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.

(See the end of this page for subscribing via email, RSS, browsing articles by subject, blog archive, APH resources, writing for Fred's Head, and disclaimers.)


Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Babies and Toddlers: Tips for the Early Years


Parents and workers with vision impaired people have a great opportunity to help a young vision impaired child towards good mobility and orientation. The following are a few basic suggestions of areas in which a child could be helped. As a result of this basic work, mobility training is easier and more meaningful, as many mannerisms and postural faults do not arise in later life.


  1. When a sight disorder is first diagnosed in a young child, parents often can only think of all the things that their vision impaired child will be able to do. It is important to encourage positive thinking. Begin by assessing the situation. Long delays in diagnosis, difficulties in understanding medical terms and long separation due to hospitalisation can make this hard. However, having constructive tasks to do helps to overcome some of these problems.
  2. Try to assess how much the baby can see. Is there any residual vision? Can the small baby follow it's mother or father's face or movements at all or is it relying entirely on a sound stimulus? For the vision impaired baby, the overall shape of the face will be more important than the detail. For example, a mother with a bushy hairstyle approached the baby's crib with wet hair after a shower. The baby cried because he thought it was a stranger. The overall shape was what the baby was recognising.
  3. As the father carries the baby over his shoulder, does the baby react to the light coming in from the window? If the baby seems to show some response, then tell the baby each time the window is passed and interpret other sources of light within the house.
  4. "Normal" sight in babies is not at all precise at the beginning. Like everything else, it needs practise. Babies in the early stages make a crude performance at focussing and co-ordination. Objects cannot be seen clearly. Vision too can fluctuate in the vision impaired baby. A child with Albinism can be blind at birth, have the appearance of normal vision at two years but by school age the vision may be subnormal. Some eye disorders present at birth may show some improvement and others not.
  5. A baby who is vision impaired can and must feel and hear the love of others for it. Premature babies who start their days in an incubator experience very little touch from others. They may have to be taught to like to be held. Such babies may first show displeasure when handled but this gradually turns to joy. Early mother/child relationships can be at risk, as eye contact is lost and there may be no smiling response to the mother's presence.

Parents should try to design a programme of a few tasks that they can do together with their baby to help it learn about its environment and become physically fit.


  1. Begin by putting the baby on its stomach on a mat on the floor. From about 4 months the baby may be able to raise its head clear of the ground. Parents should get down on the floor too and talk to reassure the baby very near to its face. Put the baby on its stomach for a little while at least twice a day. This strengthens the back and develops the hands to be useful feelers. Objects of interest - a bell, toy, brick, and teaspoon - can be placed in front of the baby who will soon learn to reach out and find what is there. When a new physical activity is introduced the baby will usually cry against the activity, but do persevere. It is just the strangeness of the activity that the child doesn't like in the beginning.
  2. Parents should try and sing and talk to the baby as much as possible. If a parent is very pressed for time, one suggestion could be to use the nappy changing time for a useful purpose. Language development depends on clear speech. The parent's face is near to the baby's during this activity, which means that a child with limited vision will be able to see their parent's lips as well as hearing very clearly. Make all the sounds of the alphabet, sing little rhymes, speak loudly and softly, in a high and low voice. The parent can take the baby's hand and put onto their mouth. Turn the baby's head towards the sound. Let the baby know its own name and commands like "Yes" and "No". Games with the child on the parent's lap and songs with repetitive actions are good also. The child will need to be shown the movements, as they cannot learn by imitation.
  3. When dressing, changing or washing the baby, take a little extra time to run hands over the different parts of the baby's body, talking about all the different areas - e.g. "this is your foot, here is your other foot". Smooth the baby with talc, cream or oil - all different experiences of touch and smell. Relate different parts of the baby's body to the parent's body - e.g. "this is your hand; this is Daddy's hand".
  4. When feeding the baby with a bottle, place the baby's hands on the bottle too. The baby will learn where the milk is coming from and will gradually be able to hold the bottle itself. The baby should be held in the mother or father's arms when feeding so that a warm relationship develops. When drinking from a cup, show the baby the cup empty first, then fill with liquid so that the baby can hear it filling and then drink it. Let the child experiment with feeding itself. Don't worry is the child is getting messy. A child must be able to find out and experiment with touching and feeling.
  5. Do little physical exercises with the baby from very early on - of course, supporting the baby as much as possible. Totally blind babies often do not crawl, as the baby soon learns that this activity brings its head into contact with too many solid objects. As this part of development is missed, the baby may not flex its ankle and foot correctly when it begins to walk. Perhaps some part of the house and garden could be made safe, with no obstacle and piles of cushions for the baby to have some rough and tumble play.

Vision impaired children often have a diminished drive and lack opportunities to take risks and be daring. Children's reasons for moving around are to see friends and play games. Blind children may only move when they feel it is really necessary.


  1. A parent and baby swimming class can greatly help. Begin by taking the baby into the water in your arms. Don't worry if the child cries for the first few visits to the pool; it is a new experience and very noisy. Progress the child to holding your shoulders, faces in contact, talking all the time to reassure.
  2. Some toys can be great help to mobility. A slightly weighted wooden truck to push means that the toy reaches obstacles first. Other toys in this group might include - a baby walker, a hula-hoop, a sweeping brush.
  3. Try not to develop a preoccupation with the physical safety of the child. Provide circumstances in which movement can be encouraged safely. All children get bumps and have little accidents - try not to be over-protective. Fear is natural for the child and parents, but this has to be overcome by repetition and practice.
  4. Take a little time with the child to learn the dangers around the house. What sounds and smells mean danger and which sounds and smells are harmless, eg. the sounds of frying and of water boiling, the odours of cooking and the significance of smoke and fire. It is important for parents to help a blind child to monitor its behaviour.

Babies and toddlers constantly adjust their behaviour by the effect that it has on others. Does mother notice when we do something? What happens as a result of that behaviour? Approval or disapproval?

Here is an illustration: An integrated blind toddler in a pre-school group had a habit of pinching any child that came near during play activity time. As a result all the other children would avoid the vision impaired child leave him alone. As the aim of the parents was for integration, this situation could not continue. The adults explained that pinching hurt, even a little demonstration was needed. In this particular case, the teacher was very reluctant to scold the blind child, and the support worker had to provide support, advice and reassurance for the teacher.

Small children love helping around the house and doing tasks, which they know other members of the family, are managing themselves. Many early mobility skills can be incorporated in this type of play experience. Strengthening fingers and thumbs, for example, can be achieved when dressing oneself. Begin by taking clothes off, as this is easier then putting clothes on. Buttoning and zipping take practise and take time to learn. Always arrange clothes in an orderly fashion. The blind child needs a place of its own, with its own coat and hat peg, a place in the cupboard for its clothes, a box for its toys and its own bed. Get the child to put away his things and to make decisions about what to wear. When choosing clothes try to pick articles that are distinctive to feel and talk to the child about the features, design and colour combinations of his clothes.

Let the child help with the clearing and setting of the table, getting the mail, bringing in packages, washing a small quantity of dishes and washing its own body. Begin by first washing face and hands and build up in easy stages. In play, the child can wash dolly's clothes, or give dolly a bath - lego, plasticine, play-dough, putting on bottle tops, all help to strengthen hands and fingers.

Practise listening to sounds around the house, locating and identifying them. For example, listen to the bathroom sounds, tap dripping or running, toilet flushing, shower and wash basin. Lounge sounds - clock ticking, T.V., radio, fan heater, telephone ringing. Identify the sound, and talk about and discover the exact position of the source of the sound. Listen to sounds outside as well as inside. Can the child begin to recognise voices and footsteps of regular visitors to the house, different car engines that come up the front drive, milk bottles rattling, traffic sounds in the street. The child can practise following mother around the house by sound alone - audible hide and see! Play 'hide and seek' with other sound sources also.

Take a little time to think about the baby's feet. If possible have the feet bare. The feet give another tactile, information gathering surface. Loose socks are better than tights or baby-grows because they do not pull on the toes altering the natural position of the soft toe bones. Try and do little exercises to strengthen and mobilise the feet - moving the toes independently, picking up objects with the toes.

Hopping, skipping, bouncing and jumping should be encouraged and activities that include these skills are of great benefit e.g. Jumping from the last stair to the ground, firstly into parents' arms, then onto a soft large cushion and then on the ground, all of these activities accompanied by plenty of verbal encouragement.

Stairs will have to be shown to a vision impaired child. Begin by going up stairs on all fours and coming down sitting on its bottom, taking one step at a time. Progress to both feet on one stair at the same time using the rail as a guide to indicate the beginning and end of the stairs.

If a child has no guiding sight, there will be occasions when a small child will need to be guided by a parent or friend. It is best to let the child take the elbow of the guide and for the child to remain slightly behind the guide. This position is preferable to holding hands. The steady point of reference of the elbow held against the body of the guide provides warning in advance. Baby reins are useful for an active young toddler together with the elbow hold. Normally, the child should be led rather than push from behind.

Parents have the opportunity to cover many of the basic mobility skills that are needed by a young vision impaired child.

Copyright (c) NCBI 2006

About NCBI

The National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI) is a not for profit charitable organisation which offers support and services nationwide to those experiencing difficulties with their eye-sight.

NCBI provides a range of services to almost 10,000 vision impaired people living in Ireland. These services include the provision of information, advice and support via a nationwide network of over 70 rehabilitation, mobility and community resource workers and training in the use of adaptive technology. They also provide an employment support unit and job seeking skills programme.

NCBI is committed to offering people the choice of services in their own homes or in a centre based setting. To facilitate this they have 10 regional resource centres and run low vision services throughout the country.

As well as services administered by their community based staff, NCBI's Libraries in Dublin and Cork provide a national talking book service, as well as a wide range of newspapers, popular Irish magazines and journals on tape to over 4,000 subscribers.

As well as providing services to vision impaired people and their families, NCBI also provides a range of services to public and private organisations in relation to technology, access and awareness and media conversion services.

Click this link to visit the National Council for the Blind of Ireland website:

Making The Idea Of Using A Cane More Appealing

The decision of using a white cane as a mobility tool is quite a tough decision for some blind or visually impaired individuals. It is part of the process of accepting that one is blind, and realizing that being seen using a cane is a sign of being independent rather than something to be embarrassed about.

The following are points that some mobility instructors and Brain Waves participants shared with us when we asked them for ideas on how to make the use of the cane more appealing for their students and clients.

1. The younger, the better...

A mobility instructor suggested trying to get the cane in people's hands as early as possible. The earlier they start using it, the more natural it will be for them, and they will learn to regard it as a part of their every day life.

2. The more, the merrier...

Another suggestion is to get students or clients to go out in pairs, or in a small group. This will make them feel more confident, as they won't be the only ones using a cane to travel. They will just be part of the group.

3. Give them a reason to use it...

A very effective way for people to want to use the cane is to try to make each class meaningful to them. During their lessons, try to take them to those places where they want, or need to go. For instance, instead of walking around the block, teach people how to get to a ballpark, a friend's house, or their favorite restaurant.

4. Let them experience...

Some instructors believe that people will choose to use a cane after showing them its benefits over personally meeting doors, and experiencing drop-offs or other obstacles.

5. Give them praise and more praise...

Give cane users positive reinforcement. Praise them a lot when they accomplish a task. Positive reinforcement raises confidence and self-esteem.

6. Encourage a positive attitude...

A positive attitude and letting the person realize that he or she is just using an aid to become more independent is important. Let them know that using a cane is the equivalent to wearing glasses, hearing aids or any other tool. The blind person's attitude will be reflected in the way other people respond to them.

7. Customize the cane to be unique and really cool...

If people get the opportunity to personalize and fix up their cane to their liking, they will be more inclined to want to use it. Here are some ideas on things that you can use to customize your cane!

For the grip:
A steering wheel cover, a golf club grip, a tennis racket grip.

For the rest of the cane:
Decals, key chains, braille name tags, neon Colors, Racing Stripes, Braille labels of fun things to do when using the cane, Bright colorful mini-stickers, reflective tape, contact tape resembling wood, camouflage or any other pattern.

A Brain Waves participant shared with us that she fixed up her cane like the American Flag after the tragedy of 9-11, and it was a hit!

Also, you may use different kinds of cane tips depending on your own travelling style.

To end this record with a fun note, below we have included the full text of an entry of one of our Brain Waves participants. She likes to "use her cane for a few amusing, and otherwise very serious reasons."


10. If you know the specific length of your cane, you can use it as an approximate measuring stick to determine the size of other objects;
9. If you put a small piece of doublesided tape on the end of the tip, you have a tool for retrieving dropped items from tight skinny spaces, e.g. from behind bookshelves for instance (I'm not kidding, this one really works, if you are careful!);
8. When walking slowly through grass, you can provide much amusement to a young kitten while gently moving your cane back and forth to find your way, as it chases and bats at the tip (yup, this one's happened to me, too!);
7. Use your cane, instead of your toes, to find the edge of the swimming pool, and to avoid a rather unexpected dive into it;
6. Make cane tracks in the sand, to be later washed away at the beach, or in the snow, as a warmer alternative to snow angels;
5. To be covered under the White Cane pedestrian laws;
4. To find unexpected curbs, steps, or bunched up sections of carpet, and avoid tripping over them;
3. To dig through snow, in order to determine where the sidewalk is, in the middle of winter;
2. To avoid those big metal poles, ouch!, between open double doors at school; and finally,
1. To have a ready explanation, and a way to minimize your embarrassment, if you accidentally walk into the wrong, tactually unlabelled restroom, if no one's around outside of it to ask!

Thanks to all who contributed to this record!

Martial Arts for the Blind

I'd like you to imagine you're walking down a deserted street.--It's late at night.--You hear footsteps following yours.--Has the person following you decided you are easy prey because you are blind? Are you able to defend yourself?

I invite you to learn judo. I know what judo has meant to me, and I hope to share some of those benefits with you. As most of you know, it isn't easy growing up as a blind child in the public school system. Your peers can be pretty rough. I remember being punched in the face by the school bully as a way to test my vision. I also remember attending gym classes for many years before I was given a permanent waiver because I couldn't participate in the classes.

I recall, there was field hockey, volleyball, tennis, soccer, softball and ping-pong. Come to think of it, I wish someone had told the gym teacher that there are other sports besides chasing after a ball, but I didn't understand that at the time. I just felt totally incompetent at sports.

When I was older, I decided I was going to change all this. That's what brought me to the Federation and to judo. When I first heard about judo classes, I was hesitant. Based on my past experience, I didn't think the judo instructor would consider me as a student.

Happily, I was wrong. The instructor didn't care if I couldn't see, he was more interested in what I could do--and I could do judo. I sincerely mean it when I say that my life hasn't been the same since that day.

Judo is a full contact form of self-defense that includes throwing techniques, joint locks, pins, and chokes. These techniques range from simple foot throws that trip your opponent, to dramatic techniques that involve picking your opponent up and throwing them over your shoulder.

The basic principle of judo is that you can throw someone by using the motion of that person. Let me give you an example: Imagine someone is standing in front of you with their hands pushing on your shoulders. If you defend yourself by pushing back, then you'll have to push with a greater force than that of your opponent to overcome their force. This could be impossible if the person is larger and stronger then you are. Instead, by using judo, you take hold of the person's arms and when they push you, you pull them, using their force to throw them. These techniques are done with balance and leverage. They don't require strength at all.

You don't have to be a great athlete to start judo training. If you would like to get back into shape, then judo is a great exercise program for physical fitness and weight control. One thing I like about judo is that you exercise your body and your mind at the same time. So many exercise programs can be boring and you can lose interest in them. Judo literally keeps you thinking on your feet.

Judo is like ballet and gymnastics and one of the benefits of training that you will notice is an improvement in your balance, coordination, and orientation.

Unlike other forms of martial arts, judo needs no adaptation for blind people. Blind players have been active in judo for many years, practicing with sighted players on an equal basis. Judo is part of the United States Association of Blind Athletes program and is included at the Braille Institute in Encino, California, and at Perkins School.

Although these programs show the involvement of some blind players in judo, my emphasis has been to mainstream blind players with sighted players for the benefit of all. This equality embodies the philosophy of judo and the philosophy of the NFB as well.

My students and I have attended many tournaments and clinics, both large and small, and we have never been excluded or shown any favoritism. I remember one tournament we attended at West Point. One of the club instructors wanted to present my student with the Best Player trophy based on her blindness. The tournament director's reaction was to say "It's no big deal that she's blind. I'll give her the Best Player trophy when she comes here and wins."

Well, she won a lot more than a trophy that day. On the way home from the tournament, she told me that it was the first time in her life that she felt like she was "just one of the kids." And for the first time, I began to realize that I was giving back some of what judo has given to me.

The philosophical benefits of judo are as important as the physical benefits. As you challenge yourself, you gain a feeling of accomplishment that carries over into every aspect of your life. The knowledge that you can handle a physical conflict makes a verbal confrontation much less threatening.

You develop strength of mind to stand up for what you believe in and strength of mind that will allow you to step back when it is wise. You actually become less defensive and more relaxed. In twenty years it has never been necessary for me to use judo for self-defense, but I have used this strength of judo every day in all types of situations.

Part of this strength comes from a feeling that you are in control. You carry this control with you and demonstrate it with confident body language in the way you walk and communicate with people. When you project confidence, you are less likely to be confronted.

The self-confidence that can be gained from judo is so important to children. The blind child who is frustrated by his limitations in mainstreamed gym classes--or who is segregated in classes for disabled students--can feel less capable than his classmates. Judo gives the blind child the opportunity to participate in a mainstreamed activity on an equal basis with his peers.

When the other kids are talking about their sports and club activities, the blind child can join in with their accomplishments. This equality is important to the blind child, but it is also very important to their sighted peers as well.

The focus is on what you CAN do, not on what you can't do. It becomes less important that you can't play baseball when there is something unique you CAN be proud of. "I CAN" is what becomes important.

Self-defense is important to everyone nowadays, but as blind people, we are perceived by some as being more vulnerable than others. Judo is a balance to this misconception. Each of us should learn to defend ourselves, not just for our own benefit, but as a means to change society's image of blindness.

Self-defense can be as simple as being sure of who is at your door before you open it, or as involved as defending your life. The ability to think on your feet that you learn from judo can be important in preventing a dangerous situation from taking place.

Some Tips For Staying Safe:
You should avoid short cuts through less traveled areas and stay in areas where there is safety in numbers. Also, avoid walking along buildings since doorways and alleys are places where someone might hide. Stay in the central area of the sidewalk, so you can be clear on all sides.

When I walk down the street, I try to identify the age, gender, number and location of the people around me. This is kind of a game, but it is also a way of training yourself to be more aware of everything around you, so you can anticipate a situation before it develops.

As you learn judo, your skills and attitude will develop. The school bully will be less of a threat. You can walk down that deserted street and be a lot less vulnerable than some might think. Those people who attempt to dominate you will not be successful.

The unsolicited helper who attempts to take you across the street or the airline employee who attempts to load you into the airliner will both be surprised to find that you are in control of the situation.

Judo is a way to "even the odds" and change what it means to be blind. I have made judo my ultimate alternative technique and I hope you will make it yours as well.

This article is reprinted by special permission of the author.

Check the Web!

The judo information site,, has everything you need to know about judo. A major section of the site deals with judo for blind athletes, including coaching tips and rules for judo with blind participants (which primarily remind the referee to use vocal directions in addition to the hand signals). Judo for Blind Athletes is located at the following URL:

This website was written by Neil Ohlenkamp, a Judo instructor at the Encino Judo Club and at the Braille Institute. He has been the coach of the Braille institute's judo team since 1976. He has also been the coordinator of training camps, national and local tournaments, and other training opportunities for the visually impaired. Many of his blind students have become national and international champions. He also served as the US Representative to the International Blind Sports Association Judo Technical Committee from 1988 to 1993 and was instrumental in creating the international rules for visually impaired competitors.

Blind Zen

Stefan Verstappen is a writer and martial arts instructor with over twenty-five year's experience. He spent four years studying martial arts throughout Asia and writes and lectures about his experiences. Verstappen is also the author of, The Thirty-Six Strategies of Ancient China, The Little Warriors Street Safety Manual. He has also written for a number of publications including Black Belt, Inside Kung Fu, and Jade Dragon magazines.

Stefan is the author of "Blind Zen A case Study in Sensory Enhancement for the Blind and Vision Impaired", which tells the story of how a blind woman's efforts to learn self-defense led to a unique experiment to adapt martial arts and eastern philosophy to develop new skills and increase self-confidence.

The book is guide written for the blind, vision impaired and the people that live and work with them, but also for martial arts instructors and sports trainers to provide insights and ideas for developing athletic programs for the blind in their communities.

The book includes descriptions and scientific explanations of the unique Zen inspired exercises that anyone can learn and provides a new approach and exciting possibilities to improve the quality of life of the vision impaired.

The book also provides practical easy-to-learn exercises that teach how to:

  • Become more physically fit and active
  • Improve your sense of balance
  • Improve your sense of proprioception
  • Refine the sense of hearing
  • Train the sense of smell to gather information from your environment
  • Overcome the numerous fears associated with blindness
  • Become more aware of the unconscious sensory information known as synesthesia
  • Defend against an attacker
For more info on the book and how to order see website at: Blind Zen: A case Study in Sensory Enhancement for the Blind and Vision Impaired Size: 7.5" X 9.25" Trade Paperback high gloss soft cover 165 pages, Over 85 Illustrations Includes Bibliography, End Notes, and References. ISBN 1-891688-03-0 Library of Congress Control Number: 2004095543 Red Mansion Pub, SF, 2004 Blind Zen Blog for Blind Martial Artists

Are you a blind or visually impaired martial arts practitioner? Are you looking for contact information for other practitioners?

Martial arts training for the blind is still a pioneering effort and the few teachers and students there are, are scattered throughout the world.

The Blind Zen Blog is an open forum where students and teachers can exchange advice and training tips, personal stories, information on seminars, classes, and competitions.

You can post any article, up-coming events, announcements for seminars and workshops or personal writing that you feel would be of interest to this group. Click this link to visit the Blind Zen Blog:

Interested in the martial arts? Read Ron Peck's book, Parents Guide to Judo from the Blind Judo Foundation at

An Introduction to Music for the Blind Student: A Course in Braille Music Reading, Part One

By Richard Taesch
Published by Dancing Dots

This is a new, flexible curriculum which equips the mainstream educator with no prior experience with braille to teach and learn music braille. The author, Richard Taesch, is a life-long music educator and guitarist who is certified by the Library of Congress as a braille music transcriber. He heads the Braille Music Division of the Southern California Conservatory of Music and chairs the guitar department.

Description of Curriculum

Braille music reading has traditionally been taught as a translation process from print music as the sighted musician views it. This course differs from the norm in that it is a true instructional course-curriculum in music fundamentals, music reading, sight singing, theory, and ear-training using the international Braille Music Code as the medium. Print music is considered secondary, and included for the convenience of the sighted teacher or tutor.

It is, therefore, possible for a sighted (or blind) musician to administer or to study this work without prior knowledge of the braille music code. It is also intended that a sighted teacher, parent, or tutor with little or no knowledge of braille or conventional print music, may guide a blind student through this course. Teacher training is also a natural application for the course. Much testing by correspondence has been conducted, and the course has been the official curriculum at Southern California Conservatory of Music - Braille Music Division for many years.

Content Description

The course is divided into two Parts. Part I (Phases One through Four) is "ground level," and covers rudiments through intermediate melodic interpretation and key signatures. Part I is written into three separate print volumes- Lessons; Lesson Exercises; Supplemental Exercises. The braille edition exists in 4 braille volumes. All three print volumes are integrated and used simultaneously, however, each may also be used separately depending upon individual application.

The course is intended to teach the essentials of music reading regardless of the student's chosen instrument. The piano is considered as a basic tool common to all instrumentalists. Separate instrumental Supplements will eventually become part of the course.

First Volume: Lessons

Each Phase concludes with a lesson summary as an outline. This is intended to give experienced music teachers the option of flexibility, while guiding them through critical essentials specific to the braille Music Code. There are eighty-six print pages in this volume.

"Phase One" addresses rudiments of music in five separate lessons. General content covers introductory ear training, and an introduction to solfege (sight singing) by reading braille scale step numbers only. Structural concepts of scales and intervals in the form of Musical Arithmetic is also a part of Phase One.

"Phase Two" introduces true braille music notation and the braille Music Code. Notation covering the first five notes of the C Major Scale is taught in four lessons. Lesson 4 introduces the concept of Melodic Dictation, whereby the blind student is required to write the notes on the braille writer as they are played by the teacher or tutor.

"Phase Three" introduces the braille melody line incorporating such concepts as time signatures, note duration, repeat signs, piano fingerings, notes in the third & fifth octave, accidentals, major and minor scales, and other essentials needed at this level.

"Phase Four" covers key signatures and other musical devices such as ties, phrase marks, use of the braille music hyphen, and composition and formatting techniques.

"Appendix" contains Theory Examinations pertinent to all four Phases, and concludes with a detailed Index of the text.

Second Volume: Lesson Exercises

This volume includes the Lesson Exercises that are assigned in the Lessons text. A "facsimile" of the braille page as the braille reader sees it is shown on the left page with equivalent print music on the right page. Each braille facsimile page includes print fonts that point out each new braille sign as it is introduced in the lessons. The sighted teacher uses these fonts to reference their place on the braille page.

Third Volume: Supplemental Exercises

This volume is composed of graded supplemental material intended to expand exercise opportunities, and serves to illustrate concepts presented in the course. It may be used independently of the rest of the course, however, it functions as an extension of the curriculum as it is written. There are sixty-seven print pages and one braille volume. All exercises have been composed by the author with the exception of a section called "Duets and Classic Themes".

Some exercises are used for sight singing and playing, others are for singing only or playing only. Duets are common, and right and left hand fingered versions are plentiful. The text concludes with a section of scale exercises for comprehensive note study and review. Each print music exercise is immediately followed by simulated braille print dots.

Part II will be a continuation and expansion of Part I. It completes the discussion of all keys, scales, and key signatures. It introduces students to the concept of key modulation and other music theory issues.

For more information contact:

Dancing Dots
Phone: 610-783-6692

Alfred's Basic Guitar Method I

by Alfred Dauberge

Beginning guitar instruction from the popular music training series.

Enlarged Print (14 point) -- L-90001-00

Click here to purchase this book through our Quick Order Entry page:

If you need assistance, click this link to read the Fred's Head Companion post "Purchasing Products From The APH Website Is Easy".

American Printing House for the Blind, Inc.
1839 Frankfort Avenue
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 6085
Louisville, Kentucky 40206-0085
Toll Free: 800-223-1839
Phone: 502-895-2405
Fax: 502-899-2274
Web site:

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Differences Between The Abacus And The Calculator

When comparing the abacus and the calculator, it is important to outline the differences between the two. The abacus, for example, requires the user to have knowledge of the processes of arithmetic--and the ability to move counters (beads) in proper sequence to obtain a desired result. This being the case, unless one is a skilled abacus operator who has spent countless hours in practice, chances are the use of an electronic calculator will yield results more quickly than that of an abacus. This is especially true in areas such as root extraction, vector analysis, trigonometric calculations, etc.

Additionally, abacus calculation helps to develop mental concepts concerning numeric relationships, which is not the case with a calculator. For example, it is possible to demonstrate place value by adding a digit, or set of digits, to itself or themselves ten times. This shows movement to the left by one place--and the presence of "0" at the end of the total.

Another difference from a calculator is that the abacus does not require electrical power and can be used under most physical conditions. Further, the abacus does not require programming to perform trigonometry or other functions--as does a calculator. However, the limitation of the abacus is based on the knowledge and ability of the operator.

Abacuses can also be connected in series. This means that if large numeric values need to be calculated, two or more abacuses can be joined and treated as one abacus. This cannot be done with a calculator.

There are certain testing situations in which those being tested are not permitted the use of calculators. This usually results from the concern that calculators can be programmed with formulae that make problem solving automatic--and no longer dependent on the knowledge of the person being tested. The abacus, however, offers no more aid and comfort than a pencil and a piece of paper--and is in no way programmable.

Contributor: Fred Gissoni

Low Vision Research Group (LVRG)

The Low Vision Research Group (LVRG) is an organization whose members have an interest in low vision issues, research and resources. Its mission includes: the fostering of communication among low vision researchers (especially those with different professional credentials); encouraging critical and frank discussion and review of low vision research produced in both formal and informal settings; and increasing the attention that is paid to low vision within the vision research community.

The group's website - LVRGNet - offers information that may be useful to researchers, clinicians and others with an interest in low vision. Follow the General Information link for info on eye disorders, services, support groups, discussion groups and assistive technologies.

Click this link to visit The Low Vision Research Group on the web at:

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The American Council On Rural Special Education (ACRES)

The American Council on Rural Special Education (ACRES) is an organization comprised of general and special educators, related service providers, administrators, teacher trainers, researchers, and parents who are committed to the enhancement of services to students and individuals living in rural America. ACRES was founded in 1981 by a group of individuals interested in the unique challenges of rural students and individuals needing special services.

The American Council on Rural Special Education (ACRES)
Utah State University
2865 Old Main Hill
Logan, Utah 84322-2865
Phone: 435-797 3728
Email: Web:

Council For Exceptional Children (CEC)

The non-profit Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) is an international organization that supports special education professionals and others who work to improve educational outcomes for students with disabilities. CEC advocates for appropriate governmental policies; it sets professional standards and provides continual professional development opportunities; it advocates for under-served individuals with exceptionalities; and it helps professionals to obtain conditions and resources necessary for effective professional practice.

For membership information, visit the CEC website or contact their offices.

Council for Exceptional Children (CEC)
1110 North Glebe Road, Suite 300
Arlington, VA 22201-5704
Toll Free: 888-232-7733
Phone: 703-620-3660
TTY: 703-264-9446
Fax: 703-264-9494

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Convert Microsoft DOCX Files to HTML or Older Versions of Office

Have you noticed that Microsoft Word 2007 has added a new file format? DOCX is the new version of the more familiar DOC filetype and has some new features. A problem occurs when you try to open a DOCX file in an older version of Word, you can't do it.

DOCX Converter is a simple utility that lets you convert DOCX files to a simple HTML format so that it can be opened and read on all computers. The process is straight forward and quick, with no hassles.

  1. Click "Browse" button and locate your .docx file.
  2. Enter your email address and click "Convert It!".
  3. Wait for the email with the HTML file.

Keep in mind, DOCX Converter strips out most of the formatting, except bold, italic, underline, left/right/center alignments, Unicode characters and tables. You can also download a widget to convert documents right from your desktop.

Click this link to visit

Microsoft has released the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for users of older versions of Office, to let them view and edit Office 2007 formats like docx, pptx and xlsx. If you're one of those who owns or has to use a previous version of MS Office, this is probably the easiest way to go. The compatibility pack is a free and small (30MB) download from Microsoft.

The Victor Victrola and Turtle's 78 RPM Jukebox

The Victor Victrola Page

Look at how well written their introduction is, they say it all so concisely. It's amazing!

"This website is dedicated to Victrola Phonographs made by the Victor Talking Machine Company from 1906 through 1929. Victrolas are acoustic phonographs with the sound-reproducing horn "built-in" (internal) to the cabinet. While the earliest phonographs used large external horns to amplify the sound, it was the invention of the internal horn Victrola in 1906 that literally launched the phonograph into millions of homes. No longer was the phonograph a strange machine with a huge horn that stood out so awkwardly in a room; the new Victrola looked like a piece of furniture that fit perfectly in the parlor. "Victrola" is a brand name, and not a generic term for all old wind-up phonographs".

Scroll down to the bottom area of the page. This is where you'll find the navigation. You have a bevy of options available to you: History of the Victrola, Basics of the Acoustic Phonograph, Victrola Phonograph Design Details, How Can I Identify a Victrola?, Look Inside the Lid, Woods and Finishes, FAQS, Technical Articles on the Victrola Phonograph, and much, much more.

The "History of the Victrola" section is well laid out, comprehensive, and even has pictures. Learn about the victrola from 1901 to 1925. It's an interesting read!

Look Under the Lid - this section is about the Victrola Decals that you would find under the lid. There were five total, and there are pictures of them all here.

Woods and Finishes - I found this section interesting too. There was a lot of variety used in the types of woods that were used to make the cabinets, and there were even some expensive hand painted custom finishes too. Filled with pictures and tips this section was really neat!

Well I'll leave you to rummage through the rest of the site on your own now. It's well worth a look.

Click this link to visit The Victor Victrola Page:

Turtle's 78 RPM Jukebox

Make Your Selection.
No Nickel Required!
(Put a new needle in, and crank up your MP3 "talking machine")

This site is a collection of MP3s made from old 78s. The music is from Popular Victor, Edison, and Columbia Recordings from 1900 to 1930. Each record is now a CD quality MP3, they really sound great! If you are a fan of old-time radio, you'll love this site too. They even have a technical section so you can read how the recordings were made. Click this link to listen to the Turtle's 78 RPM Jukebox:

How Vinyl Was Made


Interesting documentation you can watch in two parts on how they used to make records at RCA Victor.

Video Link: Part1 - Part2

Tape Findings

When was the last time you dropped a box of cassette tapes off to your local thrift store? Did you remember to erase them first? This site may make you think twice about dumping tapes that haven't been erased.

Tape Findings is a collection of found audio recordings. The finds rang from songs sung by anonymous crooners (no real American Idol contenders there) to hilarious outgoing answering machine messages. The recordings are sometimes profound, sometimes awkward, but always entertaining. They also have links to similar sites.

Click this link to visit tape findings at

Friday, December 12, 2008

How to find or become a Braille Transcriber

Computers equipped with speech synthesizers and screen enlargement features have given people who are blind and visually impaired access to vast libraries of printed materials that might otherwise be inaccessible. Yet many people either don't have access to these technologies or else prefer the act of reading with paper in hand. And as vast as the World Wide Web is, there remains a mountain of printed materials--such as textbooks, brochures, sheet music, government documents, records and manuals--that have yet to cross the digital divide.

It's the job of braille transcribers to make these materials available to people who are braille readers.

A braille transcriber turns print, sound, computer file and other materials into braille. The transcriber does this using a slate and stylus or a mechanical device called a braillewriter (such as the Perkins Brailler). Some transcribers use software programs (such as Duxbury, MegaDots and ED-IT PC) to translate printed and electronic materials into media that can be printed using a braille embosser. The advantage of using a software program is that the braillist can save his or her work as a data file from which multiple-embossings can be made.

Braille transcribers work in a variety of environments. They may work as independent contractors, for a school system, non-profit associations and organizations and for government agencies. Many braillists choose to work as volunteers, transcribing materials for friends, community groups or family members.

Anyone with the desire and inclination can become a braille transcriber. According to the Braille Authority of North America (BANA), an association that advocates for braille standardization, some 23,000 braillists have chosen to become "certified" transcribers. This means that they have submitted work for review and received accredition from the National Library Service (NLS) for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, a department of the Library of Congress (LOC).

Having certification means that the braillist will provide transcription that meets LOC standards for formatting and adheres to the rules for the use of braille letters, contractions and other braille signs. The NLS offers certification in three distinct areas: Literary Braille, Mathematics Braille, and Music Braille. Each course is composed of at least sixteen lessons and a final exam. It's a graduated system: the student must pass and receive certification in the previous area before applying for certification in the next.

The Braille Development Section of the NLS administers the braille transcriber certification courses through a network of volunteer groups across the United States, and via correspondence courses for people who live in rural areas, have difficulty travelling or prefer this method of study.

Braille Proofreaders

Another role in the process of transcribing printed materials to braille is held by the braille proofreader. Proofreaders carefully compare the braille manuscript against the original printed material, checking for accuracy, adherence to pre-established format conventions, and errors. They note any irregularities, and report these to the transcriber so that he or she can make the necessary changes. The proofreader's job is an important one: he or she is "last line of defense" before the braille manuscript is made available to the public.

The NLS also offers certification programs for proofreaders. The NLS Literary Braille Proofreading course is a five-lesson program that provides instruction in the techniques and rules needed to proofread literary braille transcriptions. The NLS Mathematics Braille Proofreading program is a 16-lesson course focusing on the unique signs, rules and concepts used in Mathematics braille transcriptions. A person interested in becoming a certified proofreader must meet NLS eligibility requirements. For more information about these requirements, visit the NLS web site (see contact information below).

Resources for Additional Information

Want to learn more about finding or becoming a braille transcriber? Start with the following resources. They have been organized into categories: Courses and Certification Resources, Professional Organizations, and Sources for Finding a Braille Transcriber.

Courses and Certification Resources

  • Braille Development Section, National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped

    The Braille Development Section of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped offers programs leading to certification in braille transcribing and proofreading. They offer the programs through a network of volunteer agencies and groups across the country, and by correspondence courses for individuals in remote areas or who have need for this service. The program for Braille Transcribers includes courses in Literary braille, Mathematics Braille, Music Braille. Courses in Literary and Mathematics Braille are offered for proofreaders.

    There are prerequisite requirements for all courses. And because these courses are designed to prepare students for the "Certificate of Braille Competency", people who are interested in learning braille reading and writing strictly for personal use are encouraged to contact their state's rehabilitation agency.

    Contact Info:
    Braille Development Section
    National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
    The Library of Congress
    Address: 1291 Taylor Street N.W., Washington, D.C. 20542
    Phone: (202) 707-5100
    Web: National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped:

  • Braille Through Remote Learning (BRL):

    BRL offers three online, self-paced instructional programs for people interested in learning braille and braille transcription. The courses are: Introduction to Braille, Braille Transcribers (which emphasizes brailling of textbooks), and Specialized Codes. As of April 2000, the BRL courses are being offered free of charge pending additional funding. However, the courses are unsupported: there are no instructors to grade or assess students' work. To register, complete the online form provided at the BRL website.

    Contact Info:
    Braille Through Remote Learning
    Web: Braille Through Remote Learning:

  • Hadley School for the Blind:

    The Hadley School offers more than 90 distance education courses free of charge to eligible students. The Hadley catalog of courses includes a lengthy list of braille courses, from introductory reading and writing to more advanced courses in musical notation and Mathematic codes.

    Course materials are sent on cassette tape to students via mail. According to the school, the courses are meant to give students a solid foundation for reading and writing braille. Those students who are interested in becoming professional or certified transcribers are then encouraged to take the NLS transcribers course. For eligibility requirements, visit the Hadley website or use the following contact information:

    Contact Info:
    The Hadley School for the Blind
    Address: 700 Elm Street, Winnetka, IL 60093-0299
    Phone: 1-800-323-4238
    Fax: 847-446-0855
    Web: Hadley School for the Blind:
Professional Organizations

These professional organizations provide career and guidance services for certified and volunteer braillists.
  • The National Braille Association has a twofold mission: to provide continuing education to people who prepare braille, and to make braille materials available to persons who are visually impaired.

    The NBA offers braille transcription services: it finds qualified volunteer braillists to fill requests for textbooks and other technical materials. These transcriptions are kept in the NBA's Braille Book Bank and Braille Technical Tables Bank for use by other transcribers and braille readers. The NBA holds regional and national training meetings to help transcribers develop and improve their skills.

    Contact Info:
    National Braille Association
    Address: 3 Townline Circle, Rochester, NY 14623-2513
    Phone: 716-427-8260
    Fax: 716-427-0263
    Web: National Braille Association:

  • Braille Authority of North America (BANA)

    The Braille Authority of North America promotes the standardization of braille, its use, teaching and production. It publishes rules, interprets and renders opinions pertaining to braille in all existing and future codes. The board of directors of the BANA includes representatives from various organizations that serve people who are blind and visually impaired, such as the American Council of the Blind, the American Federation of the Blind, the National Federation of the Blind, The Canadian National Institute for the Blind, and APH.

    Contact Info:
    Braille Authority of North America
    Contact: Eileen Curran
    National Braille Press
    Address: 88 St. Stephen Street, Boston, MA 02115
    Phone: 888-965-8965, ext. 17
    Fax: 617-437-0456
    Web: Braille Authority of North America:
Sources for Finding a Braille Transcriber

  • American Printing House for the Blind

    APH manages two online databases that can be consulted to find individuals and groups who transcribe materials into braille.

    • Accessible Media Producers Database (AMP)

      The AMP database includes the names, locations, and qualifications of producers of accessible materials for visually impaired and blind individuals.

      Contact Info:
      Accessible Media Producers Database (AMP)
      American Printing House for the Blind
      Address: 1839 Frankfort Avenue, Louisville, KY 40206
      Phone: 502-895-2405
      Fax: 502-899-2274
      Web: Accessible Media Producers Database:

    • Louis Database of Accessible Materials

      A List of Contributing Agencies to The Louis Database of Accessible Materials, many of which produce materials in braille, can be accessed via the APH web site.

      Contact Info:
      Louis Database of Accessible Materials
      American Printing House for the Blind
      Address: 1839 Frankfort Avenue, Louisville, KY 40206
      Phone: 502-895-2405
      Fax: 502-899-2274
      Web: Louis Database:

  • Accessible Textbook Initiative and Collaboration Project (ATIC)

    The goal of ATIC is to provide accessible textbooks in braille and other media to students who are visually impaired in as efficient manner as possible.

    Contact Info:
    Accessible Textbook Initiative and Collaboration Project (ATIC)
    American Printing House for the Blind
    Address: 1839 Frankfort Avenue, Louisville, KY 40206
    Phone: 502-895-2405
    Fax: 502-899-2274
    Web: ATIC:

  • Volunteers Who Produce Books

  • Braille-Trans

    Braille-Trans is a listserv for people interested in discussing issues relating to braille transcription. For more info, visit the group's web site at Braille-Trans: or join the group today by sending an email to .

American Foundation for the Blind and Verizon Communications' Braille Textbook Transcriber Program

The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) and Verizon Communications are partners to develop and promote the careers of Braille Textbook Transcribers, and improve literacy for America's blind and low-vision schoolchildren.

The $200,000 grant from Verizon Reads assists AFB in the continued development and launch of the online community college-level courses designed to train transcribers to produce textbooks and instructional materials in braille. AFB is working on this effort in collaboration with Northwest Vista College in San Antonio, Texas, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and 35 of the leading national organizations and associations in education, literacy and service to the blind and visually impaired U.S. population. Northwest Vista College is the first campus in the nation to offer its students the opportunity to achieve the credentials and certification for this career. The classes will be available by the end of 2006.

It is estimated that the U.S. needs 380 full-time transcribers now, will need 735 additional transcribers in five years, and 1,020 additional transcribers in 10 years. Because of this national shortage, blind and visually impaired schoolchildren go weeks and sometimes months, without textbooks that their sighted peers have for their core and elective classes.

Since 2002, AFB's partnership with Verizon has propelled the lack of timely and appropriate textbooks and instructional materials for schoolchildren with vision loss into the forefront of education and policy discussion. Current transcribers are dedicated but unpaid volunteers who cannot meet the current demand for brailled textbooks and learning materials. This national effort has forced policymakers to look at what access truly means for students with visual impairments.

Verizon, through its national literacy program Verizon Reads, works with literacy organizations to create programs that promote the need for a more literate America, with a cadre of noted celebrities serving pro-bono as Literacy Champions for these programs. Erik Weihenmayer has served as pro-bono spokesperson for the past three years, and will continue to promote the new career of Braille Textbook Transcriber, and improving literacy for blind schoolchildren across America.

Verizon Reads is a national campaign to increase community awareness and to generate additional funding and support of literacy programs for adults, children and families. In 2004, Verizon Reads awarded 900 grants totaling more than $18 million to such programs as Reach Out and Read, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) and LULAC National Education Service Centers. In addition, through a company incentive program, Verizon Volunteers, employees are encouraged to volunteer for literacy efforts in their communities.

For more information on this career opportunity contact:

Dawson duncan, Dallas
Anna Marie Johnson Teague, 214-520-7550


American Foundation for the Blind
Carrie Fernandez, 212-502-7674

Monday, December 08, 2008

Math Flash

Software helps elementary students sharpen math skills with talking electronic flash cards. This self-voicing program uses the computer's sound card to communicate instructions, drills, practice sessions, and games. Students can select their favorite fun Math Mentor character. Teachers can modify the number of problems, degree of difficulty, and insert custom problems. Recommended ages: 6 years and up.

Requirements to Run

  • Windows 98 or 2000 or later including XP
  • Pentium or compatible 300 MHz processor or better
  • Sound card with speakers
  • CD-ROM drive to install program
  • From 15 to 25 MB of hard disk space
  • Internet Explorer 4.01 or later

Math Flash

Catalog Number: D-19910-00

Electronic Distribution:
Catalog Number: D-19910-ED

Download APH Software Demos:

Click here to purchase this item through our Quick Order Entry page:

If you need assistance, click this link to read the Fred's Head Companion post "Purchasing Products From The APH Website Is Easy".

American Printing House for the Blind, Inc.
1839 Frankfort Avenue
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 6085
Louisville, Kentucky 40206-0085
Toll Free: 800-223-1839
Phone: 502-895-2405
Fax: 502-899-2274
Web site:

T.V. Raman: Blind engineer and Mathematician

T.V. Raman, blind engineer currently with Google, was asked to write an article describing what it is like to be a mathematician who cannot see. the article, thinking of Mathematics, and a commentary written to address subsequent questions, can be found online. The author hopes that it encourages blind math students and serves as a resource for their teachers.

"The world is too full of factors to discourage students who cannot see from pursuing a career in science and math."

Click this link to read thinking of Mathematics from

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Free Braille Children's Book Program

The American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults sponsors a program to make Goosebumps® and Baby Sitters Club® braille books available on a monthly basis to blind youngsters and their teachers as well as to the schools and libraries that serve them. After registering, those who are eligible to participate in the program will receive a free Goosebumps ® and/or Baby Sitters Club® title in braille.

American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults
1800 Johnson St.
Baltimore, MD 21230
Phone: 410-659-9315

Subscribe to receive posts via email

* indicates required

Browse Articles by Subject

Follow us on Twitter


Write for us

Your input and support in the evolution of Fred's Head are invaluable! Contact us about contributing original writing or for suggestions for updating existing articles. Email us at


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.

The products produced by the American Printing House for the Blind are instructional/teaching materials and are intended to be used by trained professionals, parents, and other adults with children who are blind and visually impaired. These materials are not intended as toys for use by children in unstructured play or in an unsupervised environment.

The information and techniques contained in Fred's Head are provided without legal consideration (free-of-charge) and are not warranted by APH to be safe or effective. All users of this service assume the risk of any injury or damage that may result from the use of the information provided.

Information in Fred's Head is not intended as a substitute for professional advice or treatment. Consult your physician before utilizing information regarding your health that may be presented on this site. Consult other professionals as appropriate for legal, financial, and related advice.

Fred's Head articles may contain links to other websites. APH is not responsible for the content of these sites.

Fred's Head articles created by APH staff are (C) copyright American Printing House for the Blind, Inc. You must request permission from APH to reprint these articles. Email to request permission.

Any submissions to Fred's Head should be free of copyright restrictions and should be the intellectual property of the submitter. By submitting information to Fred's Head, you are granting APH permission to publish this information.

Fair Use Notice: This website may contain copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright holder(s). This site is operated on the assumption that using this information constitutes 'fair use' of said copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law.

Opinions appearing in Fred's Head records are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Printing House for the Blind.