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.

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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

If I Can Hear What You Can See!

by Donna J. Jodhan

What should developers bear in mind when ensuring that their websites are fully accessible to those who are blind and partially sighted? The short version response in my humble opinion would be if i can hear what you can see then what a wonderful world it would be!

What does this all mean?

When developing a website, developers need to be fully cognoscent of the following:

  • Access technology and how it deals with icons, images, graphics, and pop-up and drop down menus.
  • Accessible file formats.
  • Readable web content.
  • Links that are easy to understand and navigate.
  • Language that is easy to understand.
  • Fields and forms are easy to complete.

This list is by no means complete and I will deal briefly with each component individually. It is a good start and I hope that it helps to get you going on the right track. The one thing that I am going to stress here is that my list not only benefits blind and sight impaired people, it benefits everyone.

Access technology

Blind and sight impaired people use access technology to surf websites. They use screen readers and text magnifiers. For those who are either totally blind or do not have enough vision to see large print, the use of screen reader technology is the preferred method of surfing and for those who either have enough vision to read large print or can do so through the use of magnification, text magnifiers is the preferred method.

A developer needs to keep in mind that screenreading software can have difficulty deciphering and interpreting things like icons, images, and graphics. Accordingly, alt tags with appropriate descriptions of the above need to be deployed. Some screen reading software has difficulty dealing with pop-up and drop down menus.

Accessible file formats

Blind and sight impaired people have great difficulty reading PDF files that are not properly tagged. PDFs are images and this is why. Accordingly, PDF files need to be appropriately tagged and if that is not possible then the developer needs to offer the following types of files: TXT, RTF, Word formats, and HTML

Readable web content

If the content is well organized with headings that clearly identify sections of text, then it makes life much easier for blind and sight impaired surfers. It also makes life easier for general surfers as well. The use of headings and titles are the important variables here and if abbreviations are to be used throughout the website then a list of their meanings up front would greatly help.

Links that are easy to understand and navigate

This applies to links that are appropriately named and life is again made much easier if links are grouped in logical order and should be constructed in such a way as to be easy to find.

language that is easy to understand

Language that is easy to understand greatly benefits not just the blind and sight impaired but also those whose first language is not English.

Fields and forms are easy to complete

One of the most commonly made errors made by developers are the design of fields and forms that need to be completed and/or filled in. Fields and forms need to be appropriately identified so that screen reading technology can correctly interpret and identify them to the blind and sight impaired user.

So there you have it. A good start for you and then there are other things for you to look at such as appropriate foreground and background colors and fonts but that's for another day. Have fun!

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:

Tap into the IRS for Accessible Tax Information

IRS provides assistance for people with disabilities

Individuals who are blind or visually impaired can download hundreds of the most popular federal tax forms and publications from These products range from accessible PDFs to e-Braille formats and are accessible using screen reading software and refreshable Braille displays. Visit the IRS Accessibility page to download these forms and publications. Also, view a video that highlights IRS products and services available for people with disabilities

Tax Return preparation help is also available

People who are unable to complete their tax return because of a physical disability may get assistance from a local IRS Tax Assistance Center or through a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance or Tax Counseling for the Elderly site (VITA or TCE). To find a Tax Assistance Center near you, click on contact IRS, on and then select contact your local IRS office. You can also find a nearby VITA or TCE location by calling 1-800-906-9887. The IRS sponsors VITA and TCE. Publication 907, Tax Highlights for Persons with Disabilities, explains the tax implications of certain disability benefits and other issues, and is available at

Click this link to visit and enter “accessibility” in the Search box for more information.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

My Favorite Colors

by Donna J. Jodhan

For as long as I can remember, yellow has always been my favorite color; as a child when my vision was just a bit, as a teen when I received much more, and even now when I have precious little. Yellow has always reminded me of happy things and happy times.

When I was a kid, I had to have a yellow cup, a yellow plate, and a yellow saucer and a yellow bowl. I loved and cherished my yellow Sunday dress, the one that I wore to church. I adored my yellow jersey, and my yellow bathing suit. Mom and dad had to always buy me something yellow; the yellow beach ball, the yellow water wings, and everything else yellow. I even loved the yellow balloon which was something special for me as I had a fear of balloons and when we got our dog and named her Yella, that was the best thing for me since sliced bread.

Yellow continued to dominate my life as I blew past my teen years into adulthood and I continued to buy yellow sweaters and jackets, yellow coats, yellow pants, and yellow dishes and even cutlery with yellow handles. Part of my living room is even dominated by yellow.

Now that I am left with precious little sight and no longer able to see color, I think of yellow whenever I need a boost or whenever I need to drive away unhappy thoughts or moments. I have grown to love purple, red, and blue; all distant seconds to my precious yellow. Yellow! The color of my life! The sunshine of my soul! The light of my darkness!

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:

Do Professors Really Understand?

by Donna J. Jodhan

When I was at university which was many years ago, I must say that as a whole, most professors understood that in order to complete my courses, I had to have access to texts and that I had to be given a bit of extra time to write exams. They also understood that we all had to go the extra mile to ensure that my texts were on time and that I could understand charts, diagrams, and graphs.

When I was at university, there were no online courses and my texts were either given to me on tape or in Braille. Lectures were all conducted in the classroom and I was able to get the full attention of most of my professors. I either typed my papers or spoke onto tape and sometimes I had oral exams for French and Spanish.

That was then and this is now. With the evolution of the Internet, more courses are being offered the online way. Students submit their exams via email or by logging into a specified website. They receive their texts through the Internet but there are still classroom sessions to attend.

For blind students, the online way could be looked upon in two ways; as a blessing and as a challenge. As a blessing because they do not have to travel to be at class physically. As a challenge because many web developers are still finding it difficult to develop websites that are accessible to blind students.

Do professors really understand that in order for blind students to participate fully in web based courses, they need to have the following? Equal access to all texts. Equal access to all websites that are being used during the course. Equal access to all online resources. Equal access to professors.

Professors need to ensure that texts are made available to their blind students in a format that they can read. They need to understand that blind students need extra time to complete exams and they need to be aware that whenever changes are made to software by the learning institution involved, care must be taken to ensure that the student's software is compatible and if not then efforts need to be made to find suitable alternatives.

This is not going to change and as technology continues to evolve then so too will the challenges for blind students increase. What is the solution here? More dialogue between all concerned and the development of ways to deal with all of this.

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, January 13, 2012

Perkins School for the Blind Pioneered the First Physical Education Program in the United States for Students with Blindness or Visual Impairment

When Samuel Gridley Howe opened the school’s doors in 1832, he was immediately troubled by his students’ poor health. In that era, children who were blind were customarily treated as invalids and were prevented from doing anything for themselves. Fearing they might be injured, their families discouraged them from enjoying physical activity. As a result, children who were blind were often weak and vulnerable to every illness.

Perkins is pleased to announce that a collection of digital images from the Perkins Archives is now available to be viewed online at Physical Education at Perkins

Reading APH's Free Downloadable Manuals on Your iPad

Did you know that you can read many of APH's free Downloadable Manuals on your iPad? Once you download the PDF file from or simply select "Open in iBooks" from the menu bar at the top of the screen. You will be able to view your PDF using the iBooks app, and the PDF will be saved in your iBook collection.

A complete list of available Downloadable Manuals is available here:

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Organize Your Braille Documents with Binders, Folders and Notebooks from APH

Braille Pocket Folders

Braille Pocket Folders

Will hold 11 1/2 x 11 inch braille sheets. Has slant-cut pockets. Punched for 3-ring binder. Made of durable, flexible plastic. Student pack has 3 folders, 1 each: green, blue, and yellow, to match the Floppy Braille Binders below. Office pack has 3 folders, 1 each: red, gray, and black.

Braille Pocket Folders:

Student Pack:
Catalog Number: 1-04294-00

Click this link to purchase the Braille Pocket Folders.

Floppy Braille Binders

Floppy Braille Binders

Durable plastic 3-ring binder designed to hold 11 1/2 x 11 braille sheets. Flexes to fit easily into a backpack. Has an inside pocket. Includes 3 binders, 1 each: green, blue, and yellow.

Floppy Braille Binders:
Catalog Number: 1-04295-00
Click this link to purchase the Floppy Braille Binders.

Braille Notebooks, 3-Ring

Braille Notebook

Two popular sizes. Made of heavy-duty board covered with vinyl. Will hold approximately 100 sheets of braille paper.

Azure Blue, for 8 1/2 x 11 inch braille paper:
Catalog Number: 1-04320-00
Note: Azure Blue Notebook not available on Quota.

White, for 11 1/2 x 11 inch braille paper:
Catalog Number: 1-04380-00
Click this link to purchase the 3-Ring Braille Notebook.

Dividers for Braille, 3-Hole Punch

Dividers for Braille

Dividers will fit the Azure Blue or the White 3-Ring Braille Notebooks. Are a heavy manila stock with an extra 1/2 inch edge that can be brailled with the subject of the division.15 dividers per pack.

9 x 11 inches (for Azure Blue Notebook):
Catalog Number: 1-04225-00

12 x 11 inches (for White Notebook):
Catalog Number: 1-04226-00
Click this link to purchase the Dividers for Braille, 3-Hole Punch.

Pocket-Size Notebook, 6-Ring

Pocket-Size Notebook

Bound in imitation leather. Will hold approximately 50 sheets of 3 3/4 x 5 3/4 inch braille or new bold line paper (not included). Has a pocket designed to hold a Postcard Slate and a cloth page marking strip. Stylus can be tied to the cloth strip. Tabs make this notebook an organizer (sold separately).

Pocket Notebook:
Catalog Number: 1-04280-00

Braille Paper for Pocket Notebook (approximately 250 sheets):
Catalog Number: 1-04390-00

Bold Line Paper for Pocket Notebook, (approximately 250 sheets):
Catalog Number: 1-04392-00

Pocket Notebook Tabs (Two sets of tab pages, 3-cut tabs):
Catalog Number: 1-04389-00
Click this link to purchase the 6-Ring Pocket-Size Notebook and paper.

Spiral Pocket Notebook

Spiral Pocket Notebook for Braille

Each notebook contains 50 pages of 80 pound white braille paper. Spiral binding makes it easy to handle. Notebook measures 3 x 5 1/2 inches. Sheets are perforated and measure 3 x 5 inches when removed. Works easily with APH's Janus Slate. Six notebooks per package.

Spiral Pocket Notebook(pack of 6):
Catalog Number: 1-04301-00
Click this link to purchase a Spiral Pocket Notebook (for Braille).

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.

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