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, September 30, 2009

Talk to Your Coffee Maker and This One Will Talk Back!

This is the first voice-interactive coffee maker that asks, "Would you like to set the clock or set the coffee brewing time?" and operates in response to your verbal commands.

Simply saying, "Set the coffee brewing time," or "Set the clock," will prompt the machine to reply, "Please say the time, including AM or PM." It uses an advanced voice recognition system to identify any time of day you speak, eliminating the hassle of fussing with buttons. The included reusable, dishwasher-safe plastic filter is specially designed to allow the water to thoroughly saturate coffee grounds, maximizing the richness and aroma of coffee. The coffee machine brews up to ten cups at once and allows you to remove the carafe during brewing to pour a cup.

Click this link to purchase The Only Voice Interactive Coffee Maker from Hammacher Schlemmer.

Eye Glasses Turns iPhone into Magnifier For the Visually Impaired

Portable CCTVs for magnifying menus, prescription bottle labels, etc. still cost around $1,000, out of reach for many folks. Eye Glasses, a $3 iPhone app performs basically the same function by taking the camera feed and bumping it up as much as 8 times magnification.

Eye Glasses is for the visually impaired, whether aging with failing vision or plain short sighted, squinting spectacle-wearers. Hold the iPhone in front of some hard to read text and the app takes the camera’s feed and makes it bigger: up to eight times bigger! It works with any iPhone, but the close-focusing 3GS will give the best results.

Click this link to learn more about the iPhone app Eye Glasses:

Victor Reader Stream Library Edition

In the United States, the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) is offering digital books and magazines through Internet download. In addition, the old cassette books and magazines are gradually being replaced by the new digital book cartridges that will be mailed to library patrons. Digital book cartridges are about the same size as a single cassette but the entire book fits on only one cartridge. There is no need to manage multiple cassettes or change sides anymore! NLS will provide free digital book cartridge players to all patrons over the next several years.

Readers who want to experience the benefits of the new digital books right away may consider purchasing the Victor Reader Stream book player from HumanWare. This is a pocket size player capable of playing both the download digital books and the new book cartridges.

The Victor Reader Stream Library Edition is so easy to use, it is ideal to play the new NLS book cartridges. It comes with a book cartridge holder that attaches to the back of the Stream and allows you to play the cartridge directly on the player. It is designed to detect and start playing the book cartridge when you insert it. It will even resume playing the book from where you left it the last time! The Stream also has a copy feature to copy the book cartridge to the memory card of the Stream allowing you to keep multiple books on your Stream at one time.

The NLS digital books are encrypted and you must apply to the NLS BARD web site to get an authorization file that when loaded to the Stream will provide the necessary digital decryption key to play both the download books and book cartridges. To learn more visit the BARD web site at: This is your starting point to apply for BARD service and authorization to play the books on the Stream.

The Stream can also play books from many other Internet sources such as RFB&,,, and It also plays music and even has a built-in computer voice to play computer documents. It is also able to use this computer voice to render the NLS electronic Web Braille books as spoken audio. The Stream even has a feature to record voice notes. To learn more about the standard Stream or Stream Library Edition contact HumanWare at 800-722-3393 or click this link to visit the Stream page at

BiOptic Driving Network

BiOptic Driving Network is a not for profit network concerned with developing/advancing the use of BiOptics for driving. The BiOptic telescope is a useful driving aid for people with conditions that reduce resolution or visual acuity while maintaining the peripheral vision substantially in tact. Such conditions include albinism, nystagmus, cataracts, and corneal diseases, as well as macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and other conditions that affect the central macular area.

A BiOptic is a lens system with a telescope attached to a pair of glasses, above (BTL is below) one's normal line of sight. This allows a trained user the opportunity to detect objects or movement within his/her driving scene using the wide field of view available through the regular spectacle lens and to resolve fine details such as road signs and traffic lights by glancing briefly and intermittently into and out of the miniature telescopic unit. BiOptic lens systems used for visual assistance in the driving task are available in a number of different styles, sizes, and powers: the latter most commonly ranging from 2X - 5.5X ( " X " referring to the strength or power of magnification of the telescopic unit).

It was William Feinbloom, O.D. who coined the name "BiOptic" and the abbreviation BTS in the 1950's, when he first designed the lens. He used the abbreviation BTS for "BiOptic telescopic system" Dr. Feinbloom defined a BiOptic as "a bi-visual optical system which mounts a miniature aperture telescope in the superior portion of a carrier lens enabling the user to rapidly change fixation from the carrier lens to the telescopic system." More information may be found in Dr. Feinbloom's many publications, in professional journals published during the 60's, and 70's, until his death during the 80's. He first reported on the BiOptic in 1958. Also, Schapero's Diction of Visual Science defines "a bi-visual system consisting of a small aperture telescope to magnify distant objects mounted in a portion of the patient's normal distance correction lens."

Some jurisdictions in the US restrict the power of the telescopes permitted. Of course, not all BiOptics are used for driving. The use determines the power, working distance and location on the carrier lens.

Click this link to learn more about bioptic driving by visiting the BiOptic Driving Network:

Book on Driving with Low Vision

If you want to pursue how you can continue to drive safely, there is a book called Driving with Confidence: A Practical Guide to Driving with Low Vision. The book is a practical guide that offers information and guidance for those driving with low vision on how to retain their driver's license.

One reviewer stated this about the book:

"The guide urges readers to educate themselves about their state's DMV vision policy, investigate the various aids and devices available for vision-impaired drivers, and then come to their own conclusion as to whether they should be behind the wheel."

If this book sounds interesting to you, check it out by visiting is a site created jointly by the staff of the Low Vision Centers of Indiana and a panel of Certified Driving Rehabilitation Specialists. They plan to make it a national resource on bioptic driving. The site is designed to educate the public, legislators, educators and driving professionals on bioptic driving. It emphasizes the professional approach and need for extensive training. Please note an extensive section on behind-the-wheel training including in-car videos will be added over the next few weeks.

Click this link to visit

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

This Game Really Smells

The following information comes to us from the Tails Gone West blog and is reposted for your convenience.

Seriously. You can't win this game if you don't use your sniffer!

Picture of the game

{all pics can be clicked on to see a larger image}

The game is called - as you can see - "Follow Your Nose", and is one of the "sensory games" produced by Sentosphere. (Note: as it says on that site, you can not order directly from them. You can find a list of retailers on their site, or you can google for others - we ordered ours through Spectrum Educational Supplies in Ontario.)

We were quite excited to get this game, as it's the very first board game that puts Christopher and the rest of us very nearly on equal footing when playing, and requires almost no adapting -- I just need to put the braille words on the cards.

The back of the box looks like this, giving some info about the game (in French, English, and... I *think* that's German?):

Back of game box

When you open the box, you find the playing cards and a lot of cute little vials:

Game cards and vials

The vials themselves are quite tiny:

Game vials

Which is fine - they don't need to be large. What they need to be - and they are - is very smelly! When you pull the top off a vial, you'll see some patterned holes ~ reminds me a bit of an air freshener! ~ and, inside the vial, some very tiny little scented beads.

Game beads

Moving over to the cards - the first card contains the instructions for playing the game:

Game cards

The next cards are set up much like bingo cards - each card has an assortment of pictures that match up to the scents in the vials:

Game cards

{Obviously Christopher can't work with the pictures, so I'll be adding the braille words on each space. I may also outline each square with a hot glue gun, making it easier for him to identify the boundaries to each section.}

The vials themselves are labeled (on the bottom) with the scent that they contain, such as "orange flower"...

orange flower

Or "coconut"...


And my personal favourite, "chimney"....


When I read the bottom of that one, I thought "ewww!" ~ until I smelled it and realized it's fireplace/campfire - a pleasant smell, not what I'd envisioned with "chimney" LOL

We haven't played through a full game yet, as a) I need to get the braille set up on the cards, and b) it just arrived late Friday afternoon and we've been pretty busy all weekend, but we've read through the rules and checked out all the scents and we're quite pleased with the game. As I said above, we're pretty near on even ground in terms of what senses are important in the game - the main sense required is the sense of smell. Yes, sighted players will have a slight advantage seeing the pictures and being reminded - but so would a fluent braille reader if the cards have the braille words on them!

The only thing that really stops this from being a game that can be quickly adapted to be played with *only* visually impaired users (no sighted player/s) is the fact that the vials don't lend themselves well to having braille labels affixed to them - they're too tiny for that. What you *could* do - we won't at this point as Christopher isn't a fully fluent braille user yet and will be playing with sighted family/friends - is attach only a number or letter to each vial and then make yourself a little code card with the numbers/letters matched to scents or something, there are always ways to make things work and that wouldn't be too difficult.

Overall, I'd say the game is a winner - Christopher was very curious about the scents while we investigated the game, and particularly fond of the one that smells like cookies *grin* ...It's bit pricey at just under $50 from Spectrum Educational Supplies, but I think it was worth it.

Learn Braille With The Swing Cell

Message: I am looking to help a friend with learning Braille. I am totally blind, and have known it all my life it seems, but my friend is having trouble recognizing the dots. My idea to assist him is to use a peg board to make letters and shapes, because I remember doing similar activities when I was in elementary school. Where might i be able to find something like this? I picture a light bright without the light. Any suggestions you have would be appreciated.
location: Ohio

I think you are on the right track with your thoughts on how to teach your friend braille. The American Printing House for the Blind has a device that you may have used as a child.

Swing Cell Compact

Compact Swing Cell

Similar to the Swing Cell, but without the base. Smaller and lighter than the original. Helps students understand the relationship between the braille cell and the keys on a braillewriter. Internal storage of pegs. Recommended Ages: 5 years and older.

Swing Cell Compact:
Catalog Number: 6-78041-00
Click this link to purchase a Swing Cell Compact.

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:
APH Shopping Home:

Monday, September 28, 2009

What Parents Can Do to Build and Nurture Relationships with School Personnel

Reprinted with permission from Visually Impaired Preschool Services (VIPS) and from the Kentucky School for the Blind
by Pauletta Feldman and Mary Ann Reynolds (1996)
  1. Start early getting to know all the people who will eventually be in a position to serve your child. Network! Start sharing your dreams and let them get to know your child. Then, when you are in a position to work together, there is a good basis for open communication and teamwork. There aren’t a lot of surprises for school personnel and they have advance time for planning programs to meet your child’s needs.
  2. Recognize that school personnel are people too. Good educational outcomes for your child are not just dependent on you knowing your child’s educational rights but also on you practicing good people skills.
  3. Be willing to negotiate and make compromises or tradeoffs. Realize that the tradeoffs you make today can be made up for by different program options in the future.
  4. Be open and listen. Don’t carry a chip on your shoulder until someone puts one there. Try to remember that each new situation brings opportunities to start fresh. Don’t assume that you’re always going to have to fight.
  5. Offer to help. Be a creative problem solver. Your enthusiasm and willingness can motivate and assist schools to develop programs that might not be possible or might not have been envisioned without your support.
  6. When teachers/administrators have reservations or are resistant to your wants for your child, don’t automatically become demanding. Take the role of educator and help them understand why you want what you do. You may have thought of objectives for your child and ways of meeting them that they haven’t.
  7. Give positive feedback and support to the people involved with your child. Everyone needs a pat on the back for the things he or she is doing right. When a problem or complaint arises, seek a solution at the source. Going behind someone’s back to deal with a problem can damage trust. Go through the appropriate procedures and steps in the chain of command in solving problems.
  8. Be committed to the choices you make and realize that you play a major role in their success.
  9. Understand that building good relationships takes time. Things may not fall into place immediately. Patience can pay off as long as there is consistent progress. Mutually supportive relationships with teachers/ administrators will lead to superior outcomes for your child and you; relationships strained by excessive demands by parents won’t reap the benefits of true teamwork, even though you may technically get everything you want for your child.
  10. If relationships break down, don’t involve your child in your battles. He or she has to spend all day, everyday in the problem situation. Support your child, offer strategies for dealing with the problem situation, and let him/her know that you are working to correct it. Do your fighting behind the scenes. Leave your child out of it.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Free and Open-Source Screen Reader for Windows

NonVisual Desktop Access (NVDA) was created by Michael Curran and is a free and open-source screen reader for Windows. It enables blind and vision impaired people to use their computers at no additional cost than the computer and Operating System itself. Started in April 2006, it has grown to become quite usable as a day-to-day screen reader, enabling the user to do most tasks. It is not as stable or as bug-free as some of the commercial screen readers, but since December 2006 the creator has been able to use NVDA full-time as his primary screen reader, finally giving up his original commercial product.

Providing feedback by synthetic speech, NVDA allows the user to access and interact with all parts of the Windows operating system, such as:

  • Browsing the web (with Internet Explorer)
  • Reading and writing documents with programs such as Wordpad or Microsoft Word
  • Sending and receiving email with Outlook Express
  • Using command-line programs in Dos windows
  • Producing basic spreadsheets in Microsoft Excel
  • General computer management through My Computer / Windows Explorer, Control Panel applets, and other generic Windows tasks

Because NVDA is open-source, it is important that access be given to other open-source programs. NVDA Currently works with Miranda Instant Messenger, and has very extensive support for Mozilla Firefox. Although not open-source, NVDA also works quite well with the latest version of Skype; though you might want to remember to turn on the accessible menus by pressing alt, then v, then a, then s, while in the Skype main window.

NVDA is built with a modular design. Much of its code can easily be extended to support new programs and or controls in Windows. App Modules can be written to add over all support for a specific application, virtual buffers can be written to allow NVDA to display complex documents or other data, and NVDA Objects can be written to add support for specific controls or Windows. NVDA always tries to make controls and elements of a program or Operating System as accessible as possible, so that the user can actively seek any information they require. NVDA is not so concerned with special features such as filtering and announcing particular information it thinks the user may want to know.

NVDA is not restricted by a need to follow market trends and demands. Commercial screen readers implement really good features, but sometimes this is biased by what the market wants, rather than what will be really useful for the user. NVDA may not be always as stable as other screen readers, but it can certainly act as an experimental and testing tool. It can easily and quickly test new ideas and features perhaps not seen in other screen readers for the Windows Operating System. An example of this is NVDA's ability to use beeps to communicate to the user that a progress bar is moving. The higher the beep, the closer the progress bar is to the end. People have added this feature in to other screen readers through custom scripts and the like, but it has never been officially adopted completely in to the core of any other Windows screen reader.

NVDA uses the Sapi5 speech engine to provide speech output. All copies of Windows XP and Windows Vista have at least one Sapi5 voice already, though you can easily find many other free or commercial voices around the Internet. A very clear and responsive Sapi5 voice that is both free and open-source is called ESpeak. You can download it from the ESpeak home page:

To communicate with the Operating System and programs, NVDA uses a mix of Operating System functions, Microsoft Active Accessibility (MSAA), and specific programming interfaces provided by certain applications. NVDA does not use any special Video Intercept drivers or display hooks, and will always try to gain as much information from Accessibility specific interfaces as possible, before resorting to other means. The advantages of this are that access should not be hindered by certain system settings such as colour schemes etc, and it means that no special drivers need to be installed in order to run NVDA. (NVDA has been tested with success to run off a USB key / Thumb Drive). The disadvantage to this is that NVDA may not work straight out of the box for some applications that choose not to follow accessibility guidelines or use standard controls.

Click this link to learn more or to download NVDA, NonVisual Desktop Access from its website:

NVDA Snapshot Downloader

NVDASD is a utility for downloading the most recent version of NVDA quickly. This can come in handy when you want to get the most out of nvda (by downloading the latest snapshot as soon as it is released) but need a fast solution to do the downloading for you.

Click this link to learn more or to download the NVDA Snapshot Downloader.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Ebook: Exploring Word 2007 with JAWS

Are you afraid of Microsoft Word 2007? Maybe intimidated by it? This ebook walks you through the ribbons and features using JAWS for Windows 10, a screenreader for people who are visually impaired. The author, Toni R. Fraser, has taken the fear out of learning this program. He has a very unique way of teaching Word 2007 that he has not seen any other developer do. He feels his book is easy to understand and user friendly. Download it and see for yourself.

Click this link to preview and download Exploring Word 2007 with JAWS by Toni R. Fraser.

Make a Call in the Event of an Emergency in Your Home, Even If You Can’t Get to the Phone

In the event of an in-home emergency, getting to the telephone can be critical to your well being. Ideal for the elderly, those who live alone, those with hearing loss and those who suffer from or who may be prone to illness or injury, the SOS Alert Phone with Pendant will provide the communication needed in an emergency.

The phone works as a regular phone with some pre-programmed advanced features that include a talking keypad, talking caller ID and talking memory dial. A large LCD screen displays all of the information pertaining to your calls and can be displayed in English, French, Italian and Spanish. The standard ringer can be adjusted up to 90 dB and a flashing call indicator alerts you that a call is coming in.

What really sets this phone apart is the use of an emergency pendant. If you are in the unfortunate circumstance of being unable to reach the phone in the event of an emergency, you can press the emergency pendant to not only answer a call but to call out up to 30 contacts and play a pre-recorded message letting them know you are in need of help. The pendant has a wireless range of 100 feet, allowing you to be in contact with help from almost anywhere in your home at a moments notice. This product requires the use of four AA batteries (sold separately) as a backup power supply in the event of a power outage.

Click this link to purchase the SOS Alert Phone with Pendant from SmartHome.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Which Eyeglass Frames Complement Your Face?

First and foremost, you need to determine your face shape. “There is one rule when it comes to choosing the ideal frames for your face: Contrast the frame shape to your face shape,” advises Rene Soltis, an optician and a spokesperson for the Vision Council of America.

So if you have a round face made up mostly of soft curves, you’ll look best in angular or square frames. And if you have a more narrow or angular face (resembling a rectangle or a square), opt for rounded styles. If your face is heart shaped, try something delicate, like a wire or rimless style, to balance the narrowness of the chin. And for those with an oval face, you are free to experiment, since practically any style will suit you.

The key is to avoid duplication of shapes, because contrast is what creates emphasis and balances your features.

Download Old PC Games for Free

One of the things I loved about DOS games were the simple graphics. Not a big seller in today's gaming market but for those of us with low vision, a low graphics game can be easier to see. discovered some sites where old DOS games are still available and some newer titles as well.


Abandonia is an index of abandonware, “dedicated to classic DOS games”. Abandonware titles are games (or software) with expired copyright, or games which are no longer supported by the publisher.

The site was founded in 1999, when the concept of abandonware was merely two years old. After a few inactive years, it continues to blossom, with new ‘abandoned’ games added nearly every day. At the time of writing, the Abandonia database hosts 1,063 downloadable games and counts a total of more than 100,000 members.

Most games get a thorough review, screenshots, an editor rating as well as a user rating. You can browse and download old pc games by name, year, rating and category. As the game’s focused on DOS games, you won’t find any of the ‘newer’ abandonware games here, but the vast DOS archive should satisfy most of your gaming needs, at least for a while.

Click this link to visit

DOS Museum

Another DOS focused site, the name gives it away, is the DOS Museum. Their goal is to preserve old DOS games and make sure they won’t be lost over time. Through one of their other initiatives, they try to encourage copyright holders to make their work available, “either for sale or as freeware”.

With over 1,600 resources (although this includes various patches and save-games) DOS Museum offers an even wider array of games. Through an easy, graphical interface, you can browse the games by name, rating, date or popularity. Although you won’t find excessive reviews like on Abandonware, basic information (usually in two or three sentences) is provided.

Click this link to visit the DOS Museum at


One of the best sites to look for an ex-commercial video game is Wikipedia. That’s right, on one of their pages, they keep a pretty up-to-date list of abandonware (loose interpretation) titles.

The list shows less games than these other sites, but from a wider array. You’ll find games from 1988 to 2008, all of them with a short description, most of them worth a try. If you think there’s a game ‘missing’ from the list that should be there, you can add it yourself.

Click this link to visit Wikipedia's List of commercial video games released as freeware.

Remain In Play

Another site that takes on a wider array of non-DOS games is Remain In Play. This site refuses to take in abandonware and games that were free from the start. They only focus on commercial games that were deliberately released as freeware.

Even though site navigation is not optimal, they host plenty of great games, both new and old. You might want to consider their ‘top 10 games’ in the sidebar, for it is the only way of sorting titles by rating. Otherwise, you can search their database by name, data (type), genre, or OS.

Click this link to visit

Tactile Maps Automated Production

The Lighthouse, in partnership with the Smith Kettlewell Eye Research Institute, offers tactile maps with Braille legends for visually impaired travelers and pedestrians. This is also a useful tool for mobility instructors.

TMAPs cover one square mile centered on a specific street address, or intersection with a marker to show the position of the address.

To request a TMAP, send an email (Subject: TMAP Request) to and provide a phone number and street address or intersection. You can also call The Lighthouse at 888-400-8933.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Watch Documentary Movies Online

Love to watch documentaries ? Bodocus is a website where you can freely access and stream over 650 documentary movies. No registration required, just select your movie and watch. Categories include: Anthropology, Biographies, Business, Environment, Foreign, Politics, Health, History, Lifestyle / Society, Mystery, Religion, Science, and Technology.

Click this link to visit

FreeDocumentaries is another site that aggregates and categorizes online documentary movies in one place. Choose and stream any documentary for free. Browse films by theme, geographical region, or alphabetically. Get notified about new film additions. Choose between different video sizes (Small, Medium or Large).

Click this link to visit


This site has an impressive Documentary section. There are almost 1800 documentaries there. For avid documentary fans there is also a latest additions RSS feed that lets you stay on top of all recent additions from your favorite feedreader.

Click this link to visit the Documentaries section of the SurfTheChannel website.


SnagFilms makes it possible to find, watch, and share the best film documentaries out there. Users can log on and browse various categories of documentaries, such as environment, health, and politics. Listed films range from large titles, like National Geographic programs, to small lesser-known independent features. Because the goal is to spread the word about these films, all documentaries can be watched on the SnagFilms site for free. Moreover, users can embed a widget that allows the films to be watched from their own sites. Before viewing the film, users may read a quick synopsis, as well as any corresponding comments that other users have made. When available, users may order a DVD of the film right from the SnagFilms site.

Click this link to visit


If you like watching documentaries, make sure to bookmark Docu-View aggregates good quality documentaries from everywhere around the web and lets you watch them from the website. There are currently around 500 free documentary movies and videos and more being added periodically. The videos are nicely organized into categories with popular videos highlighted on the homepage.

Click this link to visit

Upload MP3 Files To YouTube

If you've ever tried uploading MP3 files to YouTube, you know that YouTube does not support this feature directly. Until now the only way to upload the MP3 file to Youtube was to convert it into a video file first and upload it as a video file.

Now you can avoid doing this and save time by using a service called Mp32Tube. By using this online application, anyone can easily upload MP3’s to without converting anything.

Go to Mp32Tube and select an MP3 file and the image that you want to use as a thumbnail on YouTube. Next choose whether you want it to be uploaded to your YouTube account or an MP32Tube account. Click on the “upload” button and wait for the sharing URL. It might take a few minutes before the file becomes accessible and playable online.

Currently, Mp32Tube is free to use. Premium accounts with more features (multiple image and file upload, no waiting times, faster speed) are likely to be introduced in the future.

Click this link to upload MP3 files to YouTube with

Webopedia: Dictionary of Internet Terms and Their Meanings

Are you lost with all the new technology and new Internet terms you stumble upon while browsing the web? The Webopedia is the place to look them up. It is an online dictionary of technology related terms and abbreviations including tech acronyms, Internet slang and other terms that were born with new technology. 

You may search for definitions using the search engine or browse terms by topic like Graphics, Mobile Computing, Open Source etc. Term definition also includes a short history about the term and a list of related terms.

Click this link to visit

PenFriend audio labeller

Easily record, and re-record, information using this versatile, pocket-sized, easy-to-use product and the self-adhesive labels. You can instantly play back the recordings anywhere simply using the PenFriend - no computer required.

Use to label: food items, including freezer items, film and music collections, household objects or even to organise letters and other paperwork as well as record shopping lists or leave audio messages.

It can also be used as a portable notetaker, record your message and keep track of it by placing the allocated label in a small notebook or in your diary.

Use in school to label classroom equipment and resources and pupils can organise their coursework.

  • simply allocate one of the coded self-adhesive labels and record and store your message on the PenFriend. To playback hold the PenFriend over the label - it announces recordings specific to each label
  • there is no limit to the length of each message
  • the pen as up to 70 hours of recording time available
  • ability to download MP3 files including books and music if desired
  • supplied with 127 labels in a mix of sizes and shapes, built in speaker, USB cable, neck lanyard and two AAA batteries.
  • short demonstration video about PenFriend available to watch on YouTube
Click this link to purchase the PenFriend audio labeller from the RNIB Online Shop.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

What To Do When You Meet A Sighted Person

People who use their eyes to acquire information about the world are called sighted people or "people who are sighted". Legal sight means any visual acuity greater than 20/200 in the better eye without correction or an angle of vision wider than 20 degrees.

Sighted people enjoy rich, full lives working, playing and raising families. They run businesses, hold public offices, get arrested and teach your children!

How do Sighted People get Around?

People who are sighted may walk or ride public transportation but most choose to travel long distances by operating their own motor vehicles, usually one passenger to a car. They have gone through many hours of extensive training to learn the rules of the road in order to further their independence. Once that road to freedom has been mastered, sighted people earn a legal classification and a drivers license which allows them to operate a private vehicle relatively safely and independently.

How do you assist a sighted person?

Sighted people are accustomed to viewing the world in visual terms. This means that in many situations they will not be able to communicate orally and may resort to stammering, pointing, hand waving or other gesturing. Subtle facial expressions may also be used to convey feelings in social situations. Calmly alert the sighted person to his or her surroundings by speaking slowly in a normal tone of voice. Questions directed at the sighted person help focus attention back on the verbal rather than the merely visual.

How do sighted people remember things?

Often they don't remember things. In fact this is one of the most painful aspects of the visual affliction, the degree to which sight inhibits detailed memory. Often, the sighted person must reacquire the same information each time it is needed. You can help by being sensitive to their struggle by learning to anticipate their need and providing them with the information they need when it is necessary. Don't tell them too much too quickly. Be sensitive to the capacities of the individual with whom you are dealing. These limitations vary from person to person and it is deeply upsetting to a sighted person to realize that you recognize their mental short comings.

At times sighted people may need help finding things, especially when operating a motor vehicle. Your advance knowledge of routs and landmarks, bumps in the road, and traffic lights will assist the sighted person in finding their way quickly and easily. Your knowledge of building layouts can also assist the sighted person in navigating complex shopping malls and office buildings. Sighted people tend to be very proud and are reluctant to ask for assistance. Be gentle yet firm.

How do sighted people use computers?

The sighted person relies exclusively on visual information. His or her attention span fades quickly when reading long texts so it is best to write in bulleted lists of very brief items. The use of bright colors will help the sighted person stay focused. Computer information is presented to the sighted in a graphical manner to assist them in comprehending their world. Coordination of hands and eyes is often a preoccupation with sighted people so the computer mouse, a handy device that slides along the desk top, saves confusing keystrokes. With one button the sighted person can move around his or her computer screen quickly and easily, if not necessarily efficiently. People who are sighted are not accustomed to synthetic speech and may have great difficulty understanding even the clearest synthesizer, falling asleep between syllables or becoming distracted by a spot on the carpet. Be patient and prepared to explain many times how your computer works.

How do sighted people read?

Reading is accomplished by the sighted person through a system called "print," which is a series of images drawn in a two dimensional plain. People who are sighted generally have a poorly developed sense of touch. Braille is completely foreign to them and severe bouts of disorientation can sometimes result from over exposure to the use of the higher senses.

Sighted people cannot function well in dimly lit conditions and are generally completely helpless and often devastatingly frightened in total darkness. Their homes are usually very brightly lit at great expense as are businesses that cater to the sighted. Naturally these costs are passed on to the consumer.

How can I support the sighted person?

People who are sighted do not want your charity. They want to live, work, and play alongside you on as equal a basis as possible. You must ignore their tendency to display feelings that they are superior to you. Failing to allow them this delusion may promote aberrant and antisocial behavior. The best thing you can do to support sighted people in your community is to simply open yourself to their world and help open their limited world to the bounty of your experience. These citizens are vital contributing members of the community, real people with thoughts and feelings, hopes and dreams and a story to tell. Take a sighted person to lunch today and make them feel like you truly care.

Author Unknown

Completely Remove and Uninstall Windows Live Messenger and MSN Messenger

Windows users like to use Windows Live Messenger (formerly known as MSN Messenger) for instant messaging because the application comes with every installation of the Windows operating system. Windows users can conveniently use it without searching for other IM programs.

There are some who hardly use Windows Live Messenger and find it an eyesore in their computer's system. If you are one of them, the MSN removal/uninstall tool WLMUninstall could be something of interest.

WLMUninstall is a simple and standalone program which doesn’t require any installation. Users download the tiny program and execute the file. Click the “uninstall” button and the free MSN uninstall tool will remove Windows Live Messenger or MSN Messenger completely from the computer.

Click this link for the direct-download of the WLMUninstall application.

LazLight high Performance Reading Lamp

The LazLight was designed specifically for people with low vision, aging eyes and Macular Degeneration. This is not an ordinary reading lamp, but rather, a serious lighting tool.

This hand-crafted lamp produces extremely high levels of light that were previously unavailable to the public. It works like a spotlight on your reading surface, significantly increasing contrast and color without any eye damaging “blue light hazard.” With its unique dimmer switch and gooseneck, the light can be easily adjusted to best fit the user’s needs.

LazLight inventor Ronald Lazarus has been in the lighting industry for over forty years. He has been involved in all phases of the lighting industry: as the owner of a lighting store, a lighting fixture factory and a lighting agency. He is accepted as an expert witness in general lighting in court.

The “LazLight” is made in the USA and comes with a three year manufacturer’s warranty that covers all parts including the light bulb.

To learn more about the “LazLight” High Performance Reading Lamp, or to order your own “LazLight,” please visit the website:

Monday, September 14, 2009

Disabled is Not My Occupation

by Donna J. Jodhan

A few weeks ago, I went to the post office to retrieve a money gram. For those of you who do not know what a money gram is, a money gram is used to send funds internationally. The sender buys the money gram and is given a transaction number which they then give to the receiver so that the receiver can then go to the post office and present to the post mistress or master. The number is then used to retrieve the funds and, upon successful completion of the transaction, the receiver is presented with a cheque. Nice and clean you say? It is but on this day I had a very interesting encounter with the post mistress.

When I presented the number to her, I also had to present personal identification and fill out a form. My friend filled out the form for me and everything was going well until the post mistress asked me: "What is your occupation? Disabled?" Needless to say, both my friend and I were absolutely flabbergasted. I almost fell on the floor but after a few seconds I managed to reclaim my composure and calmly responded: "No! I am a systems engineer." My friend later told me that in turn I had managed to shock the post mistress. He said that if I could have seen the look on her face I would have been very happy because one surprise was countered with another. The post mistress immediately apologized.

This has been the story of my life and it has been for several of my fellow blind and visually impaired friends who are professionals. Society as a whole still does not think that blind and visually impaired persons can and do work for a living. They either regard us as persons who need to be looked after or they do not have any regard for us at all. In short, we are the disregarded. There are the precious few who do respect our abilities but I will say that on the whole our society still does not give much credence to our existence.

Similar types of reactions often occur when I go to fill out immigration documents. Everything is going along fine until they ask for my occupation and when I tell them that I am a systems engineer, most do not believe me. Sometimes I need to expand on my occupation. In general, people do not believe that I work for a living and in the past whenever I had to list my place of employment I was often met with total shock. Some of the more notable reactions that come to mind continue to be:

"You work for a living?"
"How can you work when you are blind?"
"May be IBM hired you as a token?"

It has taken me many years of cultivated temper to ignore these types of comments but it has not been easy. I used to get very upset and angry but not anymore. Thanks to wonderful parents, family and friends, I have learned to ignore the naive statements and have replaced my emotional feelings with a dignified smile and calm response. However, because of my wicked sense of humor, I may just respond one day to the next person who asks for my occupation. "Disabled."

I'm Donna J. Jodhan, an accessibility and special needs business consultant wishing you a terrific day. If you'd like to learn more about me, then you can visit some of my blog spots at:
Donna Jodhan! Advocating accessibility for all:
Weekly Saturday postings on issues of accessibility:
blogs on various issues and answers to consumers concerns:

Friday, September 11, 2009

TURBO 6 Talking Battery Charger

Photo of the Turbo 6 unit with the compartment door closed Photo of the Turbo 6 unit with the compartment door open

TURBO 6 Talking Battery Charger is THE battery charger that tells you what you need to know!

  • Announces the compartment number and charging status of batteries as they are placed in the unit
  • Can announce compartment number and charging status at the press of a button or when charging is complete
  • Charges up to 6 batteries at once
  • Has two charging compartments for flat 9-volt batteries and four compartments for cylindrical AA, AAA, C, or D cells
  • Batteries can be charged in any combination

Note: TURBO 6 charges ONLY the following types of batteries:

  • Nickel-cadmium (NiCad)
  • Nickel-metal hydride (NiMH)
  • Rechargeable alkaline-manganese (RAM)

WARNING: Turbo 6 does not charge any other type of battery! Attempts to charge batteries other than those mentioned above may result in batteries overheating, leaking, exploding, or starting a fire.

The NiCad, NiMH, and RAM batteries to be charged in the TURBO 6 can be identified visually, but feel exactly like batteries of the same size that are not rechargeable. To enjoy the benefits of safely reusing appropriate batteries again and again, a user who is visually impaired must keep rechargeable batteries in a separate container and never allow them to be confused with batteries that cannot be charged in TURBO 6.

TURBO 6 Talking Battery Charger

English Kit:
Catalog Number: 1-03965-00

Spanish Kit:
Catalog Number: 1-03965-SP
Click this link to purchase the TURBO 6 Talking Battery Charger.

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:
APH Shopping Home:

Learning To Use Maps With APH

Maps Represent Real Places: Map Study I

Map Study I

Introduces basic map concepts by having students map a classroom and other known environments. Students learn to find objects and to identify map symbols representing those objects. Includes:

  • 80-lesson program in print
  • Tactile, high contrast color maps of various room arrangements, and sheets for student mapping
  • Large, bright symbols to place on objects in a room, and identical, smaller symbols for maps

Recommended ages: 6 years and older.

Map Study I:
Catalog Number: 1-01130-00
Click this link to purchase Maps Represent Real Places, Map Study I: Complete Kit. 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:
APH Shopping Home:

Patterns: The Primary Braille Reading Program

Program designed for young beginning braille readers, preprimer through third reader level.

Word recognition is taught through tactual memory, phonological skills, and syntactical skills. Contains a variety of materials for each level, including: textbooks, posttests, worksheets, and teacher's editions. Recommended ages: 5 years and up.

Note: Some braille versions of Patterns teacher's editions available from APH are vacuum form books that were transcribed by the Braille Services Guild of California. Complete kits include only the print versions of the teacher's editions; braille teacher's editions must be ordered separately.

Patterns: The Primary Braille Reading Program: Scope and Sequence Chart (overview)

Patterns: The Primary Braille Reading Program: Scope and Sequence Chart (overview)

This is an overview of Patterns: The Primary Braille Reading Program, a complete program designed specifically for young beginning braille readers, preprimer through third reader level.

Scope and Sequence Chart (Patterns overview):
Catalog Number: 8-78350-00
Click this link to purchase Patterns: The Primary Braille Reading Program: Scope and Sequence Chart (overview).

Note: Patterns Readiness Level (Red) has been replaced by Building on Patterns: Kindergarten

Patterns: Reading: 1st Reader Level (Yellow): New Friends: Complete Print Kit

Patterns: Reading: First Reader: Complete Print Kit Includes: Pupil's Text, Worksheets, Print Teacher's Edition for Pupil's Text and Worksheets, Review Worksheets, Print Teacher's Edition for Review Worksheets, Posttest, Print Teacher's Edition for Posttest.

Catalog Number: 6-78150-00

First Reader items sold separately:

Pupil's Text (3 volumes):
Catalog Number: 6-78160-00

Teacher's Edition for Pupil's Text and Worksheets:

Review Worksheets (unbound):
Catalog Number: 6-78180-00

Posttest (unbound):
Catalog Number: 6-78190-00

Teacher's Edition for Posttest

Braille Edition -- only available separately (1 vol.):
Catalog Number: 6-32200-00

Print Edition:
Catalog Number: 8-78190-00

Patterns: Reading: 2nd Reader Level (Brown): Old and New: Complete Print Kit

Patterns: Reading: Second Reader: Complete Kit Includes: Pupil's Text, Worksheets, Print Teacher's Edition for Pupil's Text and Worksheets, Review Worksheets, Print Teacher's Edition for Review Worksheets, Posttest, Print Teacher's Edition for Posttest.

Catalog Number: 6-78200-00

Second Reader items sold separately:

Pupil's Text (3 volumes):
Catalog Number: 6-78210-00

Worksheets (unbound):
Catalog Number: 6-78220-00

Teacher's Edition for Pupil's Text and Worksheets:

Braille Edition -- only available separately (vol. 12):
Catalog Number: 6-78205-00

Print Edition:
Catalog Number: 8-78210-00

Review Worksheets (unbound):
Catalog Number: 6-78230-00

Teacher's Edition for Review Worksheets:

Braille Edition -- only available separately (1 vol.):
Catalog Number: 6-32250-00

Print Edition:
Catalog Number: 8-78230-00

Posttest (unbound):
Catalog Number: 6-78240-00

Teacher's Edition for Posttest

Braille Edition -- only available separately (1 vol.):
Catalog Number: 6-32260-00

Print Edition:
Catalog Number: 8-78240-00

Patterns: Reading: 3rd Reader Level (Gray): Far Away and Long Ago: Complete Print Kit

Patterns: Reading: Third Reader: Complete Print Kit Includes: Pupil's Text, Worksheets, Print Teacher's Edition for Pupil's Text and Worksheets, Review Worksheets, Print Teacher's Edition for Review Worksheets, Posttest, Print Teacher's Edition for Posttest.

Catalog Number: 6-78250-00

Third Reader items sold separately:

Pupil's Text (4 volumes):
Catalog Number: 6-78260-00

Worksheets (unbound):
Catalog Number: 6-78270-00

Teacher's Edition for Pupil's Text and Worksheets:

Braille Edition -- only available separately:
Catalog Number: 5-32270-00

Print Edition:
Catalog Number: 8-78260-00

Review Worksheets (unbound):
Catalog Number: 6-78280-00

Teacher's Edition for Review Worksheets:

Braille Edition (not available)

Print Edition:
Catalog Number: 8-78280-00

Posttest (unbound):
Catalog Number: 6-78290-00

Teacher's Edition for Posttest

Braille Edition (not available)

Print Edition:
Catalog Number: 8-78290-00
Click this link to purchase Patterns: The Primary Braille Reading Program.

APH Shopping Home: 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:
APH Shopping Home:

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Greater Access to College Textbooks

The Association of American Publishers (AAP) has announced an agreement with the Alternative Media Access Center (AMAC), an initiative of the Georgia Board of Regents and the University of Georgia, to develop and launch the AccessText Network, a comprehensive, national online system that will make it easier and quicker for students with print-related disabilities, such as blindness, to obtain the textbooks they need for their college courses.

The AccessText Network is leveraging QuickBase, an online database powered by Intuit Inc., to enable publishers and colleges to effectively combine and share their resources and expertise to meet students' needs. AccessText Network, scheduled for beta launch in February 2009, will ensure that institutions can more easily obtain information about publishers' course materials, request electronic text files and use more efficient acquisition and distribution channels.

AccessText Network is being funded through donations from publishers Cengage Learning; CQ Press; Macmillan; McGraw-Hill Education; Pearson; Reed Elsevier Inc.; John Wiley & Sons; and W.W. Norton.

For more information, contact:

Christopher Lee

Blind retirees facing challenges

by Donna J. Jodhan

This is the one segment of our society that so many of us often fail to remember. The blind retiree, and trust me when I say that this group is growing in number. Just picture it! A person works for over 25 years and lives a normal life. That is, he/she lives with normal vision and works either in an office, or for themselves. Then they retire with so many high hopes for happy retirement years but then one day... Their vision fails them due to one reason or another. What is the next step?

In a nutshell, a blind retiree is faced with many challenges. First, their world has been plunged into darkness. They can no longer read, write, watch TV, or enjoy the beauties of nature. They are afraid to venture outdoors without the aid of family or friends. They no longer feel that they can enjoy the pleasures of gardening, playing golf, sailing, traveling, plus so much more. In short, their whole world has changed because they have unexpectedly lost their vision and now they are fighting to stay afloat.

For the majority of blind retirees it is indeed a tremendous challenge to remain positive. True it is that there are several things that can be done to help them readjust. They now have to depend on their ears to gather information and they have to learn brand new techniques to help them continue to live their lives in as normal a way as possible. They suddenly find themselves having to depend on family and friends for assistance. No more being able to admire those visual beauties and hello to depending more on their other senses.

Governments and communities are going to have to start paying more attention to the needs and demands of blind retirees but most important of all they will need to start understanding and recognizing the challenges of blind retirees. For make no mistake about it, this group is growing at a steady pace and this trend is not expected to change for the long term future.

I'm Donna J. Jodhan, an accessibility and special needs business consultant wishing you a terrific day. If you'd like to learn more about me, then you can visit some of my blog spots at:
Donna Jodhan! Advocating accessibility for all:
Weekly Saturday postings on issues of accessibility:
blogs on various issues and answers to consumers concerns:

The Problem with Warning Signs

by Donna J. Jodhan

Believe it or not, warning signs play a very crucial and important part in our daily lives. We put them up when we need to warn others of pending danger or perils and we also depend on them to tell us when we need to be aware of something that could potentially harm or hurt us. 99.9% of the time, these signs are very easy to see because they are constructed using extremely bright and garish colors and they are almost always strategically placed so that they are easy to spot. However, there is one huge factor that most of the sighted world still seems to miss and that is: Warning signs have not been taught to speak and before you start to get on my back for saying this I would like to explain by giving you a real example.

A few weeks ago when I stepped out of my condominium to walk to the elevator, I was greeted by a strong smell of paint. I immediately knew that the workmen were painting close by but what I did not know was precisely where. I decided to be super careful as I walked but soon ran into trouble when my jacket came in contact with wet paint on the wall close to my door. Before I knew it, the sleeve of my jacket was covered with paint. When I went to the management office to ask that in future they let me know when and where they would be painting, their response was: "Well, did you not see the wet paint sign tacked onto your door?" When I told them that I did not because I am blind, their response was: "Maybe you should be more careful whenever you smell paint."

This interaction totally frustrated me and before leaving the office I told them that maybe in the future they should try to develop a sign that would talk to me and tell me that they were there. They should develop a sign that would let me know what I needed to. Unfortunately this did not go over very well and a few days later I returned to the office to have a common sense chat with the management team.

The lesson here is that it does not do any good for me to be sarcastic to the staff at the management office. Instead, I need to find ways to help them to understand why it is important for them to ensure that warning signs are communicated to all tenants both mainstream as well as those with special needs. Being sarcastic and angry will only infuriate them and get their backs up but working with them to find a solution is what would work best. I was able to convince them that they need to communicate with all of the condominium dwellers whenever they are putting up warning signs because doing this will not only benefit me, it will also benefit those who are unable to read due to a print disability.

There are millions of persons in our world who are unable to read because of various reasons and they are classified as print disabled. Warning signs are terrific if you can see them but for those of us who are either unable to see or read them, they become literally useless and more of a hazard if we end up bumping into them and injuring ourselves. I know that it is much easier to educate the staff at a management office but it is time for us to educate those around us and the world as a whole.

I'm Donna J. Jodhan, an accessibility and special needs business consultant wishing you a terrific day and reminding you to start educating others on how to deal with warning signs. If you'd like to learn more about me, then you can visit some of my blog spots at:
Donna Jodhan! Advocating accessibility for all:
Weekly Saturday postings on issues of accessibility:
blogs on various issues and answers to consumers concerns:

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Selecting Noncontiguous Files in Windows Explorer

Anyone who has ever needed to use the keyboard to copy multiple files from one large folder to another in Windows Explorer is familiar with the arduous task of arrowing through the list, copying a file, moving to another folder, pasting and repeating. With the help of an earlier Fred's Head post about Windows Vista keyboard shortcuts, I was finally able to figure out how to select noncontiguous items in a list such as files in Windows Explorer. I have read that this was possible without using the mouse, but was never able to get the keyboard combinations right. Now that I see how simple it is, I am a little embarrassed to admit that it took me so long to master. I thought I would share this information in case there are others like me.

The first thing to understand is that it is possible to move through a list of files without highlighting them by holding down the control key as you arrow through the list. When you get to a file you want to select, simply press the space bar without releasing the control key. With the control key still held down, arrow to the next file you want to select and press space again. Continue this procedure until you have selected all of the files you want to copy, cut or delete. At this point, you can use control-C to copy the files you selected to the clipboard, control-X to cut them or delete to move them to the recycle bin. It makes no difference whether you release the control key before pressing control-C or whether you simply keep holding the control key and press C.

Sounds easy, right? Like anything else in Windows, however, there are a few catches. When you first pressenter to open a folder, you are placed on the first file in the folder and the file is unselected. If you listen to the file description, your screen reader should say "unselected" after announcing the file name and attributes. If you want to select this first file, either arrow off and then back onto the file or hold control and press the space bar. Remember, however, that if you arrow after this point without continuing to hold the control key, the file you arrow to will be selected instead of the one you arrowed away from. This is because pressing the arrow key by itself not only moves to the next file, but also selects it. Therefore, if you are inside a folder where you have been moving around with the arrow keys, the last file you read will already be selected. If you want this file to be included in your selection, simply hold control, move to the second file, and press space to select it as well. Pressing control and space on a file which is already selected will unselect it.

These instructions were written using the latest version of Window Eyes, but they should work with any screen reader. I would be interested to know which Window Eyes and JAWS commands will repeat the list of selected files. This would be useful, for example, if you wanted to hear which files you have selected before deleting them.

Contributor: Lisa via Email

Friday, September 04, 2009

Essential Reference Books for Braille Transcribing

The following is a list of essential reference books for braille transcribing. All are available for purchase through the American Printing House for the Blind. For APH Customer Service, call 800-223-1839 or follow this link to the Louis Database of Accessible Materials to order these materials directly.
English Braille American Edition, 1994. Compiled under the authority of the Braille Authority of North America. American Printing House for the Blind. APH Print Cat. #: 7-35931-00, Braille Cat #: 5-35931-00
Instruction Manual for Braille Transcribing, 5th Edition, 2009, Constance Risjord, John Wilkinson, Mary Lou Stark. National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, 2009. APH Print Cat #: 7-59882-00

Computer Braille Code Supplement, Flowchart Design for Applicable Braille Codes, 1991. American Printing House for the Blind. APH Print Cat #: 7-24440-00, Braille Cat #: 5-24440-00
The Nemeth Braille Code for Mathematics and Science Notation, 1972 Revision. American Printing House for the Blind. APH Print Cat #: 7-87430-00, Braille Cat #: 5-87430-00
An Introduction to Braille Mathematics, 1972. Library of Congress. APH Print Cat #: 7-60050-00
Learning the Nemeth Braille Code, 1987. American Printing House for the Blind. APH Print Cat #: 7-68653-00, Braille Cat #: 5-68653-00

Beginning Braille Transcribing: An Introduction To Instruction Manual For Braille Transcribing

This publication introduces potential braille transcribers to the first three lessons of the twenty lesson course offered by the National Library Services (NLS), Washington, DC. This enables users to "sample" the course before signing up. It can also be used to teach the basic tools for uncontracted braille.
Contents include:
Lesson 1-The Braille Alphabet
Lesson 2-Capitalization, Paragraphing, Punctuation
Lesson 3-Cardinal Numbers
Appendix A-Reading Practice reproduced in Simbraille
Appendix B-Chart of braille signs for use with Lessons 1-3
Appendix C-Drills for Lessons 1-3 reproduction in Simbraille

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:
APH Shopping Home:

Listen and Think: Improve Reading Comprehension with APH

The content of this classic series is now on audio CDs instead of cassettes. Develop and improve listening comprehension and thinking skills. Advanced levels introduce such concepts as main ideas, summarizing, outlining, and comparing. Each level includes:

  • Introductory material and lessons on CDs
  • 250 each of braille and large print Multiple-Choice, Multipurpose Answer Sheets
  • 50 each of braille and large print Progress Charts
  • 48 plastic crayons and 300 marking pins
  • Regular print teacher's handbook

Recommended ages: Level B: 7 to 8 years; Level C: 8 to 9 years.

Replacement Item:

Simple Multiple-Choice Answer Sheets, (50-pack):
Catalog Number: 1-03680-00
Click this link to purchase any of the Listen and Think collections.

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:
APH Shopping Home:

Sensory Learning Kit (SLK)

Sensory Learning Kit

A kit for use in the development of skills for learners with the most significant challenges.

This kit is an extensive set of sensory items and written materials that help the most significantly challenged learners increase their curiosity and develop specific skills. Tools in this kit may be used to help create daily schedules, lesson plans, and alternative assessments for play or functional routines.

Kit Includes:

  • SLK Guidebook and Assessment Forms: create appetite lists and determine appropriate arousal states for routines
  • SLK Routines Book -- explains importance? of routines and provides templates
  • Three assistive technology switches
  • A power control unit
  • Multiple appetite items featuring texture, color, and sound for use in the routines

WARNING: Choking Hazard -- Small Parts. Not intended for children ages 5 and under without adult supervision.

Sensory Learning Kit:
Catalog Number: 1-08611-00

Replacement Items:

SLK Guidebook/Routines Book, Print:
Catalog Number: 7-08611-00

SLK Power Select:
Catalog Number: 1-08612-00

SLK Scallop Switch:
Catalog Number: 1-08613-00

SLK Adaptable Tactile Switch:
Catalog Number: 1-08614-00

SLK Adaptable Stick Switch:
Catalog Number: 1-08615-00

Vibrating Pad with Adapter:
Catalog Number: 1-08616-00
Click this link to purchase the Sensory Learning Kit (SLK).

Select Switch

Select Switch

A battery-powered switch with function control features that enable individuals to communicate and control battery-operated appliances, toys, and devices. The switch is designed for use in educational and daily living applications. It is useful for individuals with severe motor disabilities and cognitive impairments. Note: Batteries are NOT included.


  • Polarity switch
  • 1/8 inch (3.5mm) mono plug (adapters may be used)
  • Four modes of control to meet the users needs: direct, latch, timed minutes and timed seconds
  • Low slanting profile to allow easy accessibility
  • Smooth adapter plate for users who do not like the bumpy tactile plate
  • Suction cup feet
  • Controls devices rated from 3-12V DC with a maximum current draw of 1.5A
Select Switch:
Catalog Number: 1-08617-00
Click this link to purchase a Select Switch.

Sensory Learning Kit (SLK) Homegrown Video

Image of the Sensory Learning Kit Homegrown Video DVD cover

The Sensory Learning Kit (SLK) DVD is the latest addition to APH's Homegrown Video Series.

This DVD features Sensory Learning Kit author and workshop facilitator Millie Smith as she talks to the viewer about the SLK and as she conducts an assessment with Barb, an adult learner. As Millie talks about the purpose of the SLK, the population of learners for whom it was designed, and its various components, the viewer sees Millie interacting with Barb using different learning media and access items from the kit. This brief overview DVD provides the viewer with information about how the use of the SLK benefits learners at the sensory motor level.

Approximate run time: 20 minutes. Closed Captioned.

Sensory Learning Kit (SLK) Homegrown Video
Catalog Number: 1-30022-DVD
Click this link to purchase the Sensory Learning Kit (SLK) Homegrown Video.

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:
APH Shopping Home:

The M.C. Migel Library at the American Printing House for the Blind

The M.C. Migel Library APH Continues the AFB Legacy

One of the finest collections of blindness related materials in America is coming to Frankfort Avenue! In late August 2009, the American Foundation for the Blind announced that it will transfer the bulk of its Migel Library Collection to the American Printing House for the Blind. The Migel Library, founded in the 1920s, has been described as the largest collection of non-medical research material on blindness in the world. It was named to honor the first AFB Board Chair, M.C. Migel. For many years, researchers accessed the collection at the Foundation's Manhattan headquarters. AFB decided to transfer the library last spring and sought a partner with adequate facilities, and an equal commitment to preservation and accessibility. APH submitted a proposal, which was approved by the Foundation's leadership in July 2009.

The AFB Migel Memorial Collection will be available to the public sometime in early 2010, following necessary time to inventory, process, and prepare finding aids. Researchers will enjoy the spacious reading room in the APH Barr Library, right next to the Hall of Fame for Leaders and Legends. The roughly 40,000 books, magazines, pamphlets, and essays will join other significant collections at APH including the Barr's collection of professional research materials, the APH Museum Collection documenting the history of education for the blind, the AER Warren Bledsoe Orientation and Mobility Archives, and the Braille Authority of North America Archives. For more information contact Julia Myers at or Mike Hudson at

The full news release is available here:

Directory of Prison Braille Programs

Cover of the Prison Braille Program Directory

Since the first Prison Braille Forum, which was held in conjunction with the 2001 Annual Meeting, the professionals working with braille production programs in correctional settings have identified the need for a directory of established programs. APH published a directory in 2004 and has recently updated information and released a 2009 edition. This compilation of data on existing prison braille programs will help programs market their services, and it will enable individuals and agencies in need of braille materials to identify and contact potential sources. In addition, anyone interested in starting or improving a program can contact experienced professionals through this directory.

A limited number of print copies are available upon request, and the document will be available soon as a free download in a print or braille format from the APH website. Check the website in coming weeks for its electronic release.

Refreshabraille 18

Refreshabraille 18

Refreshabraille 18™ from APH is an ideal refreshable braille display and braille keyboard for mobile devices such as notebooks, mobile phones, and PDAs. This small, hand-held unit connects to your mobile device via USB cable or wireless Bluetooth®. Supports common screen readers like Window-Eyes® and JAWS® for the PC and Talks® and Mobile Speak® for mobile phones and PDAs. Fully compatible with VoiceOver for the Mac! It combines an elegant design, reliability, and ease-of-use with a rugged metal case.


  • 18 eight-dot braille cells
  • 18 cursor routing keys
  • Eight-dot braille keyboard input
  • Forward and back scroll buttons
  • Five-position joy stick
  • Auxiliary space bar
  • USB or wireless Bluetooth connectivity
  • Protected USB charging port
  • Rechargeable lithium-ion battery (not user-replaceable)
  • Long battery life
  • Reversible operation (operate with braille cells away from you or flip so they are close)


  • Refreshabraille 18 display unit
  • USB Cable
  • CD-ROM
  • Quick Start, print
  • Quick Start, braille
  • One-year limited warranty

Dimensions: The Refreshabraille 18 measures only 5.1 x 3.5 x 1 inches.

Refreshabraille, like a computer's monitor and keyboard, is a device designed to be used with other equipment. Refreshabraille provides the display and keyboard for that other device. Therefore, you must connect Refreshabraille to the device you plan to use. Whether that device is a cell phone, PC, or APH's own Braille+ Mobile Manager, every effort has been made to make the process simple, reliable, and trouble-free. Be aware, however that the device you plan to use must have software running on it that has the ability to communicate with a braille display. In the case of your PC, that software is the screen reader program, like JAWS® or Window-Eyes®. For phones and off-the-shelf PDAs, screen reader software like Mobile Speak® or Talks® is required. Accessible devices like Icon and Braille+ already have software (as of version 2.0) that integrates with the display.

Refreshabraille 18 Extended Warranty Available!

Your Refreshabraille 18 unit includes a limited warranty against manufacturer defects for one year from date of purchase. An APH Extended Warranty Protection Plan is available to protect you from costly repairs for one additional year. ACT NOW! IT IS IMPORTANT TO ACT NOW BEFORE THE END OF YOUR FIRST 90 DAYS OF OWNERSHIP.

All shipments will include actual UPS shipping rates based on the point of destination.

Note: The Refreshabraille 18 IS available with Quota funds.

Refreshabraille 18:
Catalog Number: 1-07445-01

Optional Item:

One-Year Extended Warranty:
Catalog Number: 1-07446-00
Must be purchased within 90 days of purchasing the Refreshabraille 18.

Refreshabraille 18: Leather Case

Catalog Number: 1-07447-00
Click this link to purchase the.
Click this link to visit to hear Larry Skutchan, Technology Project Leader for APH talk about this lightweight device.

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:
APH Shopping Home:

Step-By-Step Instructions on the APH Refreshabraille 18 are Available!

Chase Crispin

A REFRESHABRAILLE 18 YouTube Tutorial (in two lessons) is available on YouTube by our student instructor Chase Crispin. Additional lessons will follow.

The APH Refreshabraille 18 and the iPod Touch-iPhone

Chase Crispin, our APH YouTube Product Tutor has done it again!

Check out his latest video:

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Old-Time Radio Shows and Newsreels Available for Free Download

Network radio in the United States really began when the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) assembled it's first line-up of stations in 1926. The Columbia Phonograph Broadcasting System (it soon dropped the word Phonograph and become the CBS we know today) followed shortly thereafter. NBC-Red, NBC-Blue and CBS, along with the younger Mutual Network, were to dominate the airwaves throughout the remainder of the Golden Age of Radio. In 1943 NBC was compelled by a court decision to divest itself of it's Blue Network. After the sale, it eventually became the American Broadcasting Company (ABC).

Network radio provided free entertainment and amused a nation during a decade of economic hardship in the 1930s, and bound the nation together during the harrowing years of the Second World War. (If you're interested in WWII news broadcasts, may I suggest you visit Echoes of the Past.)

In addition to news - the broadcasting of history as it happens - network radio often looked to the past for source material. A unique, and honored, series was "Cavalcade of America," sponsored through its long-run by DuPont. The program brought American history to life by presenting big, and little, stories from the nation's past. Shows were done before a studio audience and cast members dressed in costumes appropriate to the period of the story being aired.

Jack Benny

Jack Benny was the master of radio comedy and the master of comic timing.

From the first broadcast of his first series for Canada Dry, Jack thrived in a 30-minute format. During his first few seasons, in shows for various sponsors, he slowly acquired the cast that would remain with him for many years . . . Mary Livingstone, Don Willson, Phil Harris, Kenny Baker (later replaced by Dennis Day) and a supporting cast including Mel Blanc, Frank Nelson, Benny Rubin, Sheldon Leonard and Bea Benaderet.

By the time Jello took over sponsorship of the show, Jack was a Sunday night institution, and would remain so until 1955 (and for several years thereafter via transcriptions). Jack's association with Jello was so ingrained that even though Jello ceased to be his sponsor after 1942, he could get a laugh with a Jello joke right up to his death in 1974.

In 1942, his show became a vehicle for Grape Nuts and Grape Nuts Flakes for two seasons. And in the fall of 1944 he begain touting Lucky Strike cigarettes. Jack Benny's Lucky Strike years are the best of the best in radio comedy. The humorous commercials became integral to the program. So much has been lost in recent years because over-the-air rebroadcasts of his show strip out the tobacco advertising for legal reasons. Often guest stars, including Humphrey Bogart, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Dorothy Kirsten, et. al., would take part in the commercial hijinks.

The fun continued on Sunday nights until May 1955 when Jack ended his weekly radio series. His efforts on television (in a series, then on a special basis) continued until 1974. Another special scheduled for 1975 was in the planning stages at the time of his death in December 1974.

OTR Sites of Interest

The following is a list of internet sites with free old-time radio programs that you can download to your computer or portible MP3 device. is a vast resource about nostalgic radio shows. You can hear thousands of old time radio episodes online by streaming or downloading full episodes in Mp3 format while reading detailed descriptions of the performers and series broadcast in the era (1920s to 1959). In the 'daily downloads', there are the broadcasts of the day throughout history (from the last fifty to seventy years). Click this link to visit

Here's a huge collection of Free Old Time Radio shows -- including 278 episodes of my favorite: Amos 'n' Andy. If you want it, there's a good chance this site has it. Here's a list of the catagories offered:

  • Adventure
  • Children
  • Comedy
  • Fantasy
  • Horror
  • Miscellaneous
  • Music
  • Mystery
  • News
  • Science Fiction
  • Superheros
  • Theater
  • Westerns
  • World War II

Old Time Radio for Halloween

Thought you had seen everything, all those old movies and television shows two or three times even? Well you probably haven't experienced old time radio! This media is so old, it is refreshingly "brand new" to many of us. Here, we present 100 of our favorite horror theme stories, from shows like Witch's Tale, Lights Out, Innersanctum, Quiet Please, The Haunted Hour and others. These are the very stories that inspired favorite Horror Comics and shows like Twilight Zone and Thriller! In fact, old time radio horror show, "Witch's Tale" is reported to have served as direct inspiration for EC Comics. Click this link to listen to Old Time Radio shows at The Monster Club.

Here's another link for some old radio shows. I'm a sherlock Holmes fan, so here's all the radio shows I could currently find on one web page. I think it's pretty darned extensive, too. then click on audio.

Universal Newsreels

In the pre-TV era, people saw the news every week in their neighborhood movie theaters. Newsreels were shown before every feature film and in dedicated newsreel theaters located in large cities. Universal Newsreel, produced from 1929 to 1967, was released twice a week. Each issue contained six or seven short stories, usually one to two minutes in length, covering world events, politics, sports, fashion, and whatever else might entertain the movie audience.

These newsreels offer a fascinating and unique view of an era when motion pictures defined our culture and were a primary source of visual news reporting. Universal City Studios put the newsreels into the public domain, and gave film materials to the National Archives in 1976. Surviving materials from the entire collection are available at the National Archives and Records Administration in College Park, Maryland. Click this link to visit the Universal Newsreels web site:

March of Time Newsreels

From 1935 to 1967, Time Inc's newsreel series The March of Time chronicled important events in the U.S. and the world. These examples of "pictorial journalism" blended long-form, documentary-style stories and dramatic re-enactments. The newsreels are being restored and included in the HBO Archival Collection and are available at no charge for online viewing after registration. The collection, which includes more than 70 million feet of 35mm films, also contains historic footage dating back to 1913 and hundreds of hours of vintage Government films and Universal Newsreel programs. A teacher treasure vault! Click this link to visit the HBO Archival Collection, The March of Time:

Old Time Radio

Back in the "good old days" people listened to stories dramatized on the radio. Now here's a chance to do that again. No need for descriptive DVDs here, as these are the old time programs that were produced specifically for the radio. Here's entertainment, as well as a fun way to enhance your child's listening skills.

You can listen to "My Favorite Husband", starring Lucille Ball, or to Abbot and Costello, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Ozzie and Harriet, and others at the Old Time Radio website:

Another website to mention, even though its not entirely free is Vintage Radio Shows. It features unlimited downloads and it is only $6.95 a month. They even offer a three-day free trial. Here is the website. Click this link to visit

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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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