Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Little Christmas Tree

by Donna J. Jodhan

It was the night before Christmas and in my dreams, I slipped lazily and happily into memory lane. Another time had come and as I stood there, the little Christmas tree twinkled in front of my eyes. The tree smelled so wonderful! It gave off the scent of warm pine. The colored lights danced in front of my eyes as they took turns blinking on and off.

I moved o so carefully towards my little Christmas tree; being careful not to step on packages neatly piled in front of it. I had to get as close as I could so as to see everything. My partial sight only allowed me the luxury of seeing things very close up and at best only a few things at a time. Nevertheless, it was enough for me.

I gingerly reached out and placed my index finger on one of the little lights; a little yellow one. Then I took my time at identifying other colors. Red, blue, and green.

Then I had to take my time at finding a spot where there were no lights. I found it after a few moments and I held a tiny portion of a branch between my fingers.

Next I looked upwards and found the star at the very top. I stood gazing for quite some time thinking of the story that my parents would tell me every Christmas; the night that Jesus was born. What a lovely memory for me. Then I bent down and felt for some of the packages and finally I made my way to where the manger had been set up. There I spent most of my time, examining each little figure; Baby Jesus in the arms of Mary and Joseph, the three Wise Men, the shepherds, and the animals.

Ah! That was a memory of when I was a child and had enough vision to see it all then. Now I can only recall this memory each Christmas and that’s okay for me. At least I have a memory that I can recall and one that I can cherish forever. Merry Christmas everyone!

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:

Someday At Christmas

by Donna J. Jodhan

One of my favourite Christmas Carols is "Some day at Christmas"; made popular by the late Michael Jackson. Yes, some day at Christmas; when I could wake up on a peaceful morning and welcome yet another special day with my loved ones around me and the Christ Child in my heart.

When I would be able to say "Finally! All is well and now blind kids will have an equal opportunity to be like their mainstream counterparts." When they can play with mainstream toys and be able to use cell phones and IPods just like sighted kids. When they would be able to play with games just like their sighted friends and not have to worry about inaccessibility. When their classrooms and playgrounds would be free of accessibility barriers and they would have an equal opportunity to be just kids!

Some day at Christmas when I could go to bed just before Santa makes his rounds knowing that all of my wishes have been granted. That all websites have been made accessible. That all supermarkets and stores have been made fully accessible to blind persons. That online courses and distance learning have all been made accessible and usable to blind persons. That blind persons have equal access to all reading materials in the same way that sighted persons do.

Some day at Christmas after Santa has come and gone leaving a huge package for me under my Christmas tree, I could wake up and say "Finally! The banks have finally gotten it! Their ATMs are now fully accessible. Blind persons can now access all point of sale devices and touch screens without having to ask for sighted assistance. Blind passengers can now access kiosks at airports, they can enjoy movies on board aircrafts, and no more problems at airports, train stations, and bus terminals for them."

Some day at Christmas as I sit quietly in a church along with others waiting for the Christmas Mass to begin; I could say "Thank you God for ensuring that from now on society will treat blind persons as normal persons who can function on their own and the only thing wrong with them is that they are unable to see."

Some day at Christmas! Ah yes but it is only my dreams but who says that dreams don't come true? The smell of cookies baking in my kitchen are real! Christmas Carols being played around me are real! Children laughing and families decorating are real! Is it too much for me to ask Santa to help make my dreams come true?

The late Steve Jobs made some of my dreams and those of other blind persons come true! Dare I dream that there could be another Steve Jobs out there just waiting to bring hope to the blind world?

Joyeux noèl! Feliz Navidad!

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:

Monday, December 19, 2011

A New Year Brings New Opportunities

In 2005, I started working at the American Printing House for the Blind as the Expert Database Coordinator. My job was to write articles for an online database called Fred's Head.

The Fred's Head Database was named after APH's Product Support Specialist Fred Gissoni. Fred is blind and has worked in the blindness field for many decades. The idea behind Fred's Head was to collect and make available the tips and resources that Fred had in his head and make them available to anyone via the APH website.

The software was originally designed for Louis, a searchable database of books that are available in accessible formats. The database was modified to house the Fred's Head articles, but it had a weakness. Because a user created an invisible login when they visited the site, all articles in the database were invisible to internet search engines like Google as well.

I remember my first few days of working in the database. Articles had to be constantly checked for accuracy and where possible, I was able to add my own experience as a blind person. As I read the information in the database, I began to realize just how useful Fred's Head could be, if only people could find it.

Blogs were gaining popularity at the time and I created an account on I asked my supervisor, Scott Blome, if I could begin a process of copying each article in the original database onto the blog. It would be a companion of sorts to the original database and we could see which one received the most hits. Scott was all for the idea and for many months, I copied each article from the database and put them in, what we eventually called the Fred's Head Companion.

Our guess was right. Before too long, the Fred's Head Companion was being crawled by Google and other internet search engines and people were finding the articles. Eventually, Google would purchase Blogger and make our articles even easier to find. By adding an RSS feed and an email newsletter, we continued to increase the blog's readership.

The next thing we added to Fred's Head were the products in the APH catalog. Each product was entered in both the original database and on the Companion blog. Our online shopping site was very basic at that time, so it was very important to take advantage of this new medium to get our product information to readers of the blog and to the search engines.

The Louis Database was being prepared for a major update. New software was being developed to store the thousands of entries and we began talking a completely new shopping site for our products. As talks continued, it was decided that the original Fred's Head database was no longer needed. The Companion was getting so many more hits than the original database and when Louis moved, we had no further need to use the software that was originally running both databases.

The Fred's Head Companion soon transitioned into the Fred's Head from APH blog and my position here at APH received a new name, Fred's Head Coordinator.

When Twitter began taking the internet by storm, APH was quick to expand the reach of Fred's Head onto this new platform. The @FredsHead account would be used to tweet articles from the blog and to retweet articles from others in the blindness field. I developed techniques that would search the internet for terms like blindness, dog guides, low vision, and tweet those results to myself through a special account. I still use this system and tweet news articles that I find about blindness. Because we had started putting each APH product into the blog, it was also tweeted on the @FredsHead account and people began following us.

More recently, APH has created a page on Facebook and on YouTube. I was asked to watch over these pages and my title changed again to Social Media Coordinator.

It's rare that a person gets to follow a legend. I have known about Fred Gissoni for many years! When I was given the position to manage Fred's Head, I was so proud. Now, I'm happy to announce that I will get another opportunity to follow Fred.

At the end of the year, Fred Gissoni will retire from APH. I have accepted his position and will soon become the Product Support Specialist, effective January 3, 2012. This again, is a real honor for me. I guess I'll be going from the brainwaves of Fred's Head to the voice of Fred. Those are some big shoes to fill!

Saying goodbye to Fred's Head is a very difficult thing for me. I have made so many friends while in this position. The people in the APH Communication Department at APH have been wonderful. I will miss working directly with them. I have good friends in the Field Services and Public Affairs departments that I will miss seeing everyday. Although I will still have opportunities to work with these individuals, the daily interactions I will certainly miss.

You, the online community are going to be missed as well. For years, I have been able to ask questions of you and you've answered me. In many cases, the answers you've given have fueled a Fred's Head article or two. Some of you have even written articles for Fred's Head and I thank you so much for those.

The time has come for someone new to sit in my chair too. I hope the next person who writes articles for Fred's Head takes care to continue what we've started here. I'll be around to assist the new person and offer some advice where necessary. I still want to write up an article or two on occasion. I'll be sure to post the job announcement when it's ready.

I look forward to talking with some of you in the coming year. Please feel free to call and ask questions about your APH purchases. I don't really like saying goodbye, so let's just say that our communication will continue, over the phone instead of over the internet. If you are interested, I do have a personal Twitter account @mbmccarty and I'd be happy to connect with you there. You can also find me on Facebook at


Ever since the initial release of the Skype client in mid 2003, people from all around the world have used it to initiate high-quality voice and text conversations, send and receive files, and stay in touch with one another. The visually impaired community, likewise, has used Skype since then to facilitate equal communication with each other and their sighted counterparts.

However, as the service has grown, so too has the program. For years, screen reader users have kept up with Skype's ever-morphing interface either with custom patches, scripts, or apps. While largely successful, such utilities must be constantly maintained as any new version of Skype can, and often will, cause previously working scripts or apps to stop functioning properly.

In mid 2011, Skype announced its SkypeKit developer program. This service allows program developers to directly access nearly all Skype services without the additional need of traversing its user interface. Developers, therefore, can create their own interface to Skype and seamlessly integrate it into their own products. And, because the underlying Skype services are much less likely to change on a whim, GW Micro decided to take advantage of this service and create a simple, elegant, fully accessible interface to Skype which is designed with the visually impaired community in mind. Having full control of the user interface also means that unlike the official Skype client, GWSkype's interface will not dramatically change from version to version. When you learn how to use GWSkype today, you can be confident that your knowledge will continue to apply in the future as new versions are released.

Click this link to learn more about GWSkype.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Holiday Guide for Family Members of People with Vision Loss

The holidays are finally upon us. 'Tis the season for shopping for gifts, gathering around the table with loved ones, and hosting relatives from near and far. Every year at this time we get a lot of questions from the family members of people with vision loss. They ask, "What's the best gift for my mom now that she has macular degeneration?" or "What can I do to make my home comfortable and safe for my visually impaired grandma who's visiting this holiday season?"

To help you find that perfect gift and easily make your home more vision loss friendly, the staff at the American Foundation for the Blind has created a Holiday Guide filled with great gift ideas and decorating tips. They also have some travel tips for you to share with your visually impaired loved one who may be flying or taking the train to see you this holiday season.

Click this link to read the Holiday Guide at the AFB Senior Site.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Feel ‘n Peel Sheets: a Carousel of Textures

by Kristie Smith, M.Ed, CTVI

“Then the carousel started, and I watched her go round and round. . . All the kids tried to grasp for the gold ring…” J.D. Salinger

The other day, I met with one of my favorite early childhood specialist, Michelle. We discussed how one of our young, totally blind students was not responding any more to textures. When you asked to see the baby’s hands, she would withdraw and make a sad face.

“What can we do?” Michelle asked, “And why has she just begun to dislike textures?” I responded that the only thing that came to my mind was that she was becoming more aware of her surroundings and was noticing more sounds, textures and perhaps more vision- in other words, she was becoming overwhelmed.

I promise you, I received a gift from God today when I went into my cubicle to do an order. There in my chair sat a box labeled Feel ‘n Peel Sheets Carousel of Textures and I did not remember ordering it. Talk about perfect timing.

Ecstatic is an understatement for how I felt when I opened the box of translucent “rough” vinyl sheets, translucent “bump” vinyl sheets, corrugated sheets, craft foam sheets, foam glitter (my favorite), velour, vivelle with adhesive backs and a double –backed adhesive sheet all in various colors such as: red, blue, purple, dark green, light green, orange, yellow, pink, lilac, brown, and gray.

Imagine all the fun you can have and the educational activities you can do with this amazing product from the American Printing House for the Blind (APH).

Below, I have listed a few activities that can be enhanced by the carousel of textures, colors and fun. Be creative, have fun and watch your students enjoy adaptive materials that help level the ground of learning- and like the carousel, learning will be never-ending.

For early childhood- kindergarten:

  • Use the felt side on the All-in-One-Board after placing the adhesive backed vivelle sheet on the back of different textures from the kit. I place my students hand on the different textures and verbalize “soft”, “scratchy”, “smooth”, “bumpy”, etc.
  • When teaching colors to younger children, use their favorite foods such as: a banana smell to help to reinforce the color yellow. Have the toddler to touch the textured (bumpy) yellow sheet, smell a banana while you verbalize the color yellow and the word “bumpy”.
  • Sing with the Color, Shape and Thematic CD’s from Frog Street Press. Cut the textures into shapes and spray them with scents that represent colors.
  • Make a textured mat and allow the child to explore.
  • Play “same” and “different”. Children will match like textures, smells and colors.

For elementary ages: grades 1-3:

  • Use the Game Kit from APH (also one of my favorites) and place textures around the board. If a child lands on a bumpy texture he must go back to the start. If she or he lands on a smooth texture they may advance four spaces, etc.
  • Make a bar graph using the different textures. See how many children in the class or the neighborhood like different types of jellybeans. To reinforce the bar graph, read the amazing book, Jellybean Jungle, also available through APH>.
  • Play “Word Play/Texture Day” Dolch word cards available from APH are added to the back of different textures. Children will feel two bumpy cards and turn them over to view words on the other side. This game is similar to playing the Memory Game. If the cards have the same word on them, the student may keep the two cards, but if the words are different they must put them back where they were.
  • Have students make a puzzle by cutting out shapes from a texture and putting it back together again.
  • Read the book from APH’s catalog: Bumpy Rolls Away, Great for tracking practice and textures.
  • Place the textures onto different objects and ask the child to sort according to the texture and or color. For example, put a scratchy texture on the outside of a coffee can. The student will feel various objects on the table in front of them and place all the scratchy objects into the can. Repeat for each type of texture.
  • Cook with different types of textures from any recipe. Ask the student to identify each ingredient according to their texture and placing them beside the texture they match.

The world is full of textures, colors, smells and tastes that are there for our enjoyment, and as Dr. Virginia Bishop once said, “If you can’t bring the child to the world, bring the world to the child.”

The Carousel

By Karen Polensa


Come ride the carousel with me,
enjoy yourself, smile, giggle with glee.
Miniature brass band, music is playing,
up and down motion gently swaying.

Men made of brass dressed in clothing of yore,
play a minuet and waltz, but yearning for more.
Hold on to the pole and climb aboard,
ready for an adventure, take hold of the cord.

Carousel is beginning to circle around,
choose your seat before hitting the ground.
Sit on a rabbit and wave to the crowd,
feeling pretty good, perhaps even proud.

Can Blind People Be Mainstream People?

by Donna J. Jodhan

This is a very thought provoking question and one that is often asked of me. In response, I would venture to say that the answer is probably no and I say this with a lump in my throat.

For as long as society continues to treat us with a difference, with kid gloves, or as second class citizens; we should not expect to be classified as mainstream. However, let's just say that if all of this were to somehow and magically change, if somehow we were to find ourselves in an almost perfect society, then the chances of us being classified as mainstream would be greater; but we need to be realistic.

People who are blind are different because they are unable to see. They use or employ different strategies to live their lives. They use different technology in order to communicate; that being access technology. They depend on sighted assistance to help them deal with those tasks and challenges that require eyesight in order to complete them. The list can go on and on but I am sure that by now you are getting the picture.

So, what do you think? Please leave your comments below. I'd love to read what you think on this question.

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 Right to Read

by Donna J. Jodhan

So many of us take the ability to read for granted. We are living in an informational society and a knowledge based economy and it is so vital for us to be able to read whatever we desire, when we desire, and in whatever mode we desire.

For people who are blind, the right to read is so important and must be preserved at all costs.

True it is that we, as people who are blind, have seen progress; the evolution of devices that enables us to red more freely and widely. We can now access more books online; much more than a decade ago. The digital era has enabled us to start taking advantage of digital media but there is still much more work for us to carry out if we wish to truly preserve our right to read. We need equal access to library facilities and services. In other words, whatever the mainstream person has access to, we should have as well. We need to be able to download the same books that the mainstream person can download and we need to be able to access books in our choice of alternate formats. Braille books should not be made redundant; the deaf/blind person depends heavily on this format.

Without equal access to library services, many blind and even print disabled people will stand to suffer greatly. Those in rural areas are uppermost among them. For those without adequate technology to access the Internet, the lack of access to library services is a great loss. The right to read for the blind is even more paramount and acute because it is one of the most important ways for them to access and acquire information.

So in the final analysis, two vital pieces are needed if we are to protect our right to read. Library services and access to websites that are accessible.

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:

TextExpander App Saves Keystrokes

by Paul Hamilton
It may not be quite accurate to describe this app as “nearly free” at $4.99, but for users who really need to reduce keystrokes when writing, the price probably will not seem excessive.
TextExpander is an iOS app that is based on a utility that has been available for Mac OS X, from SmileOnMyMac. This app works by offering customizable abbreviation expansion.  The user creates “snippets” of text for frequently used longer phrases, sentences, or such things as addresses and signatures.  For example, I could create the snippet pwbp for ‘Paul has written another brilliant blog post about a helpful learning resource.’  Then whenever I type ‘pwbp’ into any app that is enabled to work with TextExpander, the full sentence is automatically input.
Text can be typed directly into TextExpander’s text-editing utility and then copied and pasted or sent elsewhere.  Or, TextExpander will work inside an extensive and growing list of other apps that have been designed to work with it.

Click this link to learn more about TextExpander.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Multiplication/Division Table Kit

This handy kit helps students quickly find the products and quotients of whole numbers.

Large print/braille tool helps math students with multiplication and division problems. The chart is printed/embossed on white index stock and is punched for a 3-ring binder. Alternating rows are highlighted to help low vision students easily track numbers. The Multiplication/Division Table Kit has been expanded so students can find the products of two whole numbers from 1–10 or the quotient of a related division problem.


  • 10 charts (grids)
  • Print guidebook

Note: APH does not sell a braille edition of The Multiplication/Division Guidebook. This publication is available from the APH website as a free download in the accessible formats of .brf and .txt.

Catalog Number: 5-82700-01
Click this link to purchase the Multiplication/Division Table 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:

Moving Ahead Series: Goin' on a Bear Hunt, Splish the Fish, The Boy and the Wolf, and Turtle and Rabbit

Storybooks designed to be the next step for students who have had experience with simple tactile representations such as those in APH's On the Way to Literacy Series. Moving Ahead storybooks introduce symbolic representation, more complex illustrations, and an increased emphasis on text. These read-aloud books combine tactile pictures, print/braille text, and a fun story.

Goin' on a Bear Hunt

Goin' on a Bear Hunt Goin' on a Bear Hunt is the first title in this series. In the process of hunting for the bear, the reader follows a tactile line through the "tall grass," up a "hill," etc. until the child reaches the "cave" and then back home again. At the end of the book is a fold-out tactile "map" to use in retelling the story. The book's illustrations include braille words provided on customer-applied labels, allowing the reader to choose contracted or uncontracted braille.
The Reader's Guide, (braille edition sold separately) contains general information about both literacy and tactile graphics, tips on using Bear Hunt, and additional resources. Recommended ages: Pre-K to 3rd grade.
Goin' on a Bear Hunt (Print/Braille, Large Print Reader's Guide):
Catalog Number: 6-77903-00

Goin' on a Bear Hunt Reader's Guide only, braille: Catalog Number: 6-77907-00
Click this link to purchase Goin' on a Bear Hunt.

Splish the Fish

Splish the Fish This read-aloud rhyming story features simple raised-line symbols representing Splish and his friends embedded in an areal pattern representing the ocean. The child tactually searches for Splish and helps him find his way back to his friends. An accompanying storyboard with hook/loop material-backed pieces permits the child to retell the story.

Splish the Fish Print/Braille Book with Large Print Reader's Guide:
Catalog Number: 6-77902-00

Splish Reader's Guide only, Braille:
Catalog Number: 6-77906-00
Click this link to purchase Splish the Fish.

The Boy and the Wolf

This rhyming story features a twist on the classic tale of the boy who cried wolf. Simple raised line symbols represent the Wolf, the Boy, and his small flock of sheep. As the story is read, the child is invited to tactually search the page for these characters, to count and compare like and different pairs of sheep, and notice differing orientations. The story and its graphics introduce a variety of concepts: left, right, top, bottom, near, far, first, last. A simple key presents the symbols used in the book. Includes a storyboard and symbols for the story’s characters, which permit the child to create his own tactile displays. As the child retells the story using the storyboard, he gains understanding of how tactile graphics can be used to symbolize objects and show spatial position.
Recommended ages: Preschool through 2nd grade.
Click this link to purchase The Boy and the Wolf.

Turtle and Rabbit

Turtle and Rabbit is the fourth title in the Moving Ahead Series and is a retelling of the classic tale about the race between the tortoise and the hare, which shows that the race is not always won by the swiftest. Simple raised-line symbols represent the main characters (Turtle and Rabbit) and several secondary characters. The tactile illustrations allow the child to follow the progress of the race by tracking from left to right along the raised lines of Turtle (smooth, thin line) and Rabbit (wide, dotted line).
As the story is read, the child is invited to tactually search the page for these characters, and to track and compare each racer's position. The story and its graphics introduce a variety of concepts: left, right, top, bottom, near, far, first, last, fast, slow, start, finish. A simple key presents the symbols used in the book.
The accompanying storyboard and symbols for the story's characters (hook/loop material-backed pieces) permit the child to create his or her own tactile displays as he or she retells the story. As the story is being retold, the child gains an understanding of how tactile graphics can be used to symbolize objects and show spatial position.
Recommended ages: Preschool through 2nd grade.
Click this link to purchase Turtle and Rabbit.

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:

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Clean Your Freezer with Vanilla to Cast Out Musty Smells

If your freezer's musty scent is infusing your frozen foods and ice cubes with the scent of old socks, home and living site Real Simple recommends a quick wipe down with vanilla extract to cure the problem.

By dampening a cotton pad with a small amount of vanilla extract, the stale smell wafting out of your freezer will be banished away and in turn, your frozen foods and ice will taste a little better. It's a simple and quick fix to remove the funk that seems to plague even the cleanest of freezers.

Army Captures Kentucky School for the Blind!

How are you commemorating the impact of the Civil War on the schools in your state? Few were left untouched by the terrible conflict. In the autumn of 1862, as the tides of combat rolled across Kentucky, Louisville was in a constant state of turmoil. Confederate armies had entered Kentucky that summer, determined to capture the city and destroy the Union army’s most important western supply depot. On Frankfort Avenue, a series of entrenchments were constructed, and for a time, it looked like war would halt the start of the school year at the Kentucky Institution for the Education of the Blind (KIEB). Union army officers had their eye on the school buildings, planning to convert the modern main building into a hospital. But the board of visitors at the Institution was well connected and, for a time, used their influence to stave off moves to seize the campus.

After the battle of Perryville on October 8th, however, thousands of wounded were flooding into Louisville. Although their superiors had encouraged them to use other buildings, federal doctors used the crisis to order the blind students and their faculty out within twenty-four hours. The students were carted off to the Alexander House on Workhouse Road on land that later became part of Cherokee Park. By the second week in November, there were 270 sick and wounded patients in classrooms and dormitories converted into hospital wards and operating rooms.

Other residential schools suffered similar fates, in Tennessee, Virginia, and Mississippi. In Kentucky, however, the KIEB board decided to fight. Led by their president, William F. Bullock, who also served as president of the board at APH for many years, the board first appealed to the generals in charge of the city’s defense. When that failed, they went to Washington. Within days, orders came by telegraph to return the building to the control of the board. Drs. John Head and Middleton Goldsmith countered, however, that other hospitals were unfit, that squads of wounded in scattered homes was no way to run a hospital, and that they could not believe the War Department intended for them to put 300 wounded soldiers out in the road for a few blind children.

In the end, the KIEB board produced an order from somewhere—three were judges and the fourth a prominent physician—giving them authority to command a troop of soldiers, which they used in early January to evict the federal doctors. The campus was a mess. Board reports noted that fences and other wooden structures on the property had been destroyed and the halls were cluttered with hospital beds and equipment. It would be June 1863 before things at the school approached their pre-crisis normality.

If you would like help learning about the Civil War and life at your own state school for blind and visually impaired kids, contact Mike Hudson in our museum at or 502-899-2365.

Low Vision Meta-Analysis Available

Dr. Kay Ferrell, right, and Elaine Kitchel, APH Low Vision Project Leader

APH commissioned "A Meta-Analysis of Educational Applications of Low Vision Research." The report, finalized in fiscal year 2011, was authored by Dr. Kay Alicyn Ferrell, Dr. Cherylann Dozier, and Dr. Martin Monson. It represents a comprehensive search of scientifically based research in the area of low vision. APH is appreciative of the collaborative efforts and contributions of all those who worked under the umbrella of the National Center on Severe and Sensory Disabilities to complete this work. Please visit the following link to access the full report:

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

APH Wings of Freedom Winner Ralph Brewer Spins a Tale of Gratitude

Would you like to be inspired and awed? If yes, then listen to this 12 minute presentation by our 2011 Wings of Freedom award winner, Ralph Brewer. Ralph, the retired Tennessee School for the Blind Superintendent, shares his life story. Your heart will be touched!

If you are interested in learning the history of the Wings of Freedom Award, the other APH Awards, and those who won them, visit our Awards From APH web page.

Stars of the APH Museum Exhibit Videos!

There's an exhibit in the museum that shares information on the Act to Promote the Education of the Blind (1879). Videos show students using APH products as well as APH Ex Officio Trustees sharing their responsibilities. Historical information is offered by several government leaders.

Here are the three videos that play every day from that exhibit – and from our YouTube site.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

The Importance of Knowing

Would like to get your comments about this post from Donna. How much do you rely on people with site to get you through your daily tasks?

The Importance of Knowing

by Donna J. Jodhan

It is always important to know; but when it comes to someone who is unable to see! It's even more important. Like it or not, the eyes see all and absorb all and it is what the sighted world use in order to complete any picture. For me, I use other strategies to complete a picture but to be very sure that the picture is complete and accurate, I depend on sighted assistance.

I need to know when things match; like my clothes, like my décor. I need to know what gestures are being carried out around me; especially when I am in a business meeting. I need to know what expressions persons around me are communicating to me and to each other. I need to know where things are in my home so that I do not bump into objects, and that I can find what I am looking for. I need to know what information is being communicated so that I can make the correct or appropriate decision. In short, I need to know.

The importance of knowing applies to all of us; sighted or not but for a blind person it is always even more important. If you would like to know more about why blind persons need to know, then you can visit, or

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:

Access Technology Versus Mainstream Technology

by Donna J. Jodhan

Well, what more can I say to add to this topic that is very near and dear to my heart. To put into perspective:

  • Access technology is much more expensive than its counterpart and much less available on the market.
  • It is extremely challenging to have access technology repaired as opposed to its counterpart.
  • There are less manufacturers of access technology hardware and less developers of software.
  • The profit to be made for those who develop and sell access technology is much less than for those who do the same for mainstream technology.
  • Access technology has to be developed in such a way as to adapt to the mainstream world.

So there is the picture. Now where do we go from here?

About 18 months ago, I bought a PDA that was developed for people who are blind; a real find for me and one that I found to be really forward thinking because of its features. A few weeks ago, I was told that this PDA will no longer be manufactured and as of June 2012, no more hardware maintennance agreements would be available. Accessories will still be available as long as supplies last. Quite a shock and now we are all left holding the bag so to speak.

I am not going to identify the manufacturer of this wonderful product but suffice it to say that it has made me rethink how I go about choosing my mobile devices. Do I continue to buy access technology that is extremely expensive and one that I am not sure will be around for too long? Or do I move towards the Apple world of mobile devices such as the iPad, iPhone, and so on?

Do I expose myself to heartbreak if I continue to buy these pieces of access technology only to learn that in a short space of time they are off the market and supplies of accessories or support is no longer available? Would love to see your comments on this issue.

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:

Free Books from Daria

Books can inspire.  They can enchant.  They can delight and they can heal. Multicultural books can be especially powerful in celebrating diversity and teaching tolerance and helping us explore the world in a way that is creative, positive and powerful.

Multicultural children’s performer, DARIA (Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou)  has created a website where you can get books for free. Here's what she writes:

Dear Friends:

When reviewing books or visiting libraries, I often get wonderful copies of great books that I’d love to share with you!  Most are new, but some are library discards (in good shape).

If you’d be willing to spread the word about this website by sharing a Tweet or Facebook entry or email, then I’d love to send you one of the books for free. I even pick up the postage! So take a look at what’s in my wonderful freebie book bin this month!

If you want a book, e-mail me at and I’ll write back to request the correct address to send it.  Just one small request, please ask for only one book every six months so that I can have enough to share with others.

Preschool teachers, I also have little book packs and am willing to send them along.

Enjoy the site.  I’d love to hear from you if you’d like to review a book or share your feedback! Until the Next Time… Peace, Love, Tolerance and Great Reading!

Daria has received five national awards for her culturally diverse music. She speaks and sings in 8 languages and shares a vision of peace and the dignity of all peoples through her music. To find out more about DARIA, check out her websites:

World Music With DARIA:
For the free books, visit Favorite Multicultural Books with DARIA.

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