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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Tuesday, January 22, 2019

A New Website: Making the Web More Accessible

"We're getting a new look... New site launching soon."

We’re excited to announce that a new APH website is just around the corner! Before the coding even started we looked at all the feedback from you, our users, to determine how our site would best serve you. We held external focus groups comprised of educators, EOTs, consumers, and those working in the field of blindness and visual impairment. The overhaul has been a project of colossal proportion, and phase one is almost done.

Accessibility First

From day one, the work on our new website has put accessibility first. The new user experience uses the very best technology we have to offer. For users who are visually impaired, it will be easy to change the font size. The navigation is clean and simple: screen readers will have no problem working with the site.

Important Features

The new APH shopping experience will be like shopping on Amazon. Customers will have up-to-date shipping information and can put items into a wish list. The new site was designed with our customers in mind. How does the average person shop, or browse a website? We are now giving our customers the same experience they’re used to getting from big companies on the internet.

EOTs are also getting great new features. For the first time, EOTs will have one single sign-on for all of their accounts. Teachers will be able to log on to the site and create a wish list. The EOTs will then have the option to approve, change, or deny that request.

A New Flow of Information

The new website will be sleek and easy for any user. Information will be shared through article style blog posts. These will be easy to share on social media and ensure that you can easily find the information that is relevant to your interests.

It’s Going to Take Some Time to Get It Right

We’re so excited to share this new site with you. We wish we could promise a perfect transition to the new website, but we can’t. We’ve spent an entire month testing for bugs internally, but the launch still won’t be perfect. We thank you in advance for your patience and look forward to sharing this amazing new site with you soon.

APH Founder's Day: 161 Years of Accessibility

1883 engraving of the APH building.

Our Throwback object this week is coming a day early, and truthfully, it is a story without an object.  Today is our Founder’s Day.  One hundred and sixty-one years ago, the American Printing House for the Blind came into being when its chartering legislation was signed into law by Kentucky Governor Charles Morehead on January 23, 1858.  It was a humble beginning.  Due to the difficulties posed by the Civil War, APH would not be able to assemble its equipment and emboss its first book in raised letters until 1866.   We did not own a building, we operated in a borrowed basement workroom, and it would be years before we assembled a paid staff.  It was a much different world.  For children that were blind, their only hopes for an education were scattered schools founded to teach them, often a day or more away by train from their families. And those schools were chronically underfunded and often lacked even the most basic educational tools.  The library of the Kentucky School for the Blind held fifty titles in a tactile format in 1850.  Fifty.

But a beginning it was.  Today APH is the largest company of its type in the world.  We emboss millions of pages of braille, print millions of pages of large type, record hours and hours of talking books, and manufacture countless educational aids.  We operate online databases helping teachers and parents and adult consumers find the tools they need for education and for life.  But it all started, in 1858, with the flourish of a governor’s pen.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Doors to Access and Understanding: A Conversation with Author, Dr. Christine Roman-Lantzy

A copy of Dr. Roman-Lantzy's book sits on a tabletop with a pencil,
notepads, and coffee.
It’s no secret: there are not enough resources or materials about Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI) - this includes resources for families and teachers. To fill this gap, Dr. Christine Roman has now released her second book on the topic in partnership with APH Press. 

CVI: Advanced Principles is the continuation of foundational information provided in CVI: An Approach to Identification, Assessment & Intervention. The book is a collaboration among experts in several disciplines in the field and dives into topics that are extensions of the concepts in Dr. Roman-Lantzy’s first book.

American Printing House is pleased to be a part of this collaborative effort that will get important information into the hands of parents and teachers.

“The purpose is to move beyond the essential topics into those that are more specialized and expanded within topical areas,” explains Dr. Roman-Lantzy. “The chapters represent CVI-related content most requested by educators and parents. The two books are companion works meant to be used to establish basic concepts associated with CVI and then to ‘dig deeper’ into more advanced concepts associated with CVI.”

Readers are given a practical approach to creating “balance” in the environment and in classroom tasks as necessary for students with CVI. 

Dr. Roman-Lantzy says it is critical to consider CVI as a disability of access. “Individuals with CVI can ‘see’ but cannot interpret the world around them without adults who have the knowledge and skills to frame, adapt, and explain what is seen. The authors in this text assume the competence of the children they serve and recognize that the struggles of the student may be more a reflection of the lack of access to materials, environments, and people than a lack of cognitive potential.”

CVI: Advanced Principles provides content intended to help members of the child’s community provide skills that open the doors to access and understanding.
“I hope that this book will provide content and methods that will create opportunities beyond the fundamentals of CVI and open new doors for individuals with CVI,” says Dr. Roman-Lantzy.

To order your copy of CVI: Advanced Principles, visit the APH website here:

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Special CEC DVIDB Pre-Convention Workshops

Are you attending the Council for Exceptional Children Conference this month in Indianapolis? APH is sponsoring a pre-conference workshop for CEC’s Division of Visual Impairment and Deafblindness. Take advantage of the two half-day workshops being offered!

Special CEC DVIDB Pre-Convention Workshops
January 29, 2019 – 9:00 am to 4:00 pm

Child-Guided Strategies: The van Dijk Approach and Assessment
Dr. Catherine Nelson, author and collaborator with the late Dr. Jan van Dijk will present their book on following the child’s lead for assessment.

Teaching Concepts to Children with Visual Impairments and Deafblindness Using the BEST Elements of Dance
Dr. Catherine Nelson, Kristen Paul, Pamela Gerber Handman and Brooke Barnhill will lead an interactive session on dance as an approach for body, energy, self-regulation and space (BEST) for individuals with complex and sensory disabilities.

Location: Indianapolis Convention Center – 100 S. Capital Avenue – Indianapolis, IN
DVIDB Member Price: $50, Non-members: $75

Professional Development Units and light refreshments provided. Registration fee includes both programs noted above.

A teacher and student working with the Expandable Calendar Boxes

Throwback Thursday: Game of Beetle

The wooden “beetle” assembled:
body, six legs, tail, neck, and head

Our object this week reminds me of a game I had as a kid, called Cootie.  You built this bug out of bright plastic.  I think it is still on the market.  Turns out that “Cootie” was introduced in Minneapolis in 1949 by a postman, William Schaper.  And as often happens, the idea was “borrowed” by another manufacturer, the Royal National Institute for the Blind in London, England.  RNIB’s version was called “Beetle” and it was made of wood, but otherwise it was pretty much “Cootie” under another name.  It seems unlikely that you could get away with something like that today without getting a nice “cease-and-desist” letter.  The game came with four sets of pieces to assemble your “bug,” braille instructions and a molded plastic die with raised dots.

The blue cardboard game box.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

The Bird Box Challenge: Don’t Mistake a Blindfold for Blindess

Julian Edwards, Bullock and Vivien Lyra Blair in “Bird Box.”Credit
 Merrick Morton/Netflix
Netflix has made it clear: don’t try the Bird Box Challenge – it’s dangerous. If you don’t know what the Bird Box Challenge is, it comes from a recent Netflix hit: Bird Box. In the movie people have to wear blindfolds in order to escape a mysterious force – if you see it, you die. Now the internet is full of people trying to climb stairs, cross through traffic, or cook dinner in a blindfold.

At American Printing House for the Blind (APH) we see more than just the physical danger of wearing a blindfold: there’s another harmful consequence that affects people who are blind.
Putting on a blindfold and trying to do day-to-day tasks may seem like it lets you know what it’s like to be blind, but it doesn’t.

Most people who are blind lose their vision slowly and have time to learn and adapt. It’s not as scary or as difficult as losing all sight immediately. While unintended, the Bird Box Challenge can have negative side effects: It can create the false impression that people who are blind are just stumbling around, and unaware of their surroundings, reinforcing harmful stereotypes that lead to discrimination.

We talked to one of our accessibility editors about how unfounded stereotypes impact people’s perception of the ability of people that are blind. “No one denies that living with blindness can be challenging, but the Bird Box Challenge and other similar simulations reinforce the stereotypical response of many that blindness is the worst possible thing that can happen to them,” explained Paul Ferrara. “Such simulations focus all of one's attention on the difficulties, amplifying them extraordinarily, making it much more difficult to tell people the truth about blindness. It is one characteristic of a person, not what defines them, and people who are blind adapt. We work, have families, and enjoy life.”

To help give people a better understanding of what it’s like to be blind, APH would like to invite the public to visit our Museum. Visitors are able to wear goggles that give you a better idea of how a person with vision loss views the world, eliciting empathy and understanding- not sympathy. Take the Goggle Challenge – not the Bird Box Challenge.
The Museum also provides hands-on opportunities to use a cane, type and feel braille, and experiment with the various educational products APH produces to level the learning playing field in classrooms across the country. The history of blindness is full of strength, innovation, and perserverance in the face of stereotyping and ableism. Learn more by visiting us at 1839 Frankfort Ave Louisville, KY 40206.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Skills and Actions from APH

Free fun at home! 

Did you know American Printing House has skills and actions for your virtual assistant that you can play right now? With the help of your Amazon Alexa® or Google Assistant™, you could be playing one of these fun and educational games at home, or in the classroom!

Three kids lay on the floor by a Google Home

O&M Trivia

O&M Trivia is a fun way to learn and reinforce orientation and mobility knowledge for people of all ages! Cardinal directions, cane techniques, and landmarks are just a few of the topics covered within the game. Users can play alone or with up to three additional players. Scores are calculated automatically for friendly competition. Game settings also allow users to select appropriate difficulty levels.

O&M Trivia logo, features white cane casting a
shadow of a question mark

Google Invocation: “Ok Google, talk to Orientation and Mobility Trivia”

Amazon Invocation: “Alexa, open O M Trivia”

Math Flash

We’ve taken our popular Math Flash desktop flash card game and brought it to your voice assistant! Instead of entering answers on a computer like with the desktop version, users can speak answers to Math Flash through Alexa or Google Home — making solving addition, subtraction, division and multiplication problems a fun and fully interactive, hands-free experience.

Math Flash logo, features an equation "2+1"

Google Invocation: “Ok Google, talk to Math Flash

Amazon Invocation: “Alexa, open Math Flash”

Stay tuned for even more exciting ways to play from APH!

Two Partnerships, One Goal: Braille Books for Children

It all started with feedback from parents: they couldn’t find affordable braille books. In fact, they were almost unattainable to families of preschool aged children. Any parent of a sighted child can find books in a bookstore, library, or even in the grocery store to read. A parent of a child who is blind or visually impaired doesn’t have that luxury. It can cost $6 – $20 to transcribe just one page, making the books expensive!

The first thing APH had to do was find affordable books – something we were able to do through a partnership with the Dolly Parton Imagination Library (DPIL). The Dollywood Foundation allows us to buy Penguin Publishing books at a reduced rate! Now all we need to do was  figure out how to add braille to the books.

With transcription and labor costs being so high, APH had to find a way to make things more affordable. We already had a partnership with the Women’s Kentucky Correctional Institute (KCI) and their Prison Braille Program, so it made sense to expand that partnership. KCI trains and certifies women inmates as braille transcriptionist. Now the women in this program transcribe text into braille, adhere clear braille labels onto the books from the Imagination Library, and prepare the books for packaging.

It is through these partnerships that APH is able to provide free to low-cost print/braille books to the homes of children throughout the country!

While we offer the books for free – it still costs APH $78.00 a year to provide books for one preschooler. If you’d like to donate to help this great resource reach more children, click here.

A child and mother reading a brailled storybook.

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The American Printing House for the Blind (APH) makes every attempt to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the data contained in the Fred's Head articles; however, APH makes no warranty, guarantee, or promise, expressed or implied, concerning the content or accuracy of the information provided in Fred's Head. APH does not endorse any technique, product, device, service, organization, or other information presented in Fred's Head, other than products and services directly offered by APH.

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