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.)


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

APH Shopping Site Showcases Teacher's Articles

For those seeking a hands-on explanation about some of APH’s products, author and teacher Kristie Smith is a well-versed and enthusiastic resource. Smith has been an educator for nearly thirty years and teaching children with visual impairments is her passion. Her literary output includes the Abby Diamond series of children’s detective mysteries, and Dottie and Dots See Animal Spots, which is a fun introduction to the braille alphabet.
Recently, the Fred's Head from APH blog has benefited from her articles about experiences she’s had using a wide variety of APH products in the classroom. Her inventive suggestions and insight are also now featured prominently in several product listings on the APH Shopping Site. We are grateful to Kristie Smith for taking the time to share her experience with us!
A few product listings featuring Smith's articles include the following (articles appear at the bottom of page):

Monday, April 23, 2012

Meet The APH Executives in Residence!

Three APH Executives in Residence pose together at Annual Meeting 2009: Kay Ferrell, Phil Hatlen, and Jane Erin.

APH has launched a web page devoted to our Executive in Residence program.

From time to time since 2005, APH has been privileged to host several luminaries in our field as Executives in Residence (EIRs), beginning with Dr. Cay Holbrook (University of British Columbia). Of the four EIRs to date, three are university professors who participated while on sabbatical, and one is a former university professor who retired as a residential school superintendent.

By being in residence at APH in Louisville, the executives have access to APH facilities, resources, and staff. In turn, APH staff members have a unique opportunity to interact with and learn from seasoned professionals. We are grateful for the generosity of EIRs in sharing their expertise with APH.

Treasures from the APH Libraries

The APH Barr Library supports research initiatives at APH, while the Migel Library is the largest collection of nonmedical information related to blindness in the world. Although the collections do not circulate, arrangements can be made to use the materials on site. In addition, an ongoing digitization effort means APH will continue to make materials available through the online catalog at

From the Barr Library: Protection of Vision in Children—Arnall Patz and Richard E. Hoover, with contributions by Ruth L. Gottesman and Robert M. Worthington. Charles C Thomas, c1969.

Note: both Dr. Patz and Dr. Hoover have been inducted into the Hall of Fame for the Blindness Field

Although written from the point of view of medical professionals, this title also offers some interesting insights into the social and educational issues of the time. The book does deal with the more common vision disorders of childhood, but addresses them in terms of screening and early remediation programs, which the authors advocate for universal adoption. They also suggest that medical professionals should consider visual health as an issue from birth. A chapter on genetic screening talks about using the genetic history to mandate closer screening for early treatment without raising the specter of eugenics that might have been included in similar books written decades earlier.

The book also pushes forward the relatively new concept for the time that existing vision should be used and optimized where possible, and notes that any recommendations should be customized for the needs and comfort of the individual child. The social and emotional needs of the child and family are also addressed.

Although the scientific basis for this book may be dated, the compassion and social awareness of the authors would be absolutely on point today.

From the Migel Library: Seeing Beyond Sight: Photographs by Blind Teenagers—Tony Deifell. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2007.

Chronicling the experiences of Sound Shadows, a photography class conducted at the Governor Morehead School for the Blind in Raleigh, North Carolina, Seeing Beyond Sight: Photographs by Blind Teenagers investigates the relationships between photography, education, and perception. Started as an after school photography club, Sound Shadows progressed from the basic premise of teaching students with a range of visual impairments how to use cameras to becoming a valuable tool in supporting the school's reading and writing curriculum. Categorized in five thematic chapters, student photography is featured with captions coming from teaching notes, memories, taped interviews, and writing assignments.

One project participant, who had been struggling with learning to read and write in braille, was a very active oral communicator. Through sharing her photographs and describing them in both oral and written language, she found the words to come much more easily. Subsequently her reading and writing improved. Another student made a deeper connection in his understanding of metaphors. After describing a dream in which he was ambling in a snow storm, he took a blurry picture of a descending staircase, a representation of the feeling he had in the dream. Seeing Beyond Sight provides just enough description and background to invite the reader into the students’ worlds while still allowing for one’s own interpretation of their photographic expressions.

Seeing Beyond Sight has ties to prior acquisitions held in the Migel. The foreword, written by Robert Coles, is adapted from School (Little, Brown, and Co, 1998), a photographic work featuring three Boston area schools, including the Perkins School for the Blind. References are also made to Shooting Blind (Aperture Foundation, 2002), which features adult photographers, as well as to George A. Covington, whose Let Your Camera Do The Seeing: The World's First Photography Manual for the Legally Blind (National Access Center, 1981) is also a part of the Migel collection.

Contact Library staff:, (800) 223-1839, ext. 705

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Power of Learning Braille

by Donna J. Jodhan

True it is that the use of Braille may be on the decline in the world but believe me when I tell you that there is definitely a great benefit to learning Braille.

Much of today's generation of blind people tend to forget this, choosing instead to follow the growing trend of using voice technology to get by. All well and good but let us not forget what Braille has done for us and how it can continue to be useful.

Here are some important points.

  • It helps to sustain literacy.
  • It helps to ensure that one's spelling remains in tact.
  • It helps when giving presentations if having a computer or mobile device close by is not convenient.
  • If Braille notes are used when giving presentations, a blind person has a better chance of coming across more smoothly in that they can read quickly and speak both at the same time.
  • It is the best thing that you can have at hand if electricity goes.
  • You can use it to label your files, folders, CDs, and much more.
  • It is a great way to take notes whenever you are in a hurry and don't have access to an electronic device.

On a personal level, I grew up learning Braille and when I lost my functional vision, I was able to slip back into my use of Braille without having to ask someone sighted to help find my folders etc or to label my stuff. My final words for the power of using Braille are as follows: A great backup mechanism, a way to keep in touch with my literacy and spelling, and a way to stay ahead of the game when electricity goes.

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:

As a Blind Child

by Donna J. Jodhan

I consider myself to be extremely fortunate; as a blind child I was surrounded by loving and devoted parents who were determined to help me live as mainstream a life as possible. I also had two brothers, a granny, and other family members who helped me to enjoy so much. This does not mean that they did not try at times to protect me from certain obstacles, objects, and daily challenges.

I learned to fly a kite and pitch marbles. My dad used a big ball to play football and cricket with me, and he taught me how to swim in the ocean and ride a bicycle. Heck, he even showed me how to surf and ride the waves. Dad was my nature buddy; walking with me in the lush green meadows, smelling and identifying the various flowers, and holding those timid little butterflies in my hand. He ran with me, walked with me, and we had so much fun! He even took me fishing and showed me how to make boats out of large coconut leaves.

My brothers played hide and seek with me, ball games with me, and helped me to embrace the mainstream world. Mom and granny were my teachers of the domestic side of things. I hung out in the kitchen with them, learned how to write printed letters, and got a wonderful education on fashion and design. My cousins filled in so beautifully, helping me to grow up in a wonderful world. They read to me, cut out clippings from magazines for me, and walked with me on the beach as well as everywhere else; from quiet spots to busy streets.

I had pets; big happy dogs and delicate little birds. I played with all of them and I learned so much from everyone. I looked at it like this: Dad was my teacher of all things outside the home; from nature to politics, and from economics to religion and literature. Mom and granny were my tutors of life; from the kitchen to the clothes closet and from the school to the church. My brothers and cousins helped me to have fun.

O what it was to be a blind child and I loved it all! Then came the skates and skis and I was moving on to other things. I grew up but still I continued to be a blind child! I still am in so many ways; if only it is in my mind on those quiet nights as I wait for the Sand man to escort me into dreamland.

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 Accessibility of Baseball

by Paul Ferrara

Many of my fondest childhood memories either center around or are somehow related to Major League Baseball. When I was four or five years old, dad taught me how the game was played, and I've been hooked on baseball from that day forward.

Although NBC offered their Game of the Week for several years and ABC showed Monday Night Baseball for a few years, usually you watched or listened to the team that was closest to where you live. For me growing up in Delaware, that team was the Philadelphia Phillies.

Being forced to listen mostly to one team on the radio was fine at that time because I was, and still am, a huge Phillies fan. Things changed, though, when I left Delaware. I moved to other places around the country including my current residence in Louisville, Kentucky. Each of these different areas featured broadcasts of a team other than the Phillies. I enjoy a good ball game no matter who is playing, but I truly missed being able to turn on a Phillies game whenever I wanted.

For a number of years, there was not a solution to this problem. Advances in technology did, eventually, provide opportunities for people to watch or listen to their favorite team(s). Major League Baseball via began to offer MLB TV and Gameday Audio provided video and audio broadcasts respectively.

Watching the video feeds requires a computer, Apple TV, or another similarly-connected device while listening to the audio broadcasts requires you to be near your computer.

As a subscriber to XM Radio I can listen to any game as it happens; however, if I am away from my radio, then I cannot listen to the game. SiriusXM has developed an app for mobile devices, but it is terribly inaccessible and, therefore, totally useless for blind people at this point in time.

The options I described are good ones, but none of them allow you to listen to games wherever you might be. But the MLB At Bat 12 app now provides access to the radio broadcasts of every team whenever they are playing. None of the radio broadcasts are blacked out, something which cannot be said for MLB TV. The MLB 12 app is available for iPhones, iPads, select Android phones and tablets, BlackBerries,and Windows phones.

Some of the app's features include:

  • EVERY GAME. EVERYWHERE: The #1 sports app of all-time and Hall of Fame inductee for iPhone, iPad and Macworld, At Bat is the official app of Major League Baseball.
  • Customizeable home screen to select a favorite team and access information about that team from the home screen: The app also includes news, scores, video highlights, and the ability to select push notofications for starting and ending of games involving your favorite team. You get all of this for $14.95 for the entire season or for $2.95 per month. You need to buy gameday audio with in at bat.

Click here to see a complete list of devices which utilize the app. I use the app on my iPhone and love it! If you're a fan of Major League Baseball and you want access to every radio broadcast, including the playoffs and World Series, get this app--you will love it!

Out Of the Whirlpool: A Valuable Resource for Those Wanting to Learn About Blindness

by Terrie Terlau, PhD
APH Adult Life Project Leader

If you work with adults who have lost vision, if you have a visual impairment yourself, or if you want to acquire a more personal understanding of the rehabilitation process, you may find Sue Martin's on-line book, Out Of the Whirlpool, to be a valuable resource. Sue has worked for many years as a vision rehabilitation therapist and assistive technology specialist for a non-profit in Main, and as a vision rehabilitation therapist and now a systems analyst for the VA in Alabama. Sue is active in many sports and life activities. However, the focus of her book is on her loss of sight and her experience of self-discovery as she went through the rehabilitation process.

Sue's book captures the essence of the rehabilitation process with candor, depth, warmth, and technical accuracy. Sue's book brings readers the intimate experience of depression, the trauma that resulted in her blindness, and the discovery of her deepest self as she acquired new skills--as if it is happening to them.

This book provides a valuable read for orientation and mobility specialists, vision rehabilitation therapists, teachers of students with visual impairments, and other adults. It is not recommended for K-12 students because it deals with the adult psyche. The book can be read on-line free of charge at

Monday, April 16, 2012

Accessible Places to Purchase Coffee and Snacks

My good friend Paul ferrara is a Coffee Connoisseur. He drinks coffee all the time and wrote the following for Fred's Head to help others find the online resources he uses to get the best coffees out there.

Today I will show you a few of my favorite snacks and drinks. As you will see, they go together quite well.

Any time is a good time for a snack. You will fine plenty of great ones at one of my favorite sites, They have plenty of nuts as well as sweets & chocolates.

Now, we need something to drink with our snack. While some may prefer a soda, I would rather have coffee. Starbucks has great coffees from all over the world but no flavored coffees. When I want a flavored coffee, I like to go to Berres Brothers Coffee. Be sure to check out their 47 flavors of coffee. Some are quite unique, such as their sweet and tasty banana nut bread or the scrumptious French Caramel Cream

Happy eating and drinking everyone. If you have any questions or comments, please click this link to email me.

Use a Muffin Tin to Portion Out Ice Cream

Muffin tins are great for lots of things, not just making muffins. Here's one you're really going to love!

Pop in muffin papers, and serve out single scoops of ice cream into each cup before covering them with wrap and putting them in the freezer. This way you have quick, single-scoops of ice cream ready to go when you want one, without waiting for a whole tub of ice cream to warm up enough to scoop some out.

Braille Writer Repair

American Printing House for the Blind

1839 Frankfort Avenue
Louisville, Kentucky 40206
Toll Free: 800-223-1839
Phone: 502-895-2405


Alan Ackley has been repairing Perkins Braillers for more than twenty years. He learned about braille and braillers in his spare time from his day job at the Iowa Commission for the Blind (ICB), where he worked first in the accounting department and now works in the library. After experimenting on his own with a "guinea pig" brailler provided by the ICB, "Braillerman" received factory training in Brailler repair and reconditioning and has worked on over 2000 Braillers for people and institutions all over the United States and Canada.

Ackley Appliance Service
4301 Park Avenue #540
Des Moines, IA 50321
Phone: 515-288-3931

The Selective Doctor

Bring your brailler back to life! The Selective Doctor, Inc., specializes in the repair of Perkins braillers.

  • Average turnaround time is about a week or less.
  • Labor charge is $60 per manual Perkins brailler, plus parts & postal insurance since they mail the braillers back to you thru the post office "Free Matter for the Blind".

You can send your brailler to: The Selective Doctor, Inc. P.O. Box 571 Manchester, MD 21102 If you send it UPS or FedEx the street address is: 3205 Laverne Circle Hampstead, MD 21074 Website:

Clark Brailler Repair Service

"I am a certified Perkins Braille Writer repair technician. I was employed by Howe Press as a Perkins Braille Writer assembler and repair technician and as an international Braille Writer repair trainer. I have been a teacher of the visually impaired for over 25 years and understand the importance of having a machine that works." Clark Brailler Repair Service Mary Jane Clark P.O. Box 1271 Rangeley, Maine 04970 Phone: 617-699-5045 Email: Web:

AIRC, The Foundation for Blind Children, Inc

AIRC, The Foundation for Blind Children, Inc. has been repairing braille writers for many years through a prison in the area. $55.00 per Braille Writer for maintenance. Cost of replacement parts are additional. 1235 E. Harmot Dr. Phoenix, AZ 85020 Phone: 602-331-1470 Web:

The Braillery

The Braillery provides complete brailler repair service as well as selling reconditioned braillewriters. They recondition foreign, domestic and out-of-production braillewriters. 5 Cumberland Circle El Paso, TX 79903 Phone: 915-565-0179 Email: resimon@the Web:

Howe Press

Perkins School for the Blind 175 North Beacon Street Watertown, MA 02172 Phone: 617-972-7308 Email:

Kentucky School for the Blind

If you live in Kentucky, they will repair Perkins braille writers for free.

1867 Frankfort Avenue
Louisville, Kentucky 40206
Phone: 502-897-1583

Sunday, April 15, 2012


Parts of the Mathbuilders kit

Mathbuilders, Unit 1: Matching, Sorting, and Patterning
Mathbuilders, Unit 6: Geometry
Mathbuilders, Unit 8: Data Collection, Graphing, and Probability/Statistics
MathBuilders, Unit 7: Fractions, Mixed Numbers, and Decimals
MathBuilders, Unit 5: Measurement and Estimation

MathBuilders, Unit 1: Matching, Sorting, and Patterning

MathBuilders is a supplementary math program separated into eight units by content standards and grade level. This allows the teacher to focus on specific standards or provide remedial material for individual students.
Unit 1 includes:
  • Teacher's guide with lesson plans for grades K-3
  • CD-ROM with General Guidelines for Teaching Math to Young Braille Users
  • 58 student worksheets for additional practice
  • Manipulatives:
    • 54 geometric shapes with different sizes, shapes, textures, and colors
    • Felt board
    • Textured shapes with hook/loop material backing
    • Point symbol stickers
    • Length sticks
    • Bell bracelet and rattle for creating sound patterns
Objectives for each lesson have been aligned with the Principles and Standards for School Mathematics from the National Council of Teachers and Mathematics (NCTM).
MathBuilders, Unit 1: Matching, Sorting, and Patterning

Print Kit:
Catalog Number: 7-03560-00

Braille Kit:
Catalog Number: 5-03560-00 Replacement Items:

Teacher's Guide

Catalog Number: 7-03560-01

Catalog Number: 5-03560-01 Consumables Pack, Braille:
Catalog Number: 5-03560-02

Optional Items:

General Guidelines

Catalog Number: 7-03560-03

Catalog Number: 5-03560-03
Click this link to purchase MathBuilders, Unit 1 Kit: Matching, Sorting, and Patterning.

MathBuilders, Unit 6: Geometry

Photo of the MathBuilders Geometry kit
Unit 6 includes:
  • Teacher's guide with lesson plans for grades K-3
  • CD-ROM with General Guidelines for Teaching Math to Young Braille Users
  • 34 student worksheets for additional practice
  • Manipulative parts:
    • Felt board
    • Textured shapes with hook/loop material backing
    • 9 geometric shapes - hexagon, pentagon, octagon, equilateral triangle, isosceles triangle, right triangle, square, rectangle, and circle
    • 3-D shapes - sphere, cone, hemisphere, cylinder, cube, pyramid, and prisms
    • Geometro - kit for building simple 3-D shapes
    • Nemeth Code Reference Sheet
WARNING: Choking Hazard-Small Parts. Not intended for children ages 5 and under without adult supervision.
br> MathBuilders, Unit 6: Geometry

Large Print Kit (includes Teacher's Guide in large print):
Catalog Number: 7-03563-00

Braille Kit (includes Teacher's Guide in braille):
Catalog Number: 5-03563-00

Optional Items

General Guidelines, Braille:
Catalog Number: 5-03560-03

General Guidelines, Large Print:
Catalog Number: 7-03560-03 Replacement Items:

Teacher's Guide, Large Print:
Catalog Number: 7-03563-01 Teacher's Guide, Braille:
Catalog Number: 5-03563-01 Consumables Pack, Braille:
Catalog Number: 5-03563-02
Click this link to purchase MathBuilders, Unit 6 Kit: Geometry.

Note: The General Guidelines is included on the CD with every unit. It is not included in large print or braille in the kits, but can be purchased separately in large print and braille editions. A good resource for teachers who need information about teaching math to students with visual impairments and a great resource to share with the regular classroom teacher.

MathBuilders, Unit 8: Data Collection, Graphing, and Probability/Statistics

Photo of the MathBuilders Unit 8 kit
MathBuilders, Unit 8 includes:
  • Teacher's guide with lesson plans for grades K-3
  • CD-ROM with General Guidelines for Teaching Math to Young Braille Users
  • 21 student worksheets for additional practice
  • Manipulative parts:
    • Two graphing grids
    • Tactile Graphing Squares - 36 full squares and 9 half squares
    • Spinner with two overlays
    • Embossed Graph Sheets
    • Feel 'n Peel Stickers -- Point Symbols, Alphabet Stickers, and Number Stickers
Replacement Items:

Teacher's Guide:

Large Print:
Catalog Number: 7-03565-01

Catalog Number: 5-03565-01

Consumables Pack, Braille:
Catalog Number: 5-03565-02
Click this link to purchase

MathBuilders, Unit 7: Fractions, Mixed Numbers, and Decimals

MathBuilders is a supplementary math program designed for young braille users in grades K-3, separated into eight units by content standards and grade level. This allows the teacher to focus on specific standards or provide remedial material for individual students. APH has now released four units, with more planned for the future.

Unit 7 includes

  • Teacher's guide with lesson plans for grades K-3
  • CD-ROM with General Guidelines for Teaching Math to Young Braille Users
  • 32 student worksheets for additional practice
  • Manipulatives:
    • 25 Tactile Tokens
    • Fraction Circle Tray
    • Pie Shaped Fraction Pieces for 1, 1/2, 1/3, 1/4, 1/6, and 1/8
    • Fraction/Decimal Bar Tray
    • Fraction Bars for 1, 1/2, 1/3, 1/4, 1/5, 1/6, 1/8, and 1/10
    • Decimal Bars for .10, .20, .25, and .50
    • Nemeth/Large Print labels for all fraction and decimal pieces
Note: General Guidelines book is included on the CD-ROM with every unit. It is not included in print or braille in the kits, but can be purchased separately in large print and braille editions. It’s a good resource for teachers who need information about teaching math to students with visual impairments.
WARNING: Choking Hazard -- Small Parts. Not intended for children ages 5 and under without adult supervision.
Recommended ages: 5 years and up.

Optional Item

General Guidelines Book:

Large Print: 7-03560-03 Braille: 5-03560-03
Click this link to purchase MathBuilders, Unit 7: Fractions, Mixed Numbers, and Decimals

MathBuilders, Unit 5 Measurement and Estimation

Unit 5 includes
  • Teacher's guide with lesson plans for grades K-3
  • CD-ROM with General Guidelines for Teaching Math to Young Braille Users
  • 9 student worksheets for additional practice
  • Manipulatives
  • Metric-English Measurement Ruler
  • Analog Clock Model
  • Clock Face Sheets
  • Individual Calendar Kit
  • Talking Thermometer
  • POURfect Measuring Cups
  • Measuring Jars
  • Primary Balance Scale
  • Standard Mass Set, 17 pieces
  • Kilogram Mass
  • Hexagram Mass Set, 54 pieces
Large Print Kit (Teacher's Guide in Large Print):
Catalog Number: 7-03562-00

Braille Kit (Teacher's Guide in Braille):
Catalog Number: 5-03562-00
Click this link to purchase MathBuilders, Unit 5: Measurement and Estimation Kit The remaining units will be announced individually as they are produced and available for sale.

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:

Friday, April 13, 2012

Accessible YouTube Guide

by Robert Kingett

Since YouTube is so inaccessible, and since I couldn't find a complete guide on how to make the YouTube experience work for a blind user, I have resolved to make my own complete guide to making an accessible YouTube experience. One thing to keep in mind is that this guide will be utilizing a lot of different resources and alternatives. There’s no single solution. I’ll talk about one piece of software that may help you but that isn't my primary aim. My aim is to provide alternatives for You Tubers and viewers who are blind. Enjoy!

Managing A YouTube Account with a Screen Reader
Watching YouTube with a Screen Reader

Manage a YouTube Account with a Screen Reader

I'm sure there's a way to navigate around YouTube with a screen reader, but I'm too lazy to even fiddle with such nonsense and guess what those unlabeled buttons are for. I have two solutions. The first one is a lot better than the second one but if you really hate using mobile versions of things, then option two will be good for you.

Use the Mobile Version of YouTube

With the mobile version of YouTube (, you can actually do a lot of things to your account, even comment on videos. You can't reply directly to people on this site when they comment on your video unless you type at, and then their user name. You can't message people by composing a new message. You can, however, read and reply to messages that you get in your inbox. You can also manage your subscribers. this site provides a screen reader friendly environment to at least edit your videos, playlists, personal info, account settings, account sharing, and all that and a little bit more. Uploading videos using this clean interface is a lot better than just uploading your videos through email. With this system, you get a better control of the title and description and even the tags. If you use your quick navigation keys, and your links list, you will be a pro YouTube user in no time!

There is one downfall however, actually, a couple. You can't watch videos or reply to comments directly with a link or button on videos. While this website is definitely lacking in some of the most essential features in the whole YouTube experience, such as the composing a message feature, if you’re a frequent YouTube uploader, this is the best alternative for managing your YouTube presence.

Use the Text-based Web Browser WebbIE

WebbIE ( is an alternative to managing a YouTube account if you don't like the mobile interface, this isn't a good solution. Unfortunately, it's the best one for YouTube creators at the time of this writing. The web browser will attempt to display the entire site in a text format, and trust me this makes navigating a lot faster, but don't think you won’t hit the wrong button from time to time. There's buttons on there that just say search, or close, without any text before the button to tell us what they are. Also, using this browser, the search field for videos is somewhere at the bottom, but the search button to hit is both at the bottom and the top of the page. Replying to comments is mainly the only easy thing to do using this method compared to the mobile YouTube option. Since you'll be on the main YouTube site using this browser, you'll have access to all of what YouTube has to offer. Getting it to work for you, however, is a different story. There's unlabeled buttons, unlabeled images, even more evident navigating with this browser. In some cases you will come across a huge string of java links that are supposed to be for one button, or there will be buttons back to back coded with java and you will have to decipher them.

Using standard navigation keys you'd use in Microsoft word, mixed in with its own keys provided, this method will make it a lot easier to check your email and reply to YouTube messages despite the difficult layout of the website. It makes searching for videos and editing video information a bit easier but not as easy and quick as the mobile website mentioned above. Note that this isn't the web browsers issue, it's YouTube’s. The text based web browser can get rid of a lot of annoying flash animation ads that slow down navigating. The good thing is, you can keep the browser in text mode and just play videos and listen to them with no advertisements.

Free YouTube Uploader Software

If you’re just looking for an accessible desktop solution to upload videos, this free YouTube Uploader from VideoSoftis the best solution. You can upload videos, add the description and add keywords, but unlike YouTube where you can enter unlimited keywords, here you can only enter 15 per video.

When you first start the program, as with all other software by this maker, such as free YouTube to mp3 converter, navigate to the options menu, browse around because each software package is different, and check the box that says enable screen reader mode. After you do this and then restart the application, it will become a lot easier and faster to use with its own keyboard shortcuts and simplified interface. This software is only for uploading videos to YouTube but it's the best accessible desktop alternative.

A Combo of All Three

If you use a combo of all three above, you will be the best blind YouTube user ever!

Now that I've talked about how to accessibly manage your YouTube videos and account using a screen reader, now I'm going to tell you how to watch YouTube videos accessibly with no ads!

How to Accessibly Watch YouTube Videos Using a Screen Reader

The Accessible Interface to YouTube

The Accessible Interface to YouTube ( is a good website. All the search results are links with no thumbnails, and this layout presented is just a simple, clean, interface. You can even control the videos with keyboard shortcuts! You can't view related videos or comment on videos, but you can use the mobile website to do that or use WebbIE.

This website is an okay accessible alternative to watching YouTube videos, but it misses some key features like showing user names of the video uploader, related videos, and the inability to play playlists. It just falls short. I’d use this for quick spurts on YouTube, nothing lengthy. I hope it sticks around. There's a donation button at the bottom of the page to support the website.

YourTube: Accessible YouTube

YourTube ( is the most complete and rich interface to YouTube I have ever seen! It makes watching YouTube videos a breeze. Unlike the other websites, you can watch every video that a user has uploaded by clicking into their profile, view comments, view information about the video, and see related videos. The controls are operated by buttons on the page, and it even has a checkbox to notify you when a YouTube video is done uploading so you can just play the video. This website will automatically skip ads as well.

When looking for a video, the results show up as headings with no thumbnails and brief descriptions of the video below the result. Unfortunately, you will not see who the video is by. You have to enter the video in order to see that information.

Unfortunately, this website does not support playing playlists, but definitely try this site out if you have a screen reader and if you just want to browse YouTube and watch some videos! This site, at the time of this writing, isn't hosting any ads. I hope this site expands its features, because even though it's a new website, this is some strong competition to beat!

That's my comprehensive guide on how to get the most out of YouTube if you are totally blind. If you have any questions you can follow me, @theblindwriter on Twitter.

Monday, April 09, 2012

An Accessible Rubik's Cube, Not Too Puzzling to Adapt with APH Products

Do you have an off-the-shelf Rubik's Cube handy? If so, there are several easy ways to adapt it for use by a person with visual impairment or blindness using one of the following APH products:

a) Apply a tactile "Point Symbol" sticker to each color square. Select a unique point symbol to represent each color. For example, apply a raised outline circle to each green square, a V-shape symbol to each orange square, a raised bump to each blue square, and so forth. Assorted tactile Point Symbol stickers are available in two separate packages of Feel 'n Peel Stickers [Catalog Nos. 1-08846-00 and 1-08868-00].

b) Would you rather have textures applied than tactile point symbol stickers? Cut and apply small textured squares from the assorted textured sheets included in Carousel of Textures [Catalog No. 1-08863-00] and/or Textured Paper Collection [Catalog No. 1-03275-00]. Assign a unique texture to each color square—soft to blue, rough to red, bumpy to yellow, and so forth. Don't forget that you can leave one color smooth!

Both tactile adaptations can provide a novel design for sighted peers as well!

For some interesting photos and description of other adapted Rubik's Cubes, visit

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

The United States Association of Blind Athletes Impacts Lives through Sports and Recreation

by Lacey Markle

There are an estimated 52,000 school-aged children who are blind and visually impaired in the United States; nearly 70 percent do not participate in even a limited physical education curriculum. The barriers that blind and visually impaired youth face are numerous and primarily the consequences of moving their education from residential schools, where physical educators with blindness knowledge deliver specialized services in relatively small classes, to public schools where educators may have less knowledge, time and resources to apply to students who are visually impaired.

In 1976, the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) was founded by Dr. Charles Buell for the purpose of improving the lives of people who are blind and visually impaired. Since then, USABA, a Colorado-based 501(c) (3) organization, has evolved into a national organization that provides sports opportunities to thousands of athletes of all ages and abilities that are blind and visually impaired. A member of the U.S. Olympic Committee, USABA enhances the lives of people who are blind and visually impaired through sports and physical activity by providing opportunities in various sports, including, but not limited to, track and field, Nordic and alpine skiing, biathlon, judo, wrestling, swimming, tandem cycling, powerlifting, rowing, showdown, triathlon, archery and goalball. USABA recognizes that sports opportunities allow people who are blind and visually impaired to develop independence through competition, without unnecessary restrictions. Like sighted people, people who are blind and visually impaired must have the opportunity to experience the thrill of victory and the reality of defeat.

The benefits of sports and recreation have been shown to continue from childhood through adolescence and into adulthood. A recent survey of USABA members revealed that not only do participants benefit academically from their involvement in sports during elementary and high school, but 57 percent of USABA members continued on to higher education to pursue a college degree  which is more than double the national average of 23 percent for their visually impaired peers.

Helping to increase the involvement in physical activity as well as higher education, 18 agencies assisting youth who are blind and visually impaired are working towards a healthier lifestyle with the start of the National Fitness Challenge created by the United States Association of Blind Athletes and funded by the WellPoint Foundation.

“Each participating agency submits baseline data and monthly updates that are used to create and modify achievable fitness and weight loss goals for the teens to help them decrease their Body Mass Index,” said Mark Lucas, executive director of the United States Association of Blind Athletes.

USABA and the WellPoint Foundation are actively working towards a healthier lifestyle by providing talking pedometers as well as fitness and nutrition coaches for each agency. Each athlete has the opportunity to be the top boy and girl from their agency and participate in the final National Fitness Challenge, a four-day camp in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where they will participate in track and field, goalball, swimming and strength and conditioning workouts in order to learn more about fitness and become more involved in their local community.

Mark Lucas explained, “Our goal for the National Fitness Challenge is the top 36 teens will go back to their communities and join sports teams. We want to reward the teens for their hard work and dedication towards leading an active and healthy lifestyle.

Each participant will be provided skill development that can lead to national and international competitions.”

Each of the 18 agencies has a special sport they are practicing in order to become more physically fit while having fun. For example, some are playing goalball while others have a running league, swim team, ski team or tandem cycling.

“The WellPoint Foundation is committed to helping children and adults have active lives and avoid the health risks associated with sedentary lifestyles and obesity,” said Mike Walsh, president and general manager of WellPoint’s Specialty Business, which includes dental, vision, workers’ compensation, voluntary, life and disability benefits. “We believe no one should ever be denied the right to enjoy the physical and emotional benefits of exercise, and we are proud to partner with the USABA to ensure that vision impairments do not limit the recreational opportunities afforded to teenagers across the country.”

The WellPoint Foundation is the philanthropic arm of WellPoint, Inc., and through charitable contributions and programs, the Foundation promotes the inherent commitment of WellPoint, Inc. to enhance the health and well-being of individuals and families.

These 700 teens are taking the leaps and bounds to break stereotypes and become more physically fit by showing how active people with disabilities can be, while enjoying themselves.

As the National Fitness Challenge year comes to a close, USABA and the WellPoint Foundation hope the athletes met their goal of a 50 percent total decrease in body mass index (BMI). Not only will these teens lower their BMI, but through participation in sports and physical activity, these teens will realize new levels of independence, confidence and determination.

USABA is dedicated to providing physical activities for everyone who is blind and visually impaired, especially veterans and military service members who are blind and visually impaired. Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom resulted in the highest percentage of eye wounds of any major conflict since World War I, so it is particularly important that USABA provides opportunities to returning wounded warriors.

USABA began Operation Mission Vision in the summer of 2008. The goal of Operation Mission Vision is simply to bring normalcy back into the lives of veterans and active duty service members who are blind and visually impaired, and to accelerate their rehabilitation process through sport, recreation and physical activity.

Lonnie Bedwell, 46 year old, Navy veteran lost his sight 15 years ago, and has been a member of USABA for many years. He has said many times, “I want to thank all of you for these opportunities and allowing me to be a part of USABA. USABA and all of you that run it are absolutely first class,” he continues to say. “When you give your time to help others, that’s something that can never be replaced. It’s phenomenal. I just wish I could repay these guys. I feel like the only way I can do that is to pay it forward. It’s like I was in front of a huge brick wall. No way around it, no way through it, and they put a door in it, and then they took me through it. The events, a lot of the time I don’t know how you put into words what they do for people,” Bedwell said.

Participation in physical activity is often the most critical mental and physical aspect of the rehabilitation process for both the injured person and that individual’s support network.

In partnership with the United States Olympic Committee’s Military Sports Program, USABA fully funds veterans and their coaches so they can attend and participate in the USABA summer and winter sports festivals.

In order to specially help veterans, goalball was developed after WWII to keep veterans who lost their sight during the war physically active. Goalball is a unique ball game played by people who are blind and visually impaired, but many sighted people also play on local teams for fun. Goalball has become a premier team game and is a part of the Summer Paralympic Games. It is played in 112 countries in all International Blind Sport Association (IBSA) regions. In partnership with the U.S. Paralympics, a division of the United States Olympic Committee, USABA manages the sport of goalball from the grassroots to the elite level.

Goalball is played with bells inside of it so the players can locate it audibly. For this reason, silence at events is vital. It is played on a court with tactile markings so players can determine their location on the court and the direction that he/she is facing. All players wear eye masks to block out light and thus equalize visual impairment between the athletes.

USABA’s goalball season is starting soon and goalball teams around the national will play in tournaments with the hopes of becoming national champions. For more information on the goalball schedule go to

USABA offers many other sporting events for youth such as the IBSA World Youth Championships, which occurs every two years. In addition, more than 250 athletes ages 12-19 from more than 20 countries compete in sports that include judo, goalball, swimming, and track and field. Team USA is represented by young athletes currently competing on their high school or club teams. USABA also provides regional goalball tournaments, sports education camps, summer sports festivals, annual winter sports festivals, and cycling camps. For more information on USABA sports programs go to or visit their Facebook page.

Sports and physical activity is the gift that keeps on giving, the benefits can be reaped through childhood until adulthood. Regular exercise can help protect us all from heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, noninsulin-dependent diabetes, obesity, back pain, osteoporosis, and can improve our mood and help to better manage stress. For the greatest overall health benefits, experts recommend that we do 20 to 30 minutes of aerobic activity three or more times a week and some type of muscle strengthening activity and stretching at least twice a week. USABA strives to be recognized as an easy access portal for any information and events for all blind and visually impaired people who seek participation in sports and physical activity. Parents, teachers, community program leaders, coaches, volunteers and people who are blind and visually impaired can easily seek out USABA staff and coaches for their expertise. As the United States Olympic Committee is for the Olympic movement, the United States Association of Blind Athletes is for the blind and visually impaired athletic movement.

For more information in becoming involved or for general information contact Lacey Markle at the United States Association of Blind Athletes at 719-866-3222 or, or go to USABA’s website at

Monday, April 02, 2012

Create Your Own Sidewalk

Here's a great idea for orientation and mobility instructors or anyone wanting to create an outdoor pathway.

Simply roll out this path wherever you need it and re-roll when your task is done. Cleans easily with a garden hose. Easy to use, easy to move and easy to store.

Imagine creating a path that someone who is blind could follow to get to a specific location outdoors. Maybe a swing or pool far from the home.

Product Features:

  • Durable Plastic Construction
  • 35 Tiles
  • 105 ConnectorsExpandable and Compatible with Additional Roll-Out Instant Pathways
  • Rolls
  • Up for Easy Storage and Transport Dimensions (Unrolled): 9' 11" x 11.75" x .75"
  • Dimensions (Rolled): 11.75" x 11.5" x 12.5
Click this link to purchase the Roll-out Instant Pathway from

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