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.)


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.

No comments:

Subscribe to receive posts via email

* indicates required

Browse Articles by Subject

Follow us on Twitter


Write for us

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


The American Printing House for the Blind (APH) makes every attempt to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the data contained in the Fred's Head articles; however, APH makes no warranty, guarantee, or promise, expressed or implied, concerning the content or accuracy of the information provided in Fred's Head. APH does not endorse any technique, product, device, service, organization, or other information presented in Fred's Head, other than products and services directly offered by APH.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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