Visual assistance program brings Bible alive for nursing home resident

Thursday, July 28, 2011
Jim Osborn, a representative from the WILL Center based in Terre Haute, demonstrated to Beulah Underhill how to use the new Talking Book she will be receiving for free. It has large buttons with varying shapes so she can listen to her bible as her vision worsens. (By Sabrina Westfall)

Beulah Underhill, a resident of Linton Nursing and Rehab Center, has been slowly losing her vision over the course of the past few years.

She has Macular Degeneration, which is an age-related deterioration of her central vision.

She cannot drive, walk well or see what time it is on a regular clock. But those issues were not what was bothering her the most. She was devastated that she could no longer read her Bible.

Beulah Underhill was excited when representatives from the Wabash Independent Living and Learning (WILL) Center gave her a watch that said the time out loud, at no charge to her. She could not see the hands on her old watch due to Macular Degeneration. (By Sabrina Westfall)

"I could read until they (doctors) did those last two surgeries, but they said if I didn't (have the surgery) I would lose my sight completely," Underhill explained.

Underhill said she attended the Church of God in Linton for many years, and being able to read the Bible is very important to her.

"It (reading the Bible) is important for my spiritual life," Underhill explained.

She said it had been a while since she had been able to read the Bible on her own, but was very thankful there were people in the facility to read to her.

She expressed her concern to Activity Director Beverley Westfall, who had recently been informed of a local agency that helps accommodate people who are struggling with low vision or blindness.

Jim Osborn and Danny Wayne from the Wabash Independent Living and Learning (WILL) Center visited Underhill at the facility Wednesday with materials that would help her be able to enjoy her Bible without waiting for assistance.

The WILL Center has free services for visually impaired or blind individuals over the age of 55 in several southwestern counties, including Greene and Sullivan.

Wayne, who has lost the remaining of his vision in the last year, explained to Underhill why these products are important to her as she continues to lose her vision.

Osborn demonstrated the use of a talking book. The buttons are oversized and had different shapes so Underhill could memorize the buttons to use the machine with no assistance.

Indiana Talking Book and Braille Library in Indianapolis allowed the company to borrow the talking book for demonstration to show people they still have the ability to do what people with perfect sight can do.

Osborn handed Underhill what looked like an oversized memory chip. The 3 inch by 2 inch green piece of plastic was what she will plug into her talking book to listen to her Bible.

Underhill proudly held up the advanced technology and smiled.

"With technology and the way it has advanced in the last 15-20 years, we have been really lucky," Osborn said in reference to the devices developed to help the visually impaired.

In one to two weeks, Underhill will have the capability to further immerse herself in the word of God on her own time, and will not feel like she has to burden someone by reading to her.

More information about the WILL Center can be accessed at or by calling (812) 298-9455, extension 205.

WILL Center programs are funded through the Family and Social Services Administration and the Office for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

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