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, July 28, 2008

Manage Your Diabetic Life with

Diabetic Days is a site that helps diabetics maintain their personal health records and data, as well as participate in a community of peers managing the same disease. This site eliminates the necessity of keeping track of medicines and dosages by hand, and centralizes all of the data into one online source. After creating their own account, users may submit their records either via web, email, or even mobile phone. Information may be quickly accessed by users, as well as instantly shared with doctors and specialists. Extra bonuses, such as graphs, averages, and exports, add even more information to the site, further helping users to regulate and manage their diabetic lives.

Click this link to visit

Listen to Nature: Counting Cricket Chirps and Thunder

When I first heard about being able to tell the temperature by crickets I really thought people were trying to pull my leg. I grew up around plenty of crickets and plenty of high temperatures and had never heard of this. It turns out this chirp counting is not only true, but has been around since 1837. It's called Dolbear's Law after the scientist who figured out that the air temperature influenced the rate of cricket chirps. To experiment with this, count the number of cricket chirps in 15 seconds and then add 40. The number that you get will be a rough estimate of the temperature in degrees Fahrenheit. If you have a thermometer handy you can check and see how accurately this works for your family and your backyard crickets.

Kids might also be interested to learn that crickets don't chirp with their mouths, but use their wings to make the sound. Only the male crickets chirp, usually to attract and court females, but also to sound a danger alert.

My father taught me to count the number of seconds between a lightning flash and hearing thunder. Again, I don't think it is exactly accurate, but it must be a fairly good estimate. Sounds, like thunder, can travel a little more than one mile in five seconds. So for each five seconds you count between seeing lightning and hearing thunder, that means the lightning strike was a mile away. So ten seconds is two miles, fifteen seconds would be three miles, and so on. The reason you see the lightning first is that light travels at 186,000 miles in a second, while sound travels one fifth of a mile in that same second. That's hard for kids to understand, but it's a good science lesson. And if nothing else, they will be so busy counting that they won't worry so much about the storm.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

When to Replace Pillows, Mattresses and More

MSNBC has recommendations on when to replace forteen common household items. I have reposted the list for your convenience.

The ritual of deep cleaning doesn't just clear the cobwebs from your ceilings (and your head) it's essential for great health, too. Knowing when to pitch everything from medication to your smoke alarm helps you and your family sleep better, stay safer, heal faster, and more. Our room by room guide outlines some surprising expiration dates.

  • Replace pillows every year. Hair and body oils will have soaked into a pillow's fabric and stuffing after a year of nightly use, making it a breeding ground for odor causing bacteria and allergy triggering dust mites. Using protectors can double the life of your pillows.
  • Toss your mattress after five to ten years. A good mattress lasts nine to ten years, according to the National Sleep Foundation, but consider replacing yours every five to seven years if you don't sleep well. A study at Oklahoma State University found that most people who switched to new bedding after five years sleep significantly better and have less back pain.
  • Change smoke alarms after ten years. After a decade of continual vigilance, a unit's sensors become less sensitive putting you at greater risk from smoke or fire should a blaze erupt. Test smoke alarms monthly and replace batteries with new ones every year. To safeguard your family, install alarms on every level of your home, in bedrooms, and outside all sleeping areas. Scary stat: One fifth of US homes have smoke alarms that don't work.
  • Keep air conditioners until they die. With proper maintenance, including annual servicing, a room or central air conditioner can easily run for up to fifteen years, especially if you don't operate it year round, says Bill Harrison, president elect of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers. Check the filter at least every six weeks, particularly in humid weather. "If dirt covers the filter so you can't see the original material or view light through it, clean it or buy a new one," he says.
  • Replace fire extinguishers every ten years. Portable extinguishers may lose pressure over time and become ineffective whether or not they've been triggered, says Lorraine Carli, national spokesperson for the National Fire Protection Association. If your extinguisher is rechargeable, have it serviced every six years or when the pressure is low. (Look for service companies in the Yellow Pages under fire extinguishers.)
  • Replace vitamins after two years. Independent tests find that most nutritional supplements are good for three years if stored in a cool, dry place, says William Obermeyer, PhD, vice president for research at Consumer? Because the product may have been sitting on store or warehouse shelves for a year, chuck it two years after purchase if there's no expiration date.
  • Keep water filters 20 percent longer than normal. "Filters that make health claims like lead removal are designed to provide a margin of safety in case they're not changed on time," says Rick Andrew, operations manager at NSF International, an Ann Arbor, Mich.-based company that tests filters. (This applies to most drinking water purifiers, including models from Culligan, Brita, and PUR.) Those equipped with expiration indicators (such as trigger lights) last 20 percent longer than their recommended life so a filter certified to clean one hundred gallons actually purifies one hundred and twenty. Filters without an indicator last even longer, cleaning twice the number of gallons claimed.
  • Keep cutting boards indefinitely. How you sanitize the board and not its age is what kills bugs such as E. coli and Salmonella. "The decision to replace one is ultimately based on when you think it looks too beat up," says Brenda Wilson, PhD, an associate professor of microbiology at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. Even a board with deep cracks or grooves is safe if it's sanitized after each use: Wash the board with detergent and hot water; then rinse and flood with a solution of 1 part full strength white vinegar to 4 parts water and let it sit for 5 minutes. Rinse with clean water, pat with a clean towel, and air dry.
  • Discard contact lens solution after three months. "Once the seal is broken, germs can contaminate bottles that are left uncapped or that lack a backflow device, increasing your risk of infection," says Louise A. Sclafani, OD, an associate professor of ophthalmology at University of Chicago Hospital. Get a new case every three months, too.
  • Discard your toothbrush every three to four months. The American Dental Association recommends a three to four month rotation because frayed and worn bristles don't clean as well, leaving teeth more vulnerable to decay.
  • Throw away eye makeup six months after opening. The applicators used to apply mascara, liner, and shadow are repeatedly exposed to bacteria in the air and on your lashes; after six months of everyday use, they can overpower the products' preservatives, says John Bailey, PhD, chief scientist at the Personal Care Products Council. Liquid products that don't touch the eyes, such as foundation, can be used for up to two years; dry face products like powder and lip items are generally formulated to last at least three years.
  • Toss antibacterial cream after one year. Beyond a year, the antibiotic is probably still good, but the chemical mix in the ointment may start to go bad, which may make the product less effective.
  • Hang onto dandruff shampoo for three years: Most medicated shampoos will stay effective at least that long if there isn't an expiration date. Adding water to an almost empty bottle to get the last bit from the bottom dilutes preservatives and makes them less effective. Toss the remainder after several days.
  • Use rubbing alcohol until the bottle is empty. "Rubbing alcohol practically lasts forever," says Abigail Salyers, PhD, a professor of microbiology at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. Even after exposure to air, the alcohol/water solution remains stable for years, if not decades, and the alcohol kills any microbes that might get into the bottle.
CopyRight 2008

The Windows Narrator

All of the later computers with Windows on them have a speech program called " Windows Narrator." This is a very, very simple screen reading program that can be used in emergencies when your regular speech program is not working or unavailable. It will absolutely not take the place of a much more sophisticated screen reading program such as JAWS or WindowEyes, nevertheless, it can be useful in some very limited situations. Here are the basic keyboard controls to navigate the Windows Narrator Program.

Windows Narrator Hot Keys

Opening and Closing Narrator
  • To open Narrator from the Start Menu, click Start, point to All Programs, point to Accessories, point to Accessibility, and then click Narrator.
  • To open Narrator using the keyboard, press the Windows Key or CTRL+ESC, press R, type narrator, and then press ENTER.
  • To exit Narrator, go to the Narrator menu, arrow down to exit and press the space bar; it will ask you if you want to exit out of Narrator, yes or no, press enter on yes, and it shuts off.
Reading Options
  • To read an entire window, insure the window has focus, click the window with a mouse if you have some sight and then press CTRL+SHIFT+SPACEBAR.
  • To get information about the current item, press CTRL+SHIFT+ENTER.
  • To get a more detailed description of an item, press CTRL+SHIFT+INSERT.
  • To read the title bar of a window, press ALT+HOME.
  • To read the status bar of a window, press ALT+END.
  • To read the contents of an edit field, press CTRL+SHIFT+ENTER, or use the arrow keys.
  • To silence the speech, press CTRL.
Keyboard options
  • To switch to another program, press ALT+TAB.
  • To go to the next button or tool, press TAB.
  • To go back, press SHIFT+TAB.
  • To select an item from a drop-down list, use the arrow keys.
  • To select a check box or option button, press SPACEBAR.
  • To open Utility Manager, press Windows logo key+U.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Talking Cash Register for the Blind

We have had many requests and questions about talking cash registers. Questions range from does one exist to why don't more blind and visually impaired people use them?

I'm not sure why they aren't used more by rehab agencies to assist people with employment, but I can tell you that yes, they do exist and here's the description:

Basic Register. 20 departments standard. Inventory control through PLU's and journal reports. Includes discrete keys, voice on/off switch, talking journals, and computer interface capability.

Distributed by CAPTEK/Science Products, 800-888-7400. Manufacturer's Suggested Price $2240.00 plus shipping. Maintenance/Technical Support by the SHARP nationwide dealer network.

Article Source:
American Foundation for the Blind

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Portable Digital Magnifier from ThinkGeek

I've mentioned before that products that benefit the blind or visually impaired are often originally not made for us, and I have found another perfect example from ThinkGeek. Here's the description they have for a Portable Digital Magnifier:

You'll be magnifying everything around you!

"When this item arrived at ThinkGeek headquarters we found it to be very fun and, quite honestly, pretty addictive. With the ability to zoom in on objects with various levels of magnification, it's amazing how many ordinary items suddenly become much more intriguing when enlarged. Getting a closer look often can illuminate many new details and a whole new level of understanding about the composition of an object. Magnification can reveal both flaws and unexpected complexities".

The Portable Digital Magnifier outputs the magnification to a crystal clear 2" LCD screen and with the push of a button the image can be frozen on the screen, for closer inspection. A conveniently located scroll wheel lets you instantly change the magnification level, from 5x to 20x (in increments of 1x). The magnifier illuminates using three built-in LEDs and the included batteries re-charge via USB connection. Takes 3 rechargeable AAA batteries. Dimensions: 4.75" x 2.4" x .85" and weighs 4oz.

There's no mention of how helpful this could be to someone who has low vision, but it sounds really cool! Its even cooler when you find that the price is under $200 and the only drawback that I see is the screen, it may be a little small at 2".

Click this link to purchase the Portable Digital Magnifier from ThinkGeek.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Ten Disgusting Smells and How to Get Rid of Them

Some smells simply hang around no matter what you do. Aerosol sprays just cover them up and make things worse. Natural ways of dealing with them are far more effective.

Here are ten of the most disgusting smells that can invade a home and how to get rid of them:

  1. Fishy Smells: Cooking fresh fish always creates an awful smell and it's hard to get rid of, even after several days. There is a natural and effective way to get fresh air back in the kitchen. Cut a lemon in half and boil it in a little water. The steam disperses the aroma and neutralises the fish smell.
  2. Pet Puddles: White vinegar in warm water will help to get rid of the smell left behind by pet accidents. It is also good for washing away skunk smells.
  3. Damp Cupboard: If you have a cupboard that smells musty and damp put a box of cat litter in there. The cat litter will absorb the damp smell and leave the room/cupboard smelling fresh.
  4. Smelly Microwave: Squeeze half a lemon into some water and place the dish into the microwave. Heat at full power for two minutes. Once the water condenses inside the microwave wipe with a soft absorbent cloth. This will leave your microwave fresh and clean.
  5. Cigarette Smoke: Cigarette smoke in a car can hang around for ages. Soak two towels in white vinegar. Put each into a plastic bowl. Put these near the ashtray and the back seat. Leave over night. When you take the bowls out the smell will have disappeared.
  6. Stale Smelling Fridge: To freshen your fridge soak a piece of cotton wool in vanilla and leave inside. It will give it a fresh and clean aroma. A dish with baking soda in it works well too.
  7. Sour Milk Smells: Get rid of the smell of stale, sour milk on fabrics. Soak in white vinegar for a couple of hours and wash as usual. If you can't wash the fabric, dab the area with tissue and then apply white vinegar. Dab again and get the area as dry as possible. You might have to do this several times.
  8. Stale Freezer Smell: Freezer defrosted? The smell can be really bad. Empty the freezer and wash out with soap and warm water then wash the inside with bicarbonate of soda dissolved in a little water. Finally put a cut onion in the bottom and leave overnight. Remove the onion and leave the door of the freezer open for a while. This should get rid of the bad smell.
  9. Musty Old Carpets: To take smells out of old carpets, use a steam cleaner and put a scoop of Oxyclean, or similar product into the water. It will freshen it up and stop the odour.
  10. Plastic Containers: Plastic containers can sometimes smell, especially if they are stored with their lids on. Crumple a piece of newspaper and place it inside the container. Replace the lid and leave overnight. This will remove the smell.

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Treasure Trove of Free Streaming Videos and Movies

This has to be one of the greatest finds I have come across on the web as of late.

OVguide is an aggregator that lists every video streaming site on the web for your viewing pleasure. On their very easy to navigate site, you will find links to feature length films, TV shows, and different genre videos to tickle your fancy. YouTube is, of course, on the top of the list but there are many obscure sites listed as well that feature a variety of programming for kids and adults. I checked out a few streaming movies and the quality may not be all that great, but it gets the job done. You can rate the best sites or add comments. Either way, you may never leave your computer again.

Click this link to visit

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Resources For Teaching A Blind Student with Learning Disabilities

Message: Where can I find activities for visually impaired preschool children with learning disabilities?

Here are some online resources that should be of assistance:

Parent/Child Activities from the Iowa Braille School: has several links that may be of interest.

Our Favorite Toys from the Overbrook School for the Blind: is a list of toys for the blind and other disabilities.

The Blind Children's Fund: provides parents and professionals information, materials, and resources that will help them successfully teach and nurture infants and children who are blind, visually, and multi-impaired. This website has lots of articles, activities and links for parents.

Blindness and Low Vision Resources Page from The University of South Carolina: has books on activities for children with multiple disabilities.

KidSource OnLine: has printed materials that can be ordered from their site.

Are you looking for some new ideas for activities for your learners who have low vision or are blind? Here is a website with some great photos of tactual activities you can make. Click this link to visit the Professional Development Program in Victoria, Australia.


The following books are available from a variety of websites:

Early Learning Step by Step: Children with Visual Impairment and Multiple Disabilities
L. Nielsen. (1993). SIKON, Copenhagen, Denmark. 168 pp.

This book reviews certain sequences of learning to help identify "the next step" in development and to determine "missing links" in sequences. Approaches and environmental adaptations that may facilitate learning are suggested.

Subjects Covered:

  • Active learning
  • The development of movement in fetuses, newborns, and infants without disabilities
  • Combining movement with tactual, visual, auditory, and other sensory experiences
  • Movements used as emotional responses
  • Comparison of the development of movement in infants with and without vision
  • Materials and toys
  • Learning to chew, eat, dress, undress, manipulate objects, and develop basic concepts through comparison
  • Combining movement with tactual, visual, auditory, and other sensory experiences
  • Movements used as emotional responses

Here are some additional, currently available, titles (from The American Foundation for the Blind:

Reach Out and Teach: Meeting the Training Needs of Parents of Visually and Multiple Handicapped Young Children
K. Ferrell. (1985). American Foundation for the Blind, New York.

Reach Out and Teach was written to give parents the information they need to raise their children with visual or multiple impairments. The materials consist of four parts: a parent handbook containing information on early child development with activities and ideas to be used in the home, a Reachbook or workbook to help parents keep track of their child's growth, a set of slide presentations, and a teacher's manual. The Parent Handbook (257 pp.) and the Reachbook (171 pp.) are companion volumes.

Subjects Covered:

  • Learning basics for parents
  • Understanding your child's vision
  • Behavior and self-concept
  • Family interactions
  • Skill development: Motor, daily living, communication, sensory development, cognition
  • The school years and beyond

When You Have a Visually Impaired Student with Multiple Disabilities in Your Classroom:
A Guide for Teachers
By Jane N. Erin, Ph.D.
Format: Paperback (also available in: ASCII Disk)
Pages: 111 pp.
ISBN: 0-89128-873-2
Publisher: AFB Press
Year of publication: 2004

Collaborative Assessment:
Working with Students Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired, Including Those with Additional Disabilities

Edited by Stephen A. Goodman, M.A., M.S., Stuart H. Wittenstein, Ed.D.
Proven, successful techniques at your fingertips!
Format: Paperback (also available in: ASCII Disk)
Pages: 430 pp.
ISBN: 0-89128-869-4
Publisher: AFB Press
Year of publication: 2003<

Parenting Children with Multiple Disabilities

If you have - or someone you know has - a child who is blind or visually impaired along with one or more other disabilities, Hadley School for the Blind has a new course just for you, Parenting Children with Multiple Disabilities. "This course is designed for family members of children with visual impairment and one or more other disabilities."

Hadley courses are all done by correspondence and are all free of charge if you are visually impaired, a family member of a visually impaired person or a person who works in the blindness field. You can check out this new course by going here and scrolling down to For Family Education Students.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Send Text Messages to Your Blind Friends

As a sighted person, you love having the convenience of sending text messages to your sighted friends, but what about your friends who are blind? Is there a way to send them a text message without them purchasing an expensive cell phone with speech?

It is possible for certain cellular phone customers to send a text message to a landline phone. The recipient of such a text message does not need a modified telephone. The text message is automatically converted to an automated voice message through "text to speech" technology. All the recipient must do is listen to the message and respond with a recorded voice message of his or her own.

When a cellular phone customer sends a text message to a landline, he or she must first compose the message using a Short Message Service (SMS) format and then input the ten digit phone number of the recipient's landline phone. The cellular phone service provider will attempt to send the text message to a landline at least three times. If the recipient answers the phone, he or she should hear the automated voice message. If the landline phone is not answered, the message may go to voice mail or an answering machine.

Depending on the cellular provider, customers who have subscribed to the SMS service can send a text message to a landline anywhere in the United States, its territories, and possibly Canada. The text to voice program does not require the recipient to install any special equipment or subscribe to a cellular phone service. The sender usually receives a confirmation message stating that the text message has been successfully delivered to the landline.

While it is possible to send a text message to a landline, it is not generally possible to send a text message from a landline to a cellular phone. The recipient of a text message can sometimes choose from a menu of possible responses and send a voice message, but this voice message will not be converted to text on the cellular phone side.

Standard texting and phone call rates apply when sending a text message to a landline phone, and the phone number must be a recognized landline, not another cellular phone.

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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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