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, 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.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

APH News: July 2014

The July 2014 issue of the APH News is now online!

This Month’s Headlines:
  • “Full Steam Ahead!”--Annual Meeting 2014
  • National Prison Braille Forum: Save the Date!
  • BOP Authors Write and Revise in Louisville
  • Braille Plus 18 receives FCC Chairman’s Award
  • 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…

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Zagga Entertainment: Descriptive Video… On Demand

Zagga Entertainment

By Kevin Shaw, President and CEO, Zagga Entertainment, Ltd.

Remember the scene in Moulin Rouge where Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman sing to each other on top of the elephant? Or that amazing chase sequence through the subway in the Italian Job? Or how about the upside down kiss in the first Spiderman movie?

Everyone, regardless of visual ability, loves a good story. Movies and TV make up an important part of the cultural experience we all share. It’s these stories that unite us with our families, at work or with our friends. For a long time, I found myself in many awkward conversations where friends and colleagues would rave and laugh about a particular movie or show I had yet to see. There was no described video for the show in question, and I thought I’d catch up later or find some way to change the topic of conversation.

A few years ago, I stood in front of a shelf of shrink-wrapped DVDs. I wanted to catch up on a bunch of movies and TV shows I had purchased, but never got around to watching. I had to ask myself “How come I haven’t watched ANY of these movies?”

I didn’t want to have to go through the frustrating process of navigating on screen menus. So, I went online to see if I could find any described video from the usual providers like Netflix or iTunes. I was shocked to find no audio-described movies and that’s when it hit me…. I should build a “Netflix for the blind” with described video.

I founded Zagga Entertainment shortly after this experience. We’re a Canadian startup with a worldwide vision to create a “Netflix for the blind” featuring movies and TV shows with described video.

The concept is simple: You pay a monthly subscription fee and have all-you-can-eat access to described movies and TV through a fully accessible website and mobile app. Catch up on The Big Bang Theory, 24, finally watch Breaking Bad or, go retro and watch the Back to the Future trilogy as part of a Sunday afternoon movie marathon. Share these experiences with a friend, a date or your family.

We built a prototype of our website and are talking with the major studios about licensing described movies and TV shows. In fact, we’re closing our first deal right now.

Right now, we are crowd funding through Indiegogo to create the full version of our website and mobile app. You can visit our campaign page here and contribute early to receive a subscription to the service as well as nifty gifts for your contribution. The campaign ends on June 14, 2014.

We’re looking forward to launching the service later this year with great content and a fully accessible experience from start to finish. It’s time we let the world know we need Zagga Entertainment so everyone can share these stories. Check us out and help us spread the word!

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