Bower Hill Braillists
The Bower Hill Braillists Foundation existed from 1964 through 2017. During those years, 13,791 ink-print titles had been transcribed into 75,554 brailled volumes. Bower Hill Community Church supported them in many ways including use of space in the church’s building. Due to technological advances, the need for the Bower Hill Braillists Foundation’s services dwindled until in 2017 they disbanded.
Summary Foundation’s History
In 1964, Bower Hill Community Church enrolled a young blind student, Rick Miller, in their Sunday school, but the church couldn’t provide Braille materials for him and neither could the local schools. Since the nearest Braille library was located in Philadelphia, his mother Midge, a member of the church, believed that a Braille group was needed in our area. A request for assistance was sent to the church Session and they approved formation of the Braille Project under the direction of the Christian Education Commission. This involved providing space for an office and loaning the group the necessary funds to purchase four conventional, six-key Perkins braillers and 10 boxes of special Braille paper.
The first instructional class was taught in 1965 by Marcia Gumberg of Rodef Shalom, with the first nine braillists being certified by Library of Congress in 1967. In 1969, the group was legally established under a Trust agreement to become Bower Hill Braillists Foundation. The Foundation was completely staffed by volunteers, who were responsible for Foundation management, the Braille transcription of books and the management of the library.
Textbooks and enrichment materials were provided free of charge for students in public schools and college; specialized materials needed by businesses, professionals and homemakers were made available for the cost of supplies used in reproduction, as well as thermoformed material for permanent possession. While primarily a literary Braille library, math books (Nemeth), textbooks and specialized formats such as music, cookbooks and church bulletins were also transcribed. The yearly seven-month classes in Braille transcription continued until the 2011 death of the last instructor, Priscilla Getty.
During the past 50 years, 13,791 ink-print titles had been transcribed into 75,554 brailled volumes. Thermoform machines, binders, typewriters and shelving were added, and 2 computers and two braille embossers replaced the Perkins braillers.
By the mid-70’s, the number of Braille transcribers had grown to 90, but by 2017 the active group had been reduced to six Executive Committee members and 2 out-of-state transcribers. Readership had dwindled as more and more readers turned to computerized Braille formats. So, in April 2017, the Board of Managers and the Executive Board decided that the time had come to dissolve the Foundation and close the doors of the Bower Hills Braillists.
It has been a remarkable 50 years.