Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Charlottes Web Coming to APH: "I like acting more than anything!"

Three cast members strike a pose, showing excitement for the upcoming production of Charlotte's Web.
“Templeton, Templeton! Wake up you lazy rat!” yells sixth grader Luke Hagen. He’s telling me about his role as Wilber in the upcoming Braille Reader’s theater production of Charlotte’s Web. That line wasn’t in the original script, but when you have as much energy as Luke, the script is just a place to start.

Luke Hagan poses as Wilber in Charlottes Web.
“I don’t say this to be rude, but I think the kids are basically the main attraction.” If you haven’t caught on yet – Luke is pretty funny kid.  “Because when you think of plays you mainly think it’s going to be adults only, but NO, these are KIDS!” To be fair, there are many talented adults in the production, but they’re not as cute as Luke and his younger co-stars.

“My mom told me about the play, and I really wanted to do it because I like acting more than anything,” said fourth grader Makenna Harrod, who plays a lamb. “She is kind of sassy like me, and she doesn’t like Wilber. She’s his enemy.”

Makenna Harrod smiles big talking about her role as a lamb in Charlotte's Web.
Charlotte’s Web is going to make you laugh, but have a tissue at hand. “It’s very funny. It’s basically a drama - a mix of funniness with a little mix of sadness at the end,” says Luke.

He says the hardest part the play is when I found out Charlotte is going to die. “It’s really hard on me because she’s dying. She’s Wilber’s best friend. He’s finding out she’s never going to see her kids.”

Through the highs and the lows of the script, sixth grader Macy Spigelmire, who plays Fern, says there’s an even bigger message. “The play is presented by all blind and visually impaired people, so it doesn’t matter how your eyes are made, or how you are born - you can do anything if you put your mind to it.”

Macy Spigelmire plays Fern in Charlotte's Web.
That’s something Luke mentioned as well – when he’s acting it doesn’t matter what else is going on. “I’m not really a normal kid that does this stuff. I have a lot of stuff going on. I have a heart issue, I have an eye issue, I have a brain issue. I think it’s really great. If you take one look at me on stage you would never know.” 

If you'd like to attend Braille Reader's Theater's production of Charlotte's Web showtimes are:
Friday, March 15th at 7-9 pm
Saturday, March 16th at 1-3 pm and 5-7 pm

1839 Frankfort Ave. Louisville, Ky 40206

Admission is free but space is limited so registration is required. Call 502-899-2213 or email to register. For adults and children age 6 and up.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Accessibility Matters

A woman with a clipboard sitting with a man carrying a white cane. 

You know that song, “you only miss the light when it’s burning low, you only miss the sun when it starts to snow…” Unfortunately, many of us only think about accessibility when it affects our life or the life of someone we know. When it’s our child that cannot access a book to learn her ABCs; our significant other that is unable to fill out the online job application; our neighbor that cannot use her glucometer because the digital screen is too small. Only at this point do many of us think, I wonder if that book is available in braille, I cannot believe the company did not use current web standards to create the job application; I wonder if someone has created a glucometer with speech output or a larger screen.

It is not fair to say that many of us do not care about accessibility. We believe that things should be accessible to everyone, but we may not even know something is not accessible, or that we can make a difference by being aware and following standards and guidelines in our work as well as in our daily life.

APH recently started its own journey toward creating a more accessible workplace. The first step was to create an Accessibility Committee to guide our efforts. This group of diverse employees is always looking at ways our co-workers and customers can access the same information. We are learning, creating, implementing and evolving throughout this journey.
As part of our growth, we think it is time for us to share information we have found useful. We will do this via a series of blog articles that will cover the following topics:

* Document accessibility
* Diversity and Inclusion
* Human interest stories
* Leaders in accessibility/Updates from the field
* Tools, resources and product reviews

Our hope is that these articles will inform you of accessibility issues and solutions, and in turn, inspire you to be mindful of accessibility in your daily life. Together we can create a more accessible world. We welcome your comments and suggestions. Drop us a line at

Introducing Building on Patterns Prekindergarten

A variety of the books available with BOP Pre-K including
 "The Gruffalo" and What's the Weather?"

Every child deserves the opportunity to read. That is the core belief behind Building on Patterns (BOP), a comprehensive program designed to teach children to read and write while learning braille. During the update of BOP, it became apparent that there was a need for a prekindergarten emergent literacy program to help students meet the new literacy standards for preschool and the increased emphasis placed on early learning. Building on Patterns Prekindeårgarten (BOP Pre-K) was created to meet this need.

The BOP Pre-K curriculum demonstrates best practices in braille literacy instruction, with lessons designed to develop listening, speaking, reading, and writing in preparation for kindergarten. It incorporates early childhood education principles throughout the lessons and balances instruction and experiential learning. Through the lesson activities, children will learn to recognize letters and their corresponding sounds; write their name; and read and write the braille symbols that represent letters, numbers, and basic words so that they can develop early literacy skills right along with their classmates.

The most popular feature among the teachers and consultants who wrote and contributed to BOP Pre-K is the inclusion of a variety of high-quality children’s fiction and nonfiction literature. These fun, engaging books help foster peer interactions in lesson activities and more family inclusion in the future rereading of the books. A student copy of each book is included in braille, which is a great way to start a young child’s collection of braille books. BOP Pre-K also includes tactile storybooks that support lesson concepts through activities that involve tracking, simple reading, and understanding tactile graphics, and allows the child to make a stronger connection with the meaning in a fun format. For many children, the tactile storybooks will be the first books they can read independently.

There is currently nothing like BOP Pre-K. Most teachers of students with visual impairments (TSVIs) with prekindergarten students have to plan and create all the lessons and materials themselves, which is often time-consuming and challenging for busy itinerant teachers. BOP Pre-K is a teacher-friendly curriculum written by teachers that provides fun, creative lesson plans, and materials, which means less time on preparation, and therefore more time for instruction with the child. TSVIs can use BOP Pre-K as a stand-alone program, or more flexibly along with the literacy activities that the preschool teacher is doing.

A consultant for BOP, a university professor preparing teachers to work with students who are blind, noted that she is constantly in search of resources that will be helpful to her students, especially as they begin their career as a TSVI. “Building on Patterns is a resource that fills a real need for my students and I encourage them to use it as a tool to become more knowledgeable and confident in teaching reading and writing to young children who are blind.”

For more information about this outstanding resource, visit the Building on Patterns Pre-K website at, and head over to the APH shopping site to purchase the student kit: and more!

Friday, February 15, 2019

Explore Your World With Sunu Band

A person holding a white cane and wearing a SuNu band

Coming soon the APH shop: Sunu Band is the newest product to be offered by the APH Innovations line!

So, what’s a Sunu Band? It’s similar to a smart watch, but it’s so much more. The sleek mobility wristband uses ultrasonic technology to help you navigate. Powerful sensors and haptic feedback inform you of how close you are to obstacles in your path.

The Sunu Band is designed for people who are blind or visually impaired, and can be used with a guide dog, or with a white cane. This new tech enables you to explore the world confidently and independently. Not only does the band help you maneuver around obstacles, but it also has a haptic compass, place finder, and GPS navigation.

Beyond navigation, the Sunu Band can also tell you the time, set discrete alarms and even track fitness metrics. 

If you’re interested in this tech, but want to try it out first, APH and Sunu Band are offering two regional demonstrations. This will be a time for possible users to come learn from the developers of the technology and test out a band for themselves. 

Louisville, KY

Friday, February 22
Time: 1PM
Location: McDowell Center
8412 Westport Road
Louisville, KY

Indianapolis, IN

Saturday, February 23
Time: 10am
Location: Easter Seals Crossroads
4740 Kingsway Drive
Indianapolis, IN

Monday, February 11, 2019

APH InSights — Juried Art Competition and Exhibition for Artists Who Are Visually Impaired and Blind

InSights Art logo featuring a calligraphy pen, paintbrush, pencil
The 2019 APH InSights Art competition is now open.
APH warmly invites artists who are blind or visually impaired to submit artwork for the 2019 APH InSights Art Competition and Exhibition. For 28 years, our renowned international contest has delighted the senses, provoked discussion, and allowed artists who have vision loss the opportunity to share their creative imagination with the world.
Artists may enter original artwork created in any medium, including (but not limited to) painting, drawing, printmaking, fiber, metal, and wood. This year’s deadline for student and adult artists is March 29, 2019.
Winning artwork in nine categories and other selected pieces will be displayed at the APH InSights Art Exhibit during APH’s 2019 Annual Meeting in Louisville, October 10-12, 2019. We look forward to your participation in our competition. For more information, please e-mail, or call Rob Guillen at 502-899-2242.
Deadline for art submissions: March 29, 2019, for adults and students.

About APH InSights Art
APH InSights, an annual juried competition and exhibition, is organized by APH for artists of all ages with vision loss. International in scope, this project reflects our mission to promote independence of people who are blind and visually impaired by encouraging individuals to create original art.

Around 500 entries in all types of media are received each year. Judges from Louisville’s education and art community select pieces for display at the APH Annual Meeting in October. Prize winners are invited to come to Louisville to receive their awards at an evening banquet. Artwork from entries may also be reproduced in the APH InSights Art Calendar and as images on greeting cards.

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