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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Monday, December 11, 2017

Here it is! 2017 APH News!

This month, APH is transforming access as dramatically as braille did back in the 1850s with the introduction of BrailleBlaster™ software.

A Few of This Month’s Headlines:

  • APH Approaches Major Milestone
  • NEW! Color-by-Texture CIRCUS Coloring Pages
  • NEW! AnimalWatch Vi Suite (for iPad)
  • Field Tests and Surveys
  • Create your own Braille at Home!
  • APH InSights Art Competition 2018 Now Open!
  • Braille Badges Contest Deadline is Here!
  • Winner Announced! We Have a New Unforgettable APH Video Star!
  • STEM Corner
  • Social Media Spotlight
  • APH Travel Calendar and more…

Thursday, December 07, 2017

The Pearl: A Throwback Thursday Object for Creating Tactile Graphics

On the seventy-sixth anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, we tried to find something that applied to remember the day, but we don’t have that kind of collection.  But we do have a PEARL!  The Plate Embossing Apparatus for Raised Lines was invented and designed by APH engineer Gary Davis in 1984.  To my knowledge, only two were ever made.  The PEARL is a metal tooling machine that functioned much like a sewing machine, only instead of stitching fabric, it embosses raised lines on metal embossing plates used to create tactile graphics.  About four feet wide, the PEARL is all business with its gray paint and stainless steel hardware, so in that regard it does reflect those ships on battleship row.  The operator sat in front of the machine and fed the plate under the tooling arm.  Although most of our tactile graphics production has gone digital, we still have a PEARL ready to produce plates for jobs that run on our Heidelberg Presses.

Photo Caption (The Plate Embossing Apparatus for Raised Lines)
Micheal Hudson
Museum Director, APH

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Braille: A Foundation for the Future


Braille: A Foundation for the Future
by Craig Meador, President, APH
Photo shows a boy reading braille.

Technology has been a boon for everyone and people who are blind or visually impaired have benefited a great deal from the availability of, and perhaps, more importantly, the efforts to make technology fully accessible.  There are more ways to learn and access information and entertainment than ever before, thanks to these advances in technology. While this has provided great cause for celebration (believe me, we at APH are the biggest fans) it has also come with some misinformation and incorrect assumptions about the need for braille.  Let me begin by saying these advances will not take the place of braille as e-readers will never entirely replace printed materials.

Braille is an established form of communication used by people around the world who are blind and visually impaired. Braille is essential to literacy, because it incorporates all the elements of the printed word, including spelling and punctuation. Although screen readers and audiobooks provide people who are blind or visually impaired additional ways to access information, braille is foundational for lifelong learning.

At the American Printing House for the Blind (APH), we see evidence that braille is alive and well every day. We’re printing more braille pages than ever before. We’re filling more orders for braille teaching tools than in the past. And more for-profit companies are coming to us for braille printing services. That’s due, in part, to hard-fought laws that require companies to provide braille materials as part of making their information accessible to everyone.

At APH, we’re so confident about the importance and future of braille that we recently introduced BrailleBlaster™, a revolutionary new software tool that translates text into braille quickly, easily, and accurately. When we started this project, our goal was to provide a tool that made it possible for every child to have braille materials on the first day of school. Braille textbooks are widely used in schools, but it can take weeks or months to produce braille materials using manual braille transcription. BrailleBlaster efficiently converts print into braille so students who are blind or visually impaired can have their textbooks on the first day of class.

BrailleBlaster’s innovative technology will help put students who are blind or visually impaired on equal footing with their sighted peers—letting them show everyone that they can achieve just as much as anyone else, if they’re given equal access to information. Best of all, BrailleBlaster can be downloaded absolutely free by braille transcribers, teachers, students, businesses, community organizations, and of course, parents at By providing BrailleBlaster for free, APH is hoping to expand access to braille around the world to unprecedented levels.

There’s plenty of other evidence that braille is here to stay.  Several groups are creating full page braille displays and graphic tablets and braille technology is getting more and more affordable. The Orbit Reader 20 will be the first refreshable braille device you can purchase for less than $500, making braille access through technology even more widespread around the globe.

At APH, we believe in braille. We know it’s crucial to literacy and independence. Please hear me clearly on this point.  We are not saying that other technology, such as screen readers that now come standard with many devices, like the iPhone, or the AI advances that read signs and materials to you aren’t important options. We’ll always support the availability of new technology that helps make information more accessible and promotes independence. But this technology’s place is alongside braille—as a complement, not a replacement.

 We are on the cusp of a braille revolution. With better access to transcription, the support of accessibility laws, the hard work of good teachers, the advent of affordable braille technology and the advocacy of parents and professionals we are poised to see braille elevated in schools, workplaces, homes, and communities like never before. APH is proud to be a part of this revolution, and we look forward to sharing the exciting days ahead with all of you.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Throwback Thursday Object: Fundraising Poster for Rochester Eye Bank

Our object this week is a fundraising poster for the Rochester Eye Bank.  "Mommy! I can See Again! “ is printed on the yellow poster with a black-and-white illustration of a young girl holding a rag doll.  The Rochester Eye-Bank and Research Society was founded by the Rochester Downtown Lions Club in 1952 to retrieve and store eyes for corneal transplants and research.  The first successful cornea transplant occurred in 1905 in Europe, but the creation of eye banks to store eye tissue was critical to the success of the endeavor.  The first eye bank in the U.S. was founded in 1944 in New York City.  The eye bank in Rochester closed its doors in 2015.
Micheal Hudson
Museum Director, APH

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Your #GivingTuesday Donation Can Make Dreams Come True


Your #GivingTuesday donation can make dreams come true

by Craig Meador, APH President
Photo: Portrait of Dr. Craig Meador

Everyone has dreams. That’s one of the many ways people who are blind or visually impaired are exactly the same as people who are typically sighted. We all have dreams and hope we can make them come true.

People who are blind or visually impaired dream of getting an education, going to college, and maybe earning an advanced degree. They dream of jobs that bring them satisfaction and independence. They dream of participating in their communities and our society. They dream of achieving everything they set out to do—just like everyone else.

At APH, all our work centers around making these dreams possible, and providing people who are blind or visually impaired with the products and educational resources they need to fulfill those dreams. Although we’re a nonprofit organization, we’re also a business—not a wish factory—so we have to operate within the confines of budgets and organizational objectives.

We’re grateful for the grants and government funding we receive to help us create educational, workplace, and independent living products and services for people who are blind or visually impaired. But those funds aren’t enough to cover all of our costs, so the generosity of individual donors is essential to helping us make more dreams come true.  

Donations help us maintain programs like Braille Tales, which ensures that toddlers who are visually impaired receive their first braille book to read with their parents, at no cost. Donations help us continue the research and development that results in new technology like Graphiti that lets students finish school at the same pace as their sighted peers and gives people who are blind or visually impaired the same career opportunities as everyone else. Donations help us continue our work to change public attitudes so people of all ages who are blind or visually impaired can be independent and make valuable contributions to our society.

If you have already donated to APH, we’re very grateful for your support of the work we do. If you’ve never made a donation to APH before—or you want to donate more—Giving Tuesday is a great day to do so. Donations in any amount will bolster our mission to improve the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired.

Giving is the engine of the work we do at APH, and your donation will empower more people who are blind or visually impaired to pursue their dreams. Thank you for helping us make those dreams come true.
Photo: Giving Tuesday Logo

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Your Wish List for Accessible Cities

A Wish List for Accessible Cities

by Craig Meador, President, APH

At the American Printing House for the Blind, we believe accessibility is for everyone, everywhere. But as we all know, most cities and communities aren’t fully accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired. APH wants to change that, and we took a big step forward by asking people who are blind or visually impaired what they want and need to navigate the world independently.
Over the summer, we conducted a survey at major field conferences asking participants to give us their definition of an accessible city and community. We interviewed 397 people, including those who are blind and visually impaired, as well as caregivers, family members, and practitioners in the field. We also received 436 online survey responses, making this the largest study of this topic to date.

First, I want to thank everyone who participated in our survey. Our vision of creating fully accessible communities — like the Accessible Louisville plan we’re already working on — won’t be a reality without your input and support. Your participation was invaluable.

I’d also like to share a little bit about what we learned. You told us you want all-inclusive cities that make true independence possible for everyone. You want auditory and haptic pedestrian signals at every stoplight, with vocal feedback about crossing times and directions. You want beacons to read signs independently in public buildings, braille signage, and armor tile on all blended curb cutouts. You need more accessible solutions for transportation and shopping.

Those are just a few of the things on your wish list for a fully accessible community. Now, we’ll be using what we learned from the survey to do even more research and explore partnerships with other organizations. We’ll also continue with our Accessible Louisville plan that will not only make our home city more accessible but will create a template for other cities to follow. This plan includes a 20-location pilot project of APH’s indoor navigation technology, Nearby Explorer Online with Indoor Explorer™.

 If you participated in our survey, we want you to know that your perspective is guiding our accessibility priorities. We’ll keep listening to what you have to say; you will hear much more from us about this topic.

APH has always been committed to breaking down barriers to learning and living. Now our classrooms are everywhere in this wide, changing world, with opportunities to explore and discover that belong to everyone. Thank you for being part of our work and helping us shape the future of accessibility.

For questions about APH's accessible communities initiative, please email
Top photo shows a man navigating a library with Indoor Explorer on a smartphone; bottom photo shows a talking street crossing unit.

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