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.)


Thursday, June 21, 2012

How Can Access Technology Software Be Integrated into Mainstream Hardware

by Donna J. Jodhan

I believe that when I disclose my response to this, you would be quite surprised to see that it is already being done. Just ask Apple how they did it and I thank the late Steve Jobs for having had the insight, daring, and leadership to do it. I hope that other companies can follow suit much sooner than later.

Steve Jobs and his leadership and vision has enabled Apple to make it possible for the IPhone, IPod Touch, and IPad to become very accessible to blind people. What magic has this man carried out in order to make this possible? Thanks to Voice Over technology, we as blind people can now navigate a touch screen and thanks to Larry Lewis of Flying Blind, I can now use my IPad to keep in closer touch with the world. You see, I am presently receiving some expert training from Larry with a product called the Braille Pen.

I am using my Braille Pen which simulates taps to navigate around my IPad. I can do everything that a sighted person can and I can hear everything as I use my Braille Pen. The Braille Pen is made up of a keypad that is like a braille keypad on a Perkins Brailler. There are six keys for writing, a joystick for navigating among and around icons, and combinations of keys to simulate movements.

It is my hope and that of other blind people that Apple's lead will be followed by other manufacturers and that this will make it much more affordable for us to be able to purchase mainstream technology without having to incur additional costs for access technology. If Steve Jobs and Apple can do it, then surely! It can be done by others.

I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day. If you'd like to learn more about me, then you can visit some of my blog spots at:
Donna Jodhan! Advocating accessibility for all:
Weekly Saturday postings on issues of accessibility:
blogs on various issues and answers to consumers concerns:

Technology Barriers for Blind Kids

by Donna J. Jodhan

As more and more toy companies continue to flood the market with new and improved ways for kids to learn and interact, the adverse effect could be said when it comes to the plight of blind kids. For example, blind kids are unable to take advantage of all of those wonderful educational toys such as the ones that teach kids how to read, write, count, and spell. Those wonderful pictionary games are out of the reach of blind kids, and learning by seeing is just not in the cards for blind children.

This is not really anyone's fault. It is just how the ball bounces and it is practically impossible for us to hold technology back. It could be compared to trying to pin a wave to the golden sand. Not possible. So, with all of this in mind, how can we make it a better world for our blind kids? What can we do in order to try and narrow the gap? A blind kid is no different when it comes to wanting to be a part of technology and play with technology. They like their sighted counterparts yearn to learn, understand, and play. They yearn to interact with the big TV screen just like any other kid and they yearn to be a part of the world of technology.

Progress has been made but we need to see more innovation on the part of all stakeholders.

If you would like to see what types of games and toys are available to blind kids, look at the games catagory of this blog.

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, June 08, 2012

Use a Soap Pump as a Mess-Free Toothpaste Dispenser

If you share your bathroom with a spouse or siblings, one of the most disgusting ways the sink gets dirty is from globs of toothpaste left behind by the people who brushed their teeth before you. Thankfully, the solution is simple.

The solution? A simple, $1 soap pump from the dollar store. Load it up with the toothpaste of your choice, put it next to the sink, and enjoy greater control of where the toothpaste is going, and your cleaner sink.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Great Resources for Young Braille Readers!

Did You Know that the Early Braille Trade Books Website has a link to Building on Patterns? Log on to see what books your young braille reader can now enjoy reading independently. If you just purchased Building on Patterns: Second Grade: Unit 4, your student now has 17 books from the Early Braille Trade Books Collection to choose from. There are 29 additional titles that are "An Almost Perfect Match"—within 1-4 contractions. The website is free, accessible, and a great tool to use to match books to a student’s knowledge of braille contractions.

Guide Dog Association Has Innovative Hotline

The National Association of Guide Dog Users (NAGDU) Information & Advocacy Hotline not only offers information about the training and use of guide dogs and the legal rights of individuals who use service animals, it offers the option to speak with an advocate who is trained to mediate issues of discrimination.

The NAGDU Education & Advocacy Hotline currently offers general information about service animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as well as specific guidance concerning restaurants, taxicabs, and health care facilities. Future plans for the hotline include summaries of each of the state laws concerning service animals, more industry specific information, and guidance in a variety of languages, such as Mandarin and Arabic. The Hotline is available anytime by calling, toll-free, 888-NAGDU411 (888-624-3841).

The NAGDU Education & Advocacy Hotline was created by a grant from the National Federation of the Blind’s (NFB) Imagination Fund, as well as with contributions from the California and Florida Associations of Guide Dog Users.

NAGDU conducts public awareness campaigns on issues of guide dog use, provides advocacy support for guide dog handlers who face discrimination, supports sound policy and effective legislation to protect the rights of service animal users, offers educational programs to school and civic organizations, and functions as an integral part of the National Federation of the Blind. For more information about the National Association of Guide Dog Users click this link to visit HTTP://WWW.NAGDU.ORG or send an email message to Info@NAGDU.ORG.

How I Navigate My Freezer

by Donna J. Jodhan

It's really not that difficult; the only difference is that I use tactile methods to do this plus super organization. In addition, whenever anyone goes into my freezer to retrieve anything, they need to know that everything needs to be repacked in the same way that it was found or else I'll be in big trouble the next time I go hunting for something in my freezer.

I pack all my packages of chicken on one side of my freezer. Pork is on the other side. Beef and fish are in the middle. Boxes are labeled in Braille. Packages of vegetables are banished to the door of my freezer and I use tape to distinguish between them. I do not have to worry too much about bacon and sausages. Their shapes are enough to help me out.

I do not think that this is too much different from what a well organized sighted person would do when it comes to organizing their freezer. There are several other techniques that blind people can use when working with their freezers.

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:

How to Make Keypads More Accessible to the Blind and Partially Sighted

by Donna J. Jodhan

How can companies make their keypads more accessible to those who are blind and partially sighted? It is really not too difficult and the answer has indeed been around for many years.

If you were to pay attention to such things as telephone keypads and calculators as an example, you will notice that in almost all cases, there is a small raised bump on the #5 key. In some cases, there may also be a raised bump on the #0 key. These bumps enable a blind person to quickly orient themselves to the keypad.

Of course, there are other tricks to the trade. Some keypads may have small cuts to certain keys that enable a blind person to find their way around quickly. Some keypads have keys that are a bit larger than normal and if you expand this topic, you will find that some keyboards also employ other types of strategies.

I recently came across a keyboard that has a sunken circle to indicate the Windows key. Some keyboards also have spaces between groups of keys to help orientation. Example; after the f1, f2, f3, and f4 keys on an IBM keyboard, there is a space. Then the pattern is repeated after the f8 key, and again after the f12 key. On this same keyboard, the f and j keys have raised cuts on their bottom edges.

This is how it is done. This is how one can make their keypad more user friendly to blind and partially sighted users.

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:

BlindSquare: App Uses Foursquare Data to Help the Blind Navigate Streets

The 20 million+ people on Foursquare have created an incredibly detailed crowdsourced directory. BlindSquare is an IOS app that’s making use of Foursquare’s two billion check-ins worldwide to help blind pedestrians find locations on foot or while using public transportation.

BlindSquare integrates Foursquare data with Apple’s native VoiceOver technology to create a location-based virtual map through sound. When the app is enabled, it reads addresses, street names and surrounding locations aloud. Directions are available on demand.

The technology was built to help blind individuals in unfamiliar areas. BlindSquare draws a map of information about surrounding streets, crossings and services nearby. Categories within the app include arts and entertainment, colleges, food, great outdoors, nightlife spots, residences, shops and travel. Foursquare map points show up ranked by number of check-ins.

The app was tested with blind individuals in Finland, the U.S. and Australia. One of the volunteers who tested the app used an iControlPad bluetooth gaming control to navigate within the app. The BlindSquare user attached the control to a guide dog’s harness.

The application is available for global use or wherever Foursquare data is available. The app also utilizes data from OpenStreetMap, a wiki-map of the world that anyone can edit. The app with speech synthesis technology supports 26 languages including English, Finnish and Swedish. The app even lets individuals who can’t see the screen check in to Foursquare. Just shake the device and you hear where you are [at] an address, or nearest crossing. If you are at some Foursquare place, you can re-shake to check in.

For more about the BlindSquare app, click this link to read the user guide at Google Docs.
Click here to purchase the app from the Apple iTunes Store.

Subscribe to receive posts via email

* indicates required

Browse Articles by Subject

Follow us on Twitter


Write for us

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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