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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Thursday, October 18, 2018

Throwback Thursday: On the road

Mike Hudson of APH standing in front of a
 bright aluminum building with a rounded roof.
I am on the road this week, but as I passed through Memphis, TN I couldn't resist taking a side trip for a little APH history.  In the years after World War II, popular music was undergoing dramatic changes.  As small record companies tried to get regional styles like blues and country western records pressed, they ran into a number of technological barriers.  Several turned to APH, which had been pressing Talking Book records on vinyl since 1936, for help.  One was Sidney Nathan at King Records in Cincinnati.  Mr. Nathan even hired away the APH production manager!  But a lesser known company that learned from the printing house was Plastic Products, owned by Buster Williams.  In 1956, Williams did a small job for another regional studio, Sun Records, a recording of "All Right Mama" by Elvis Presley. The quonset huts that housed Plastic Products are still standing on Chelsea Avenue in Memphis, and we visiting them over the weekend.  Is it possible that APH saved Elvis?

Monday, October 15, 2018

White Canes: Tapping Toward Independence


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by Jessica Minneci

     The white cane is a mobility aid that helps people who are blind or visually impaired navigate the world around them. The cane serves as an extension of your body. When swept across the ground, the cane provides you with tactile feedback. It hits against obstacles to let you know you’re approaching uneven ground like a curb or set of stairs.
     Ali Krage is a young woman who has used a white cane for most of her life. Blind since birth, Ali has retinopathy of prematurity. "My retinas were somewhat detached when I was born 3 months early," Ali recalled. "They tried to do laser eye surgeries. They didn't work and I lost my vision a month after I was born." Luckily, Ali still has light perception in both eyes.
A white cane in front of a young woman's feet.
     When she was three years old, Ali was taught how to use her cane. Looking back, Ali remembered that it didn't take long for her to learn how to use it. Her teacher taught her two cane techniques: constant contact (where the cane is continually sweeping across the area at the user's feet), and two-point touch (where the cane is used to tap once on each side of the area in front of the user). At present, Ali prefers to use constant contact, but will sometimes switch to two-point touch. Two-point touch helps Ali search for "a stairwell" and listen for "echoes/open spaces." Together, this combination of techniques assists Ali in independent travel.
     As she explores her surroundings, Ali can be seen with her 60-inch-long white cane from Ambutech. The cane features a rubber golf grip and rolling marshmallow tip, which gives Ali the perfect amount of tactile feedback. Ali's first step toward independent travel with her cane came when she began learning her way around her neighborhood in Illinois. "My mom had me practice a route from my house to the coffee shop downtown," Ali explained. Once she mastered that route, nothing was stopping Ali from continuing to explore the world around her.
     A student at Northern Illinois University, Ali uses her cane to help her find her classes. She also leaves campus quite frequently. Laughing, she admitted, "I Uber like all the time to Dunkin' Donuts to do homework on Tuesdays." Some weekends, Ali goes home to see her family. "I take the shuttle from NIU to the Elburn train station and the driver leads me to the platform," she said. Some summer excursions have allowed Ali to travel outside of the state of Illinois. Recently, Ali spent a weekend in Seattle and went on an Alaskan cruise.
     Reflecting on using a cane, Ali disclosed some of the advantages of cane travel. One huge advantage is that when she is crossing the street with her cane in hand, cars will yield to her. In addition, canes are an automatic indicator that someone needs assistance, such as when that person is in an airport. On top of that, Ali stated, "Canes allow you to detect some landmarks that might be useful in traveling such as a certain bench by a bus stop." Often, orientation and mobility specialists will teach people a route by showing them different landmarks that they pass along the way. Now, when people pass these landmarks, they know that they are on the right path. A cane has proven to be a great tool for Ali to use when she is making her way to different destinations.
     If you’re blind or visually impaired and don't utilize any mobility aids, I hope you’ll consider using a cane. Not only will it allow you discover your surroundings, but it will also assist you in traveling without any sighted assistance. A cane can mean going where you want to go, and overcoming barriers in your way!

Friday, October 12, 2018

The Joy Player as an Adult Learning Tool


APH’s Joy Player is a simplified audio player that lets users easily access music and audio books. It’s designed for people who are visually impaired, but also for anyone developing fine motor skills, or who has limited mobility.

William Tubilleja, a professional in the BVI field, entered an APH writing contest to share how he uses the Joy Player. Below are excerpts from his story, where he dispels the misconception that the Joy Player is only for young children.
Close up of the Joy player buttons, a cartridge is inserted into the port

“One day a colleague, an Orientation & Mobility (O&M) instructor at my work, said he wanted to stop using cassette players with clients to present instruction on rainy days or days when he was absent. He didn't like the sound quality of the cassette player and the fact that it was only possible to access one lesson at a time. I thought about this and we talked about some ideas. Some of the ideas were more complicated than most of our clients could handle, due to lack of exposure to technology… I presented the Joy Player to the O&M instructors as a way for our adult clients to easily access multiple recorded files with minimal training.

Loading files into the Joy Player is simple and straightforward. The Joy Player accepts NLS cartridges and holds 4 GB of data, which means a client can access nine hours of O&M lessons independently. An instructor can easily load the cartridges with materials by copying and pasting to the cartridge drive.

The Joy Player is simple to operate. The NLS cartridges are easy to load because they slide into the 'fail proof' chute and connect to the port. With the push of the centered, tactile play button, the device begins playing. To get to other lessons, the client can scroll recordings by pressing the tactile previous and next buttons on either side of the play button. To change the volume settings, the client presses one of the furthermost buttons tactually identified with a plus or minus symbol.

To begin, the instructor can present a simple lesson that enables the client to use the Joy Player independently for the recorded lessons. For a variety of reasons, the O&M instructor may be unable to provide services to a client on a particular day, but this should not disrupt service. Our clients' time is valuable and it is limited. It is vital to get maximum instructional service to the client within the time they are at the center.”

Tubilleja Shows how technology as simple as the Joy Player can be powerful when in the hands teachers.

“I started out helping one colleague with one problem. Today, our three-person O&M department uses the Joy Player for audio lessons and I am working with our AT staff and Braille instructor to implement use of the device for early basic instruction. The mindset of creative use of APH products has long been encouraged by its field staff. It is a thought process that I have taken to heart, not just with the Joy Player, but many other products that I've utilized in my instruction of students with vision impairment throughout my career.”


More information about the Joy Player can be found on our website.


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