The Orthodox Church has a rich language of images that teach us about the Incarnate God with us in Christ. But what do you do if you want to teach the language of holy images to people who are blind or have visual impairments?
One option for people who cannot see at all or who have severe limits in vision is to order carved icons. Several iconographers have translated holy icons into carvings such that the patterns can be felt with the fingers. There might be local options where you are, but I have had success ordering from Etsy. Three (not-affiliated) Etsy stores that sell carved icons and have good reviews at the time of publication are the Woodenicons shop, the Nauticalchandelier shop, and the TarasovAndFamily shop.
Another option for people with limited vision is to print icon outlines in black ink on high contrast paper, such as neon green, neon pink, or bright yellow. The Orthodox Illustration Project by the Orthodox Arts Journal is a wonderful resource for high quality icon drawings that are free to use for non-commercial purposes. These high contrast images also work well for people who are colorblind.
If you don’t have money to purchase a carved icon, you can also print out one of the icon line drawings and trace over the lines with glue or puff paint. When it dries, you have a touchable icon outline that people can access without being able to see. This works better for simpler icons such as close-ups of faces. If you try this method, allot two days for drying time in case the paint or glue shrinks and you have to do touch ups after the first day.
Does your church have a teaching ministry that brings the language of icons to people with visual impairments? Tell us about it in the comments.