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, November 30, 2011

Making Your Digital Marketing More Accessible

I had an opportunity to sit down with Jason Falls and talk about accessibility. Jason recently posted the following to his blog, Social Media Explorer and I wanted to share it here.

Making Your Digital Marketing More Accessible

by Jason Falls

There are two million people in the U.S. who are blind or visually impaired. That number is sure to grow in coming years as Baby Boomers, and their eyes, age. That’s a lot of people. Ever wondered how they “see” your website? What about how they navigate and use social media channels? Unless you are visually impaired, you’ve probably not thought about it.

Last week I spent a half day with several staff members at the American Printing House for the Blind talking about how the visually impaired use social media, websites and technology in general. The sad truth is that as cool as our blogs and websites look to us, many people can not only not see them, they often can’t decipher what’s there because we forget, or don’t know how, to build our sites with accessibility in mind.

In general, good SEO practices are also good accessibility practices. Strong header tags actually serve as sub-navigation menus for screen readers (Audio devices used by many visually impaired. See video below.) This allows users to skip past lots of top level site navigation and get down the page to meat of the content.

ALT tags on images and TITLE tags on links help screen readers tell the user what the image or link is. Without them, the audio reader just tells the person that an image is a “graphic” or it reads the file name. If the file is named as most images (e.g. – IMG4576890.jpg) that’s a whole lot of useless for the user. For links, a missing title tag means the reader will announce the entire URL which is often not helpful at all, either.

But think about that for a minute. If you’re stuffing keywords into your TITLE and ALT tags and either awkwardly or not accurately describing the image or link at hand, you’re doing the visually impaired reader a disservice. If you’re also top heavy with navigation on your site — lots of sub-menus and the like — you’re forcing blind users to sit through audio announcements of each menu item before they get to the meat of the page.

And then just think about the process of having to take each element on a given web page — division, table, image, link, menu item, sub-menu item and more — and listen to a reader enumerate what each is, in order from top left to bottom right, so you can imagine what’s on a page. You can likely glance at this page on Social Media Explorer and jump right to the headline or the first line of copy in the blog post. A visually impaired person has to wait until their reader tells them about all the header and navigation information first. This user experience adds exponentially more time to consume each page for the user.

Mike McCarty, social media manager at APH, told me the tendency to pile lots of navigation at the top or even upper left side of a given web page is not just an accessibility issue, but also a usability one. Sites with lots of top level navigation, as pretty as it may appear, are sites that frustrate the visually impaired.

And keep in mind that we’re not just talking about the blind consumer. We’re also talking about individuals with aging eyes that need fonts enlarged and the like. Using fixed variable fonts in your styling of a page makes it often impossible for many to read your content. And some users need to enlarge a font 4-6 times its normal size in order to see it. Designing a site with this in mind will help you make one beautiful for those who can and perhaps cannot see.

To give you an example of what it’s like to “see” the web the way someone visually impaired does, I looked over McCarty’s shoulder as he gave us a little tour of how to navigate the web without sight.

By the way, YouTube videos, SlideShare embeds and the like … there are buttons within their players that could be accessible if they appropriately labeled the buttons. Visually impaired folks wishing to watch that video had to navigate around “Label Zero” “Label One” “Label Two” instead of “Play/Stop” “Fast Forward” or “Rewind.” How about you video and player sites get with the program, too?

McCarty and his colleagues reported that Twitter and Google sites are generally okay to navigate. As he indicated in the video, Qwitter is a third-party Twitter application with a screen reader-friendly version. It runs in the background of one’s computer and announces when you have new tweets to read, etc. But LinkedIn and Facebook are a nightmare for the visually impaired. With lots of links and images embedded in news streams there, many of which don’t have proper ALT or TITLE tags, you may as well give up and go on to another site.

Justin Romack, a content marketing consultant who also happens to be visually impaired, assured me that social media sites aren’t all frustrations for those visually challenged. Romack wasn’t always visually impaired. In 2008 he lost 95 percent of his vision and fell into depression. The blind and visually impaired communities on Facebook and Twitter were the people who helped him not just learn how to function in a less visible world, but helped him through it emotionally as well.

Romack also told me the iPhone is surprisingly accessible and he’s been delighted with several conversations with Foursquare about making their product more accessible to the visually impaired. He even reported that an engineer at Foursquare sent him some instructions on how to make maps accessible through touch screen products like the iPhone.

Dave Brodbeck, a psychology professor at Algoma University in Ontario who also has limited vision, wasn’t as thrilled with the accessibility of his phone. Perhaps he and Romack should talk? As someone who says he doesn’t use screen readers because he was never given access to them growing up so he learned to cope and deal, Brodbeck says his biggest frustrations are with page layout and styling.

“For me, the biggest challenge is font size and menu options,” he told me. “I zoom in on my screen, which is one of the many reasons I have a Mac. It is dead easy to do. But, when zoomed in, menus tend to be messed up, or be off the screen. I am not sure there is a solution for this.”

He, along with several other visually impaired I talked to, said the one thing that universally pisses users like them off is Captcha’s. I assured him they piss the visual off as well. It doesn’t matter how well you see detail, you never know if it’s an A, D, P or R. Heh.

McCarty told me most visually impaired folks will go to the mobile version of a site, if one is available, because you can at least access the main content there without images and other problematic page features. But that’s only half a solution since the mobile versions of many sites are limited in features and functionality. Facebook and LinkedIn are two culprits there – poorly accessible main site experiences with limited functionality in the mobile-optimized platform.

Watching McCarty was fascinating for me, as I’m sure it was for you. The sighted certainly take that gift for granted. We in the digital marketing and social media space probably moreso than others. I left APH thankful for my sight, but woeful for our sites. We can do better. How about we start today?

Note: Follow the American Printing House for the Blind on Twitter or subscribe to their Fred’s Head Blog, named after Fred Gissoni, a legendary employee of APH who is that guy there (and we all have them in our companies) that seems to know everything. The inspiration results in a pretty useful blog that serves a great purpose and audience. The screen reader McCarty referred to, JAWS, is available online at

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Brainshark: Add Voice to Powerpoint & Word Docs

MyBrainshark is a cool web tool for enchaining your presentations online. It lets you upload PowerPoint presentations, videos, image slideshows or documents and effectively increase their interactivity by adding voice narrations.
Making voice presentations is easy. Just upload your file and then record your voice by calling a phone number provided by MyBrainshark. This tool has support for several video, audio, and document formats, so you won’t have a problem dealing with file conversions to make this service work for you.
MyBrainshark’s core functions are catered to businesses. The app is useful for corporate trainings, business presentations, product demos, proposals, and lectures. But if you are a blogger looking for a personal show-and-tell tool, Brainshark will also work well for your needs. You can also view other presentations from MyBrainshark’s rich content library.
You can register an individual account for free or you can view their small business and enterprise accounts if you are looking to integrate this tool to your business.

1,500 Free Childrens Braille Books from Temple Beth El Sisterhood Braille Bindery

Temple Beth El Sisterhood Braille Bindery will ship, for free, to a child's home or school any of 1500 children's and early teenager's books in braille. Many age levels are included, both in contracted or uncontracted braille. You can view and order from the various book lists by following the link below. Contact Earl Remer for further information at 248-669-3038 or emailing
All books are free, and donations of Braille paper in boxes are always appreciated.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Daily Deals for Dog Guides

Not just for dog guides, but any dog really!

For folks like you and me, there's Groupon. For dogs, there's On, nothing but treats and toys for dogs are offered. Both local and national deals are featured and by submitting your email address, you'll begin receiving them in your inbox. Bully sticks, dog cookies, pet bath sponges, you'll find all that and more on this site. As a matter of fact, you can even find items such as costumes for your dog when events like Halloween come around.

You can save 50% to 90% with their daily deals and the items ship for free! Yes, that's right, you don't have to worry about S&H costs, that's included in the price listed on the deal's page.

There's plenty more to than just buying products for your pet. The site goes beyond the typical content of other daily deal websites by providing users with lots of tips and guides for making the lives of their four-legged companions a lot better. For example, information on teeth hygiene and healthy eating habits are provided.

Click this link to treat your best friend to some cool items at

10 Low Fat Ways to Use Leftover Turkey

When Thanksgiving or Christmas is done and you still have lots of turkey left, you may wonder what you can do with it all. Actually, quite a lot.

First, chop, dice or shred your leftovers and store them in resealable plastic bags in the refrigerator. That way, you can reach for a bag or two as you need them. Then you'll be ready to try one or more of these 10 Low Fat Ways to Use Leftover Turkey.

  1. Soups Add 2 cups of chopped leftover turkey, a selection of chopped vegetables and 1 cup of uncooked rice or noodles to 3 cans fat-free, low sodium chicken broth.
  2. 2. Salads Add leftover turkey to a mix of arugula and spinach, sliced mushrooms, cranberries, shredded carrots, sliced red onions and a sprinkling of heart-healthy walnuts. Toss with your favorite low fat or fat free fruity dressing or vinaigrette.
  3. Sandwiches and Wraps Use slices of leftover turkey to make all kinds of sandwiches. Be sure to use whole grain breads and rolls, and low fat or fat free fillings. If you don't like the taste of fat-free mayo, use mustard instead, or flavor your mayo with a little curry powder or another herb or spice.

    Make a turkey-salad filling with crunchy celery, cranberries and apple. Use plain low fat yogurt for the dressing. Stuff into a whole wheat pita or spoon into the center of a whole wheat tortilla wrap and roll up.

  4. Pizza Toppings Top a prepared whole wheat crust with 1/2 cup of tomato or barbecue sauce, 1 cup of chopped turkey and 1/2 cup reduced fat cheese. > Bake for 10 minutes at 450 degrees.
  5. Quesadillas Combine shredded turkey with a little cumin. Spoon on one half of a low fat corn tortilla; sprinkle with reduced fat cheese; fold tortilla in half and cook in a nonstick skillet (coated with cooking spray) for 5 minutes, turning once.
  6. Burritos, Enchiladas, Fajitas, and Tacos Add shredded turkey to salsa, black beans, low fat sour cream and reduced fat cheese; or combine with sautéed onions and sweet peppers; with shredded lettuce and chopped tomatoes; or mix with mild green chiles, seasonings, scallions and a can of enchilada sauce. > Use low fat flour or corn wraps with these fillings.
  7. Pot pies Add leftover turkey, sliced mushrooms and leftover green beans and carrots to low fat, reduced sodium condensed chicken or mushroom soup. Top with a low fat biscuit topping (there's now a low fat version of Bisquick) or phyllo pastry sheets.
  8. Casseroles Combine 2 cups chopped leftover turkey with 2 cups cooked whole grain rice, a can fat-free, low sodium broth or chopped tomatoes, and a selection of chopped vegetables in a 2-quart casserole. Cover and bake at 325 degrees for 30-40 minutes, until vegetables are tender.
  9. Skillet Meals Add 1 1/2 cups of chopped leftover turkey to sautéed onion, mushrooms, broccoli and rice cooked in fat-free broth. Sprinkle some parmesan before serving.
  10. Pasta dishes Add leftover turkey to your any number of pasta dishes. Use > shredded turkey instead of ground beef in your favorite lasagna recipe. Be sure to use reduced fat cheeses.

Finally, don't forget the carcass: put it in a big pot of water along with some onion, carrots, celery, peppercorns and herbs; bring it to a boil, then simmer. After a couple of hours, you'll have a rich stock, which you can de-fat and use for low fat soups, stews and gravies throughout the holiday season.

Who knows, once that turkey has finally gone, bones and all, you might even miss it.

Article Source:
Cooking in the Dark Email List

Monday, November 21, 2011

Black Blanket Background is Best for Teaching Students with Cortical Vision Impairment

by Kristie Smith-Armand, M.Ed, CTVI

The other day, I was thinking about the musical, “Chicago”. I for some unknown reason was singing the song, “Mr. Cellophane”. My random brain began thinking of how often the most important items that make a huge difference are often overlooked. As Pablo Casals once said
-The truly important things in life - love, beauty, and one's own uniqueness - are constantly being overlooked.

Look at the words that the author of Mr. Cellophane sang wrote:
If someone stood up in a crowd
And raised his voice up way out loud
And waved his arm and shook his leg
You'd notice him
If someone in the movie show
Yelled "Fire in the second row
This whole place is a powder keg!"
You'd notice him
And even without clucking like a hen
Everyone gets noticed, now and then,
Unless, of course, that personage should be

Invisible, inconsequential me!
Mister Cellophane
Shoulda been my name
Mister Cellophane 'Cause you can look right through me
Walk right by me
And never know I'm there.

The black blanket is one of the most underestimated items that make the biggest difference in helping to eliminate clutter for children who have cortical vision impairment (a brain processing issue and not a problem with the eyes) and as well as other eye conditions.

The BBB (Black Blanket Background) as I refer to it in this column, helps the brain to process visual information and blocks outside clutter from over stimulating the visual part of the brain. When an educator or parent places the black blanket behind a high contrast object, the visual cortex begins to notice the colorful objects and begins to make sense of it.

Children with CVI need a routine with familiar objects that represent their day, and what better way to help ease an already difficult process than to use the BBB.

Students with CVI also recognize the colors red and yellow quicker than others, so when placed on or in front of the black blanket, the item is identified without the stress of other visual objects.

Educators, like myself, have often overlooked the most obvious and helpful items that are inexpensive, easy-to-find and cost efficient. The American Printing House for the Blind has a tri-fold board and a black apron in the TOAD kit and many other items that help to eliminate visual clutter for an already troubled situation.

Some other helpful tips for students with CVI are:

  • Children with CVI see better when they are in movement
  • See colors red and yellow better than most
  • Should not face glare or an open window during processing time
  • Should have a strong routine with much verbalization throughout a structured day.

So, as the song says, “You look right through me and do not know that I’m there” can be changed to, “You look at the objects and you know that I am there”. The lyrics will probably not make it into the top ten, but as Pablo Casals says, “the important things in life are often overlooked.

Listen to Our Kids

by Donna J. Jodhan

In the normal scheme of things, we feel that it is our kids who need to listen to us but sometimes; we need to listen to our kids. Whenever we think that they are not paying attention then guess what? They are and much more than we think. Whenever we think that they are shutting us out, it is we who are doing it, not them.

In November of 2010, I was invited to visit the Grove Community School by two teachers of a grade one class. Shannon and Velvet wanted me to meet a group of my youngest supporters in my present court case against the Canadian Government. Before I visited, Shannon told me that these little ones had sent a letter to the Prime Minister asking him to make the government of Canada websites accessible to the blind.

Just imagine my surprise as I sat among these young minds listening to their questions. They were not afraid to ask me anything. Their questions were intelligent, intuitive, and you know what? They had not been coached by anyone. Straight out of the mouths of babes so to speak! Such bright stars and who knows! Maybe our future prime minister could have been among this bunch of enthusiastic youngsters?

As I walked out of the school on that crisp fall morning I looked up to the Heavens and shook my head with relief. I felt that we were in excellent hands! All we need to do now is to listen to our kids.

I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate 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:

Technology Becoming More Difficult

by Donna J. Jodhan

Two steps forward for mainstream technology, but unfortunately, just one for access technology. What I mean is this; the evolution of technology is like a runaway freight train. It changes literally by the minute and we all have to find ways to keep up with it in our own way. For the blind, the challenge to keep up with it is made even more difficult because of having to wait for access technology to catch up and when it does; mainstream technology has already left the building so to speak.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with what access technology is; it is the technology that is used by people with disibilities to help them access software, the Internet, plus more. Access technology includes such products as: screen reading software, magnifying software, and specially adapted keyboards. There are other types of access technology of course. Access technology is also very expensive in comparison to mainstream technology and often time, it is financially out of the reach of many disabled people.

Access technology has come a long way in its development but there is much more to be done and it does not help when mainstream technology continues to change so rapidly. This can't be helped. We need specially developed devices to enable us to scan and read books. We need talking GPS devices to help us navigate streets in unfamiliar areas. We need clocks and watches that talk to help us tell the time. We need appliances that have been designed with voice output so that we can use them. In short, for a blind person, we need to have devices that talk and devices with large print displays so that we can use them.

I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate 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:

Surviving the Holiday Season: a How-to Guide for Couples Everywhere

Oh, the cumulative pressure of the holidays on a couple. There’s really nothing quite like it.

Done right, it has all the makings for disaster—the financial pressures of gift-buying and party-throwing; the family pressures to have a really lovely time together even though, after just a few hours, they’ll drive you batty; and the sheer exhaustion from fighting crowds while shopping, spending meticulous hours planning, cooking entire turkeys and eggnog, and partying into the night—and then doing it all over again.

In order to get through it unscathed, take heed of these practical tips for surviving the holiday season.

  1. Spend time together, alone

    Among the chaos, make sure you allocate a moment or two to yourselves, to breathe, decompress, and enjoy each other’s company. Start a tradition you both enjoy that you can look forward to each holiday.

    If you’re really busy, make your alone time productive too, by baking together in the kitchen with a bottle of wine, or wrapping presents on the lounge room floor with your favorite tunes on in the background.

  2. Start shopping now

    The later you leave the shopping, the longer it’s going to take (hideous lines) and the more money you’re going to spend (quick, we’re running out of time to decide on a present! Just get that!).

    Sit down together now and make the full list of family members you need to buy for and how much you’re going to spend. If you really do start now, then online shopping is perfect—there are no lines, the gifts are delivered, wrapped, to your door in time for Christmas, and you can easily track what you’re spending as you go.

    That means less arguing over who was supposed to get your in-laws presents, and less financial stress at the last minute. Plus, you won’t be too tired come the celebration days of the holidays.

  3. Be a mind-reader

    Understand that when your partner is stressing, it will rarely be about you. Earn to read what’s going on for them—whether their family is getting to them, they’re overwhelmed with the number of things they have to get through, and so on.

    Don’t bite back. Support them as best you can by offering to help, diffusing the situation, and letting them vent. Open and honest communication is crucial during stressful times.

What about you? Any great tips for helping survive the holidays together, besides chugging eggnog?

Article Source:
FeelGooder Blog.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The "Brailling Signs Is Cool to Do" Song

By Linn Sorge, Hadley Instructor

Becky Williams has always enjoyed writing new lyrics to well-known melodies. Her creative work sends forth messages to help to bring about positive change as they lift people up, and bring smiles along the way.

I met Becky when she moved to Wisconsin in 1960. We've enjoyed a lifelong friendship with music as an integral part of it. We would toss ideas back and forth about potential songs and lyrics to create just the right song to help a specific cause or brighten someone's day.

Becky became an ambassador for The Hadley School for the Blind as part of her employment at the Badger Association for the Blind in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Since that time, she has been coping with the challenges of cancer recurrence. I asked her a few months ago if she had any kind of "Make-A-Wish" ideas. The song is one of them. She said it would be so meaningful to her if a professional musician could someday sing and record one of her songs.

Two superb singer/song writers, Anne Hills and David Roth, came immediately to my mind. They are my dear friends and have become good friends of The Hadley School for the Blind. They were the performers during all four benefit folk concerts for the school called "Spring from Darkness Into Light." I wrote and told them of Becky's wish and the importance of the message within the song. That is all that was needed. I soon had their recording in my email box. They worked with a long-time friend of David's, Chip Kramer, who added his skill, musicianship, and music studio to help the wish become a reality. All efforts offered by the three of them to bring this musical braille project to our Web site were given with enthusiastic caring and volunteer time.

The song was originally sung by Neil Sedaka in the early 1960s as "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do." Our school has obtained permission from EMI Records and Universal Music to use the original melody and chords in combination with the new lyrics. We hope you enjoy this new version sung by Anne and David. Please help us to promote its message of universal braille access which is so vital to all of us here at the Hadley School. We've been teaching braille to students since 1920!

Becky is currently in hospice care. With many people working together, we have now brought one of her wishes to our Web site to help lift her spirits up.

UPDATE: Becky Williams is now at peace. At the time of her passing, November 7, 2011, 712 requests for her song had come from around the world.

If you want to learn more about Anne or David and their music, check out the Websites listed below:

For a free MP3 file of this song, available for a limited time, email directly with "Brailling Signs Song" in the subject line. If you are a parent of a visually impaired child, an adult braille user, or a blindness professional and want to let us know that, feel free to add it to your email! We'd love to know how you will be using the song.

We invite you to share the link to the song on the Hadley Website: We are unable to grant permission to post it on another Website, offer streaming, or share copies. We are bound by a licensing agreement with EMI Records and Universal Music. While Hadley is providing you a copy of the song at no charge, we are paying a small fee for each download, so we must keep accurate count.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Preventing Tangled Earbuds

When you're halfway through what could only be called "the worst day ever," it might seem like your impenetrably tangled earbuds are just another message from the Bad-Day Gods. There are ways to prevent this from happening.

Dorian Raymer and Douglas Smith at UC San Diego unraveled the mystery in a paper titled "Spontaneous Knotting of an Agitated String" in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The researchers stuck lengths of string in a box, rotated the box, then opened it to see if knots formed. After an eye-glazing 3,415 trials, they determined that string shorter than 1.5 feet never tangled, but as a string gets longer, the probability of knots shoots up sharply (which is why 10-foot-long Christmas tree lights can melt your soul).

There's a million and one solutions on the market for keeping headphone cords in check. There are four things all of these devices have in common.

Make a loop

You can't make the cord shorter, but you can bring the ends together in another way. Robert Matthews at Aston University in Birmingham, England, once had the brilliant idea to test if clipping earbud ends together with a binder clip could prevent tangled cords. When you grip the earbuds to the miniplug, you're forming a huge loop—a small innovation that Matthews suspected would cut down on tangles. He was right. He repeated the string-in-a-box test for 12,000 trials, and reduced the risk of knots by tenfold.

Keep ends apart

Instead of bringing ends together, keep them apart. Douglas Smith, the UC San Diego researcher from earlier in this story, had a different theory. Rescue squads who have to meticulously pack up ropes every day put one end of the rope into a bag, then feed the rest in, like you'd stuff a sleeping bag into a sack. This keeps the ends away from each other, preventing knots from forming.

Make it thicker

If you can prevent a cord from curling up on itself, you can essentially stop knots before they start. You can also try coating or covering your wires to get the same effect.

Prevent movement

In all these super scientific tests of earbud-tangleosity, the researchers employed fast, sharp movements as a means to tossle the earbud cords together. That's because, at the root of it all, it's movement that causes wires to knot up. It's why your earbuds only tangle in your pocket and not sitting on your desk. To prevent knots, just keep your cords from moving around. The easiest way to do this? Wrap them carefully around anything, maybe a credit card and secure them completely.

Article Source:
The Science Behind Tangled Earbuds...and how to prevent them

Open Culture: a Source for Audio Books and More!

Have you ever thought that the internet lacks, well, a degree of culture?  That there's too much content that is irrelevant, superfluous, wrong, or pointless? Would you like a portal site that points you to lots more interesting, educational resources?

If so, then check out Open Culture, at It comprises links to lots of free courses, books, audio books, language learning courses, videos, textbooks, and lots more!

Access to the site, and to almost all of the content, is free.  Though there are some optional extras, which cost money, such as the ability to print out chapters from certain books (you can still read them on screen for free, and copy the text to your clipboard).

Click this link to visit

Thursday, November 10, 2011

If I Could Dream

by Donna J. Jodhan

If I could have just a few seconds to dream, this is what I would dream:

That blind kids of the future will have a better shot at enjoying a more mainstream life. That they will be able to have equal access to such things as websites, information, and services. That their parents would be in a position to afford to buy them the necessary access technology that they would need in order to function on an equal footing with mainstream kids. That somehow, they would be able to go out there and literally reach for the stars.

That aging adults who are either blind or will be come blind later on in their lives will be able to live their golden years in relative comfort. That being; that they would be able to receive adequate services to help them cope with their blindness and loss of vision. That their golden years will be filled with happiness and joy and that their lack of vision would not be a hindrance to them.

that doctors would find a cure for my blindness. That somehow and some way, they will be able to come up with a medical solution to help me and others like me. That somehow in the not too distant future, I would again be able to cherish a golden rising sun and an orange sunset. That I would be able to look at a deep blue sky with fluffy white clouds coasting lazily by and white capped waves and a jade green ocean.

That I could once again imprint the faces of my beloved parents, granny, and brothers on my mind. That I would be able to see the Christmas lights, the ice skaters on an icy rink, my beloved Montreal Canadiens hockey team skating up the ice, birds of gorgeous plumage, and a plate all decorated with fruits of various shapes and colors.

If I could dream! Ah, but only just a dream! Then the rustic reds and burning oranges of fall and the burning candles in my favorite church would become a reality and then I would be able to reach out and touch whatever I wanted to.

I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate 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:

Different Views From Different Generations

by Donna J. Jodhan

A few weeks ago, I decided to take some time to go out there and listen to the views from blind people of different generations.

Specifically, what are their views on the issues of such subjects as employment, education, and accessibility. In order to simplify things, I am going to refer to the generations as follows: 35 and under - generation Y and above 35 - as generation X. I will first state the question that I asked and then give the consensus answer.

I will hasten to add that my mission was not meant to be a formal survey in any way shape or form but rather as a fact finding mission for my own education. I managed to gather a total of 15 responses from each generation and I would like to thank those of you who took the time to respond. So without much more ado here goes.

On the subject of employment

Question: Do you think that employment opportunities for your generation are better than they were about five years ago?

Consensus from generation X: Not really. Employment opportunities for this generation have always been extremely difficult to come by and they do not see much of a change for the foreseeable future.

Consensus from Generation Y: Employment opportunities have improved somewhat in certain areas thanks to better technology for the blind. However, there are still many barriers for them to face and there is a glimmer of hope for the future.

Question: What kind of barriers do you presently face in the workplace?

Consensus from generation X: There are many barriers that include attitude, ignorance, and adaptive technology is still trying to catch up with mainstream technology. There is also still an unwillingness to give blind persons an equal chance to prove themselves.

Consensus from generation Y: Some barriers have started to come down but there is still much more to work on. The gap needs to be narrowed when it comes to employers and employees believing in the abilities of this generation. More needs to be done when it comes to making the workplace a more level playing field for blind people.

Question: Is there anything that can be done to improve employment opportunities for blind people?

Consensus from generation X: Everyone needs to work on such things as attitude and more willingness to change perceptions of what blind persons can do. A greater awareness needs to be worked on.

Consensus from generation Y: Employers and employees need to be given awareness training on how blind persons can fit into the working world. More education is needed and acceptance as well.

On the subject of education

Question: Do you believe that your generation has had equal access to educational facilities and opportunities?

Consensus from generation X: Not really. Blind persons of this generation have had to fight very hard to receive education; especially at post secondary level.

Consensus from generation Y: Opportunities have been improving but more needs to be done in the area of distance learning opportunities for blind persons.

Question: Do you believe that educators have been able to fully comprehend the needs of your generation in the classroom?

Consensus from generation X: No. In so many cases educators have failed this generation simply because of a lack of understanding and a willingness to do so.

Consensus from generation Y: In some cases educators seem to get it but in other cases not really.

Question: Do you believe that educational opportunities for blind persons can be improved and if so how so?

Consensus from generation X: The only way for any sort of improvement is for everyone to come together to discuss what needs to be done and how it can be done. A more serious effort needs to be made.

Consensus from generation Y: Things are getting better for blind persons in the classroom but if improvement is expected to continue then blind persons need to speak up more.

On the subject of accessibility

Question: Do you believe that your generation has been given equal access to important services in your community?

Consensus from generation X: No! In so many cases, this generation seems to be the forgotten ones.

Consensus from generation Y: Things are a bit better than they were a few years ago but there is definitely still not equal access.

Question: Do you believe that equal access is something that could be attained by blind people?

Consensus from generation X: No. For as long as governments continue to ignore the needs of blind people, there will be no equality to accessibility.

Consensus from generation Y: No. Equal access can only be attained if a serious effort is made to make it happen.

So there you have it; views from two different generations.

I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate 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, November 04, 2011

A Different View of the Screen

by Donna J. Jodhan

In most cases, when a blind employee navigates their screen, they do so using their keyboard exclusively. Whereas a sighted employee uses their mouse to point and click, a blind employee uses their keys to do the same. They depend on shortcut keys to get them where they need to be on the screen.

For sighted people, their dependence on a mouse is almost exclusive and for a blind employee, their dependence on shortcut keys is almost exclusive. The tab, control, escape, and alt keys are a blind employee’s best friend. Or should I say a blind person’s best friends. Various combinations of these keys are also best friends and of course there is the find command to help a blind person find things quickly.

This is how blind people navigate their screen. In the workplace, a blind employee can be just as fast as a sighted person when navigating the screen. The one huge challenge comes when a screen freezes and a blind employee is unable to tell what is going on because their access technology software is unable to speak. Such situations would be during circumstances such as: A system crash, a hard drive failure, or a screen interruption. A blind employee would also depend on any sound that their computer gives off in order to help them navigate their screen and/or decipher what may be going on.

For someone with enough vision to identify colors, they may use their vision to help them identify such things as: Where the cursor is, an image of the screen, and maybe location of fields and icons and/or images. Some blind people use screen magnifiers to help them navigate while others use close circuit TV devices. It all depends on the level of vision.

I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate 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 Works of Thomas Jefferson is Online and in Ebook Format

If you're a fan of history, this twelve volume set of The Works of Thomas Jefferson from the Online Library of Liberty will surely interest you. This Set Contains The Following Titles:

  • The Works of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 1 (Autobiography, Anas, 1760-1770)
  • The Works of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 2 (Correspondence 1771-1779, Summary View, Declaration of Independence)
  • The Works of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 3 (Notes on Virginia I, Correspondence 1780-1782)
  • The Works of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 4 (Notes on Virginia II, Correspondence 1782-1786)
  • The Works of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 5 (Correspondence 1786-1789)
  • The Works of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 6 (Correspondence 1789-1792)
  • The Works of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 7 (Correspondence 1792-1793)
  • The Works of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 8 (Correspondence 1793-1798)
  • The Works of Thomas Jefferson vol. 9 (1799-1803)
  • The Works of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 10 (Correspondence and Papers 1803-1807)
  • The Works of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 11 (Correspondence and Papers 1808-1816)
  • The Works of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 12 (Correspondence and Papers 1816-1826)

The text is in the public domain. This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.

Click this link to download The Works of Thomas Jefferson, Federal Edition (New York and London, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904-5). 12 vols.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Quick Draw Paper: Quickest Draw in the West

by Kristie Smith-Armand, M.Ed, CTVI

“A Drawing is simply a line going for a walk” - Paul Klee

When I meet with one of my visually impaired student’s teachers, the first stress from the teacher’s point of view is how to make sure the student understands the concept. Imagine how excited the educator becomes when I take out a sheet of Quick-Draw Paper and make a simple design from a water-based marker. The instructor takes her finger and feels the shape, which is always followed by a huge smile.

“Can you supply me with more of this?” The teacher always asks with enthusiasm.

Imagine how popular I become when I say, “I can bring you all the paper you would like”. Quick-Draw Paper becomes popular with me as well since I am no longer wearing the scars or paint from tactual paint that always ended up on my clothes, furniture or me.

Quick-Draw Paper creates instant tactile graphics for art, math, orientation and mobility as well as many other subjects. The water-based marker swells the lines instantly onto the paper. Within seconds educators and students will feel the benefits of a tactual drawing with no hassle or mess.

Expect to purchase more than just one package of Quick-Draw Paper as the ten sheets it comes with go quickly.

Below are a few ideas (used for developmental age from three to ten-years-old) for different subjects that will demonstrate Quick-Draw Paper as the quickest draw in the west.

  • When teaching shapes, quickly draw the shape of a circle, triangle and square (Hap Palmer has an awesome CD that teaches children their shapes).
  • After children identify each shape they will match a real object with the tactual picture and may begin to understand the differences in two to three dimensional objects.
  • I like for my students who are blind or visually impaired to learn their colors because they live in a sighted world where colors guide the general population. Simply illustrate red objects on the Quick Draw Paper and add a spice of cinnamon. Children will understand the two-dimensional graphic and smell the cinnamon thus relating the color of red to the smell of cinnamon. The child is beginning to gain an understanding of colors through his other senses.
  • Teaching sizes: big, medium and small is not always an easy task for children with other challenges, so once again, Quick Draw Paper can make this a fun activity. Assist the child in tracing around her hand and other classmates. The children can compare the sizes of each other’s hands.
  • Illustrate math problems with this incredible product. For example, if you are teaching addition, you could draw five ducks sitting on one pond and another three ducks sitting on another pond. Now the student may feel the five ducks and begin to add the other three ducks together with no hassle, no cost and absolutely no stress.
  • Draw maps on Quick Draw paper and help the child to understand north, south, east and west. Simply label the parts of the map and teach the following mnemonic phrase: “Never Eat Soggy Worms”
  • After reading a story, illustrate the main characters using basic drawing strokes giving each character one detail that distinguishes him from the others.
  • Students will enjoy feeling how their name appears in print. The instructor will guide the student’s hands to feel each stroke for each letter in the child’s name.

Above are just a few ideas that make learning concepts real and fun to our students with a visual impairment. In order for long lasting learning to occur, the brain remembers laughter and fun because of the endorphins pumping through the body.

Be the quickest draw in the west and use one of the best materials from APH, Quick-Draw Paper.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Braille Lasts Longer on PermaBraille Sheets from APH

If you are a TVI, how do you feel when you see your young students scratch out those dots you carefully and painstakingly transcribed? How often have you had to re-emboss material because the dots were just too worn down by so many fingers reading them over and over again? How many times have you wished that you could rescue the brailled pages from the spilled juice, wipe them off, and have clean, useable pages again instead of a puddle of melted pulp?

If you are a braille-using adult, are you tired of struggling to read the addresses and phone numbers in your braille address book because dots are worn down from so much use? Are the dots getting faint in those stories you brailled so that you could read and reread them to your toddlers? How often have you had that favorite recipe become unreadable because you looked at it once too often with cake flour on your hands?

If you can relate to any of these scenarios, or if you just wish you could store and reuse braille without loss of clarity of dots, then Permabraille is the right product for you. Made of opaque vinyl, it holds dots through thousands of uses, does not "melt" when substances are spilled or smudged onto it, responds well to wiping with a damp cloth, and is very difficult—if not impossible—to tear. It is pleasant to the touch and is not likely to evoke tactual sensitivity. Consider it for classroom materials that will be used by a number of students, such as supplemental stories or flash cards; braille teaching materials that will be used by a number of adult learners; and any personal braille that you want to keep and reuse over time such as recipes, address cards, or important brailled documents.


  • Use with a braillewriter or slate & stylus
  • Braille dots are durable and easy to read
  • Waterproof & tear-resistant
  • Receptive to permanent markers (e.g., Sharpie®) for adding print labels/notes
  • Layering of two sheets, one on top of the other, while brailling with a slate & stylus (not a braillewriter) results in equally readable copies
  • Tactile graphic displays can be created by using spur wheels (such as APH's Tactile Line-Drawing Tools) or point symbol tongs from APH's Tactile Graphics Kit

Suggested Uses:

  • Address and phone number lists
  • Recipe cards
  • Important personal records
  • Flashcards for the classroom
  • Re-useable classroom worksheets
  • Braille bulletin board displays
  • Tactile displays

(sold in packs of 50):

5" x 3" sheets:
Catalog Number: 1-08881-00

6" x 4" sheets, 2-hole drilled for APH's Braille DateBook:
Catalog Number: 1-08882-00

6" x 4" sheets:
Catalog Number: 1-08883-00

8.5" x 11" sheets:
Catalog Number: 1-08884-00

11" x 8.5" sheets:
Catalog Number: 1-08885-00

5.75 x 3.75, 6-Hole Punched
Catalog Number: 1-08886-00
Click this link to purchase PermaBraille Sheets from APH.

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:

TREKS: The Game of Compass Directions

TREKS is designed to be challenging, educational, and enjoyable. Like a good walk outdoors, it is full of variety. You can change the game to make the play simpler or add rules to make it more complex. And, as each game progresses, your strategy for winning can change!

The goal of the game is to be the first player to move all five of your pieces ("treksters") from your own home row into the opponent’s home row across the board.

After each move, you must announce the direction and the number of spaces moved by each trekster. For example, "I moved this trekster four spaces east and this trekster one to the south." If you forget to make this announcement, your opponent may call out your omission and undo your move!

Included with the kit are print/braille overlays and pieces to use for varying the basic game. They are:

  • an overlay with the four cardinal directions labeled and another with only a north arrow.
  • an overlay with numbered and named streets. With this game variation, you are required to name the starting and ending intersection for each move rather than the compass direction, as in "Moving from Third and Bay to Third and Fox" or "Moving from Second and Hart to Seventh and Hart."
  • an overlay with the cardinal compass directions at the four corners rather than on the sides of the square. By keeping the movement rules the same, you force all moves to be in secondary compass directions with this overlay. For example, if the north arrow is placed in the upper left corner of the board (from your vantage point), moving a trekster straight ahead is a move to the northeast; moving to the left is a move northwest; and so on.
  • buttons that serve as barriers to navigate around.
  • two blank overlays (one that is open in the middle, one with two intersecting bands inside) to which you can add braille stickers to represent street names, street numbers, blocks, landmarks, lines of latitude/longitude, and so on.

Treks is suitable for ages 8 and up. Along with the pieces mentioned above, the kit includes a game board, “treksters” that are tactually and visually contrasting, a rules and variations booklet in large print and braille, and a set of tactile dice.

Catalog Number: 1-08910-00
Click this link to purchase TREKS: The Game of Compass Directions.

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:

ALL-IN-ONE Board (Magnetic, VELCRO® brand, Dry Erase)

All-in-One board, dry erase/magnetic side All-in-One board, Velcro side
APH's ALL-IN-ONE Board (Magnetic, VELCRO® brand, Dry Erase) is intended for classroom use with students of all ages. This multi-platform, easily-adjustable board can be used in combination with either hook-VELCRO® brand accessories or magnetic pieces (homemade, obtained from APH, or purchased commercially), as well as with dry erase markers to facilitate a variety of learning activities. The ALL-IN-ONE Board can be positioned at a variety of angles, from nearly flat to fully upright. Target populations include young children, students, and adults with visual impairments, as well as parents and teachers working with these populations.
The ALL-IN-ONE Board can be stored and carried in the included carrying-case. A starter package of dry erase markers is included, as well as a Product Information Sheet and recommended Cleaning/Care Instructions, in both print and braille.

Catalog Number: 1-08836-00
Click this link to purchase an ALL-IN-ONE Board.

All-In-One Board: Student Model (Magnetic, VELCRO® brand, Dry Erase)

A noticeably smaller version of APH's popular All-In-One Board!
Sometimes called the "smAll-In-One Board," this multi-platform adjustable board can be used in combination with either hook-VELCRO® brand accessories or magnetic pieces (homemade, obtained from APH, or purchased commercially), as well as with dry erase markers to facilitate a variety of learning activities. The reduced size accommodates portability and desktop use by an individual student with visual impairment and blindness.
  • All-In-One Board: Student Model
  • Starter package of dry erase markers
  • Product information sheet and cleaning/care instructions, print and braille
  • Protective storage and carrying case
Surface of board measures approx. 13.5 x 10.75 inches.

Catalog Number: 1-08833-00
Click this link to purchase the All-In-One Board: Student Model.

Textured Sorting Circles and Shapes

Textured Sorting Circles and Shapes Textured Sorting Circles and Shapes is an assortment of magnetic shapes (circles, squares, triangles, and stars) and sorting circles. The shapes are provided in a variety of textures (smooth, rough, and bumpy), sizes (large, medium, and small), and colors (red, yellow, and blue). The accompanying sorting circles are also provided in a variety of colors and textures.
All of these shapes and circles have a magnetic backing and are ready for use on a metal surface (e.g., APH's ALL-IN-ONE Board). However, if the teacher would rather use them in combination with a WELCRO® brand-compatible board, VELCOIN® brand are provided.
Textured Sorting Circles and Shapes is intended to facilitate a variety of matching, counting, patterning, sorting, and graphing activities such as:
  • Identify pieces by shape, texture, size, or color.
  • Match or sort pieces by shape, texture, size, or color,
  • Sequence the pieces by size (i.e., small, medium, large).
  • Identify, repeat, extend, or create patterns.
  • Organize, classify, represent, and interpret data using Venn diagrams.
Recommended ages: 5 years and up.
WARNING: Choking Hazard -- Small Parts. Not intended for children ages 5 and under without adult supervision.

Textured Sorting Circles and Shapes
Catalog Number: 1-08834-00
Click this link to purchase Textured Sorting Circles and Shapes from APH.
APH would like to hear about your creative uses of the ALL-IN-ONE Board for educational and recreational purposes. What are some classroom activities for which you have found the board useful? What ages of students do you usually use the board with? Are there supplemental materials that you would recommend for APH to provide to increase the usefulness of the product (e.g., types of magnetic materials)? Please forward your comments and ideas to Karen J. Poppe, Tactile Graphics Project Leader, at

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:

VELCRO®, VELTEX®, and VELCOIN® are registered trademarks of VELCRO Industries B.V.

Animal Shapes and Pages Set From APH

Fun optional product for APH's BOP First Grade, Unit 6! This entertaining and educational animal crackers puzzle was developed from page 51 in the student text, "More Animal Tales," in BOP First Grade, Unit 6, Lesson 33. It includes four copies of the page with nests and four sets of INEDIBLE animal shapes that fit the nests. Each sheet contains nests for 13 different animals. The name of each animal is given in braille, and a tactile symbol before it shows the direction the animal is facing, i.e. < nose to the left or > nose to the right.

If appropriate for your student, you can use real animal crackers with this product, which will help children connect the real thing with the activity and may be more motivational than using the inedible shapes. Later, use the pretend animal crackers to play with the nests when the real ones are gone. Be sure that children understand that these pretend crackers cannot be eaten.

WARNING: CHOKING HAZARD—Small parts. Not intended for children ages 5 and under without adult supervision.

Recommended ages: 6 years and up.

Catalog Number: 6-78467-00
Click this link to purchase the Animal Shapes and Pages Set from APH.

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:

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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.

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.

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