Blind. South Pacific Heritage Centre, Avondale College of Higher Education, Cooranbong, New South Wales.

“Report.” Undated, circa 1978. Held in Box 1831: Christian Services for the Blind. South Pacific Heritage Centre, Avondale College of Higher Education, Cooranbong, New South Wales.

“Quality Sound.” Record [South Pacific Division], June 17, 2017.

Stackelroth, Jarrod. “Church Reaches Out to Deaf.” Record [South Pacific Division], July 2, 2016.

Stackelroth, Jarrod. “Partnership with a Vision.” Record [South Pacific Division], January 22, 2011.

Vince, R. A. to Conference CSFB representatives. Undated, circa 1974. Held in Box 1831: Christian Services for the Blind. South Pacific Heritage Centre, Avondale College of Higher Education, Cooranbong, New South Wales.

Notes

  1. “History,” Christian Record Services for the Blind, 2019, accessed July 10, 2019, https://christianrecord.org/info/history.html.

  2. “Detailed History,” Christian Record Services for the Blind, 2019, accessed July 10, 2019, https://christianrecord.org/info/detailed-history.html.

  3. 3 “Report of Christian Services,” held in Box 1831: Christian Services for the Blind, South Pacific Heritage Centre, Avondale College of Higher Education, Cooranbong, New South Wales.

  4. Jan Mitchell, email to author, January 15, 2016, held in Box 1831: Christian Services for the Blind, South Pacific Heritage Centre, Avondale College of Higher Education, Cooranbong, New South Wales.

  5. Report, undated circa 1978, held in Box 1831: Christian Services for the Blind, South Pacific Heritage Centre, Avondale College of Higher Education, Cooranbong, New South Wales.

  6. Ibid.

  7. “Report of Christian Services,” held in Box 1831: Christian Services for the Blind, South Pacific Heritage Centre, Avondale College of Higher Education, Cooranbong, New South Wales.

  8. R. A. Vince to Conference CSFB representatives, undated, circa 1974, held in Box 1831: Christian Services for the Blind, South Pacific Heritage Centre, Avondale College of Higher Education, Cooranbong, New South Wales.

  9. Australasian Division Executive Committee Minutes, May 29, 1974, South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives, Wahroonga, New South Wales, Australia.

  10. Christian Services for the Blind Committee Minutes, November 5, 1973, held in Box 1831: Christian Services for the Blind, South Pacific Heritage Centre, Avondale College of Higher Education, Cooranbong, New South Wales.

  11. “Overview of the Christian Services for the Blind & Hearing Impaired,” 12 February 2010, held in Box 1831: Christian Services for the Blind, South Pacific Heritage Centre, Avondale College of Higher Education, Cooranbong, New South Wales.

  12. “Report,” undated, circa 1978, held in Box 1831: Christian Services for the Blind, South Pacific Heritage Centre, Avondale College of Higher Education, Cooranbong, New South Wales.

  13. Jan Mitchell, email to author.

  14. Report, Christian Services for the Blind, undated, circa 1991, held in Box 1831: Christian Services for the Blind, South Pacific Heritage Centre, Avondale College of Higher Education, Cooranbong, New South Wales.

  15. “Quality Sound,” Record [South Pacific Division], June 17, 2017, 9.

  16. “Report of Christian Services,” held in Box 1831: Christian Services for the Blind, South Pacific Heritage Centre, Avondale College of Higher Education, Cooranbong, New South Wales.

  17. Interview conducted by the author with Pastor Eric White, January 2019.

  18. “Deafness and Hearing Loss,” World Health Organization, March 20, 2019, accessed September 10, 2019, https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/deafness-and-hearing-loss.

  19. “Procedures Manual Published for Christian Services,” Record [South Pacific Division], August 26, 1989, 10.

  20. CSFBHI Steering Committee Minutes, July 29, 2009, Christian Services for the Blind and Hearing Impaired, Adventist Media, Wahroonga, New South Wales.

  21. “Making a Difference in Their world,” Record [South Pacific Division], August 16, 2014, 2.

  22. CSFBHI Steering Committee Minutes, July 29, 2009, Christian Services for the Blind and Hearing Impaired, Adventist Media, Wahroonga, New South Wales.

  23. Jarrod Stackelroth, “Partnership with a Vision,” Record [South Pacific Division], January 22, 2011, 3.

  24. “New Booklet Inspires Churches to Cater for Hearing Impaired,” Record [South Pacific Division], April 20. 2019, 6; CSFBHI Steering Committee Minutes, December 1, 2009, Christian Services for the Blind and Hearing Impaired, Adventist Media, Wahroonga, New South Wales.

  25. Lee Dunstan, “Conference Focuses on Special Needs,” Record [South Pacific Division], May 19, 2018, 4.

  26. Personal knowledge of the author as manager of Christian Services for the Blind and Hearing Impaired.

  27. Ibid.

  28. Jarred Stackelroth,” Church Reaches Out to Deaf,” Record [South Pacific Division], July 2, 2016, 3.

  29. Lee Dunstan, “Christian Services for the Blind and Hearing Impaired,” Record [South Pacific Division], January 27, 1918, 10.

×

Dunstan, Lee. "Christian Services for the Blind and Hearing Impaired." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 09, 2021. Accessed September 23, 2021. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=87UN.

Dunstan, Lee. "Christian Services for the Blind and Hearing Impaired." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 09, 2021. Date of access September 23, 2021, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=87UN.

Dunstan, Lee (2021, January 09). Christian Services for the Blind and Hearing Impaired. Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved September 23, 2021, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=87UN.