Fred's Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

The Fred's Head blog contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Fred's Head is offered by the American Printing House for the Blind. It was voted best blindness-related blog three years in a row by

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Fred's Head is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni of APH's Customer Relations Department, who is now retired. Check out the bottom of this page for: subscribing to posts via email; browsing articles by subject; subscribing to RSS feeds; APH resources; the archive of this blog; APH on YouTube; contributing articles to Fred's Head; and disclaimers.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Developing Accessible Apps for People who are Deafblind

By Dr. Arun Mehta, Bapsi

Bapsi is a small NGO in India that seeks to help those with multiple disabilities via free and open source technologies, with a current focus on the needs of the deaf-blind. Earlier, they needed an iPhone with a braille display to communicate. With free apps from our Vibration series, they can use Android smartphones costing as little as $50 to be able to send and receive information independently. To someone completely lacking vision and hearing, the phone sends text by vibrating in Morse code.

Taking advantage of a grant from the Information SocietyInnovation Fund, we are conducting training in Morse code for trainers at the Helen Keller Institute for the Deaf and the Deaf-Blind in Mumbai. We are also developing apps for two major categories of the deaf-blind: 1) senior citizens, who often have low vision and poor hearing, and 2) pre-literate children. 

Narangi is an Android app designed with the help of friends at the HomiBhabha Center for Science Education. It lets you draw with your finger in black on orange, and also sense what you have drawn -- when you move your finger on the screen, the device vibrates when there is black color under your finger. To clear screen, change the phone orientation from landscape to portrait or vice versa. 

Watch a short video on Narangi.  

Do you have any app ideas for people who are deaf-blind? If so, email Dr. Arun Mehta at arun (dot) mehta (at) gmail (dot) com. 

Monday, September 08, 2014

APH News: September 2014

The September 2014 APH News is now online! This month’s headlines:

  • “Full Steam Ahead!”—146th Annual Meeting Registration Still Open
  • National Prison Braille Forum: Countdown to Launch Time!
  • Complete the 2014 APH Customer Satisfaction Survey
  • Field Test Opportunity: Nemeth Tutorial
  • Oldies but Goodies: The "Established" APH Product Series
  • Treasures from the APH Libraries
  • Social Media Spotlight
  • APH Travel Calendar
  • New Products from APH
  • The Braille Book Corner and much, much more…

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

APH News: August 2014

The August APH News is now online!

This Month’s Headlines:

  • “Full Steam Ahead!”--Annual Meeting 2014 Registration Now Open
  • Wings to be Presented this Year!
  • APH Policies Regarding UEB Transition
  • Call for Field Evaluators
  • Oldies but Goodies: The "Established" APH Product Series
  • Treasures from the APH Libraries
  • Social Media Spotlight
  • APH Travel Calendar
  • New Products from APH
  • The Braille Book Corner and much, much more…

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Eye-Opening Experience of Writing about Vision Loss

By Nicole C. Kear

Nicole Kear and her children blowing bubbles

I was nineteen when I was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative retinal disease that I was told would leave me blind. The very bumpy journey of acceptance that followed (and continues even today) is the subject of my new memoir, Now I See You.  

Nicole C. Kear
Credit: Justine Cooper
Now I See You cover

In my early twenties, I hid from the disease in denial. I made the most of the vision I had remaining -- living life boldly, seizing every day – and I convinced myself that doing so would make it easier to watch my vision fade. In my late twenties, after I became a mother, I realized I’d need to confront my vision loss and learn how to live with it. But realizing I needed to cope wasn’t the same as actually coping and it still took years for me to work up the courage to get help from organizations like the New York State Commission for the Blind, Visions, and the Lighthouse. Receiving training and joining support groups were invaluable in helping me come to terms with my vision loss, but it’s still a process I’m in the thick of, and I will be, I’m sure, for some time to come.

Soon after I finished my training, I started writing my memoir. I wrote it for the same reason most writers pen books; because it was a story I felt compelled to tell. My biggest hope was that it would shape up to be a great book, one that resonated with readers, a book that would make people laugh, and cry, and possibly prompt insights. On a personal level, I hoped the process of writing it would be healing, would offer me a chance to make peace with something I’ve had a tough time reconciling myself to. And it did. Revisiting memories I’d tried to ignore liberated me from them. I was able to make some sense of things that felt senseless. At the end of the experience, I felt like I’d found some valuable perspective

But the part of the process that was really healing came after the book’s publication, and was totally unexpected. Even before the book was officially released at the end of June, I began to hear from eager readers, most of whom were people whose lives were impacted by vision loss. The messages trickled in at first, and then, once the book was published, they poured in. Men and women who struggled with visual impairment and their mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers, friends. Retirees and middle-aged folks and young adults. People wrote from all across the country and from other countries, too. Readers were excited to discover a story that was so similar to theirs, to that of people they loved, and they thanked me for writing it. In fact, I feel like it’s me who should thank them. Hearing from readers has opened my eyes to a diverse and amazing community of people I’d only glimpsed before.  

I am awed and amazed by the folks I’ve heard from. Blind and visually-impaired people are running families, firehouses, corporations, marathons. They’re teaching kids and healing patients and singing opera and editing books. They are living full, spectacular lives, and I’m profoundly inspired by their stories. An ancient proverb, which I quote in my book, reads, “It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”  I can only hope my book lights a small candle for those who read it; I know that their stories have done just that for me.

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