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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Friday, August 31, 2012

Those Little Dots Often Save Me

By Donna J. Jodhan

If you take a moment to look at your computer keyboard or even the keypad on your home phone or your cell phone, you should see that more often than not, certain keys are marked with either a dot or some sort of cut edge.  For the phone's keypad, there is often a raised dot on the #5 key and on several computer keyboards, there are cut edges placed on certain keys such as the f and j keys.  Some phone keypads may even have a raised dot on the #0 key as well and I do believe that some remotes are similarly configured; either with a dot, a raised edge, or keys of different shapes.

In the normal scheme of things, there are many blind persons who depend on these very subtle indicators to help them quickly locate keys on their keypads.  Keys with dots, cut or raised edges, and keys with different shapes often save me from pressing the wrong key and I am grateful for them.  Now, if only we could find a way to standardize all keypads in this way and if it is already a standard then I do apologize.  Blind persons need keypads to help them communicate with their devices; they are unable to use devices with touch screens.  What would be ideal is if manufacturers were to come up with accessible ways for blind persons to be able to communicate with touch screens.
I'm Donna J. Jodhan your freelance writer and reporter 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)
(Weekly features on how to increase your success with your business ventures)

The History of Labor Day

Have you ever wanted to know why we celebrate Labor Day? It traditionally marks the end of summer and is celebrated with a day off work, parades, and cookouts, but where did it all start?

During the Industrial Revolution in America, workers' rights became a tense issue for many: 12-hour working days, no days off (7 day work week), very low pay, unsafe working conditions, and child labor all contributed to workers' fears and concerns. On September 5, 1882, 10,000 workers marched in New York City, on the first Monday in September. This became a popular tradition, but it wasn't until the deadly Pullman Strike of 1894 did Congress make Labor Day a Federal holiday.

To learn more about the history of Labor Day, visit The History Channel's History of Labor Day page.

On the site, you will find:
  • Labor Day History: This section breaks down into four parts, with each bringing you a different facet of Labor Day history.
    • How did we come to celebrate Labor Day?
    • What events took place that influenced labor history?
    • What is International Labor Day (or May Day) celebrated on May 1?
    • Why do we celebrate Labor Day in September?
  • Labor Leaders: Here you will learn about the men who may have proposed that the holiday be celebrated. No one knows for sure who founded the holiday, but you can learn about the men who most likely did here. This section breaks down into five parts, each dedicated to a different person or organization that has made a difference in the way labor is looked at. From labor laws to riots, these men surely influenced change.
  • Video: Here you will find eight videos on Labor Day history, including the new industrial revolution, child labor and more.
  • Image Gallery: Here you will find ten images from parades, factories, fields and strikes that color the history of labor in America. Not too exciting for us screen reader visitors, but nice for the low vision folks.
  • Poll: Here you can take a poll on whether or not you think the minimum wage should be increased.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Bullying Prevention Resources

In recent years, bullying has become a major topic across the nation. Media outlets, governments, educators, parents, and the social media world have all given increased attention and importance to this topic. In my opinion, it has unfortunately become somewhat of a fad for celebrities to claim that they were once bullied. This detracts from the real issue of serious, damaging bullying. Listed below are several resources for students and educators related to bullying. The first few are directly related to the bullying of people with disabilities. I hope these resources could help stop at least one child who is blind from being tripped down a set of steps. 

Thank you to Monica Turner for gathering the information!

This paper from 2011 details the reasons why students with disabilities are prone to bullying. It describes the harmful effects bullying has on children, specifically those with disabilities. Finally, it outlines specific ways Congress and the White House can address the situation.

Described and Captioned Media Programs' website on bullying -  This website is a helpful resource for students, parents, and teachers concerning the bullying of children with disabilities. DCMP also includes 10 tips for parents whose blind or visually impaired child is being bullied. - A federal government website managed by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, provides information from various government agencies on what bullying is, what cyberbullying is, who is at risk, and how you can prevent and respond to bullying

Founded in 2006, PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center unites, engages and educates communities nationwide to address bullying through creative, relevant and interactive resources. PACER’s bullying prevention resources are designed to benefit all students, including students with disabilities.

Kidpower Teenpower Fullpower International, known as Kidpower for short, is a global nonprofit leader in personal safety and violence prevention education, which has served over two million people of all ages and abilities across six continents since its founding in 1989. Instead of using fear to teach about violence prevention, the Kidpower Method makes it fun to learn to be safe, building habits that can increase the safety of young people and adults alike and that can last a lifetime.

 The National Crime Prevention Council’s mission is to be the nation's leader in helping people keep themselves, their families, and their communities safe from crime. NCPC provides information and resources to help prevent the serious problem of bullying.

Suicide Prevention Resources

Suicide is a serious issue that affects many people throughout the country today. People with disabilities often face depression and stress, which can sometimes lead to suicidal thoughts. The main goal of all the resources in this list is to prevent suicide and help people find other ways to cope. Additionally, several of these resources are geared towards young people and educators. 

Thank you to Monica Turner for gathering these great resources. 

Suicide Prevention Resource Center’s (SPRC) mission is to train service providers, educators, health professionals, public officials, and community-based coalitions to develop effective suicide prevention programs and policies. SPRC offers free, self-paced, online courses.

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, Classroom Curriculum on Youth Suicide Prevention - Working with health educators from around the state, DPI has created a model health class curriculum for middle and high school that meets all the requirements in state law. You can download these curricula as well as learn about additional reasons to educate students, how to educate them in a way that doesn’t raise risk factors, and ways to connect your classroom education to other activities in your school.


 SOS Signs of Suicide® Prevention Program (SOS) - SOS Signs of Suicide® Prevention Program is an award-winning, nationally recognized program designed for middle and high school-age students. The program teaches students how to identify the symptoms of depression and suicidality in themselves or their friends, and encourages help-seeking through the use of the ACT® technique (Acknowledge, Care, Tell).

Linking Education and Awareness for Depression and Suicide (LEADS) for Youth is a school-based suicide prevention curriculum designed for high schools and educators that links depression awareness and suicide prevention. LEADS for Youth is an informative and interactive opportunity for students and teachers to increase knowledge and awareness of depression and suicide.

American Association of Suicidology (AAS) is a membership organization for all those involved in suicide prevention and intervention or who have been touched by suicide. AAS is a leader in the advancement of scientific and programmatic efforts in suicide prevention through research, education and training, the development of standards and resources, and survivor support services.


The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Since its inception, the Lifeline has engaged in a variety of initiatives to improve crisis services and advance suicide prevention.  By calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) you’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has been at the forefront of a wide range of suicide prevention initiatives -- each designed to reduce loss of life from suicide. This organization is investing in groundbreaking research, new educational campaigns, innovative demonstration projects and critical policy work. They are also expanding their assistance to people whose lives have been affected by suicide, reaching out to offer support and offering opportunities to become involved in prevention.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

2012 Toys"R"Us Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids

Children with disabilities have been the focus of the Toys “R” Us Toy Guide for Differently Abled Kids for 20 years, and the latest issue is better than ever.

The 2012 guide is chock-full of appropriate toys grouped by skill sets that apply to children with physical, developmental or cognitive disabilities. This year, the guide also includes safe play tips just for kids with special needs to avoid playtime injurie, as well as the National Lekotek Center's list of Top Ten Tips for Buying Toys.
The toys are not grouped by disability, nor is age-appropriateness suggested overtly in the guide. As parents of special needs children know all too well, disability doesn’t define ability. Rather, symbols are used to gather toys by the skills they encourage. And every toy fits into at least two categories, which include auditory, language, social, creativity and more.
The National Lekotek Center, which evaluates hundreds of toys on their suitability for children with physical, cognitive or developmental disabilities, collaborated on the project to find toys worthy of inclusion. According to criteria evaluated during therapeutic play sessions, the center identified those toys having exceptional educational and developmental qualities for the guide.

Here are some of the questions the professionals at the National Lekotek Center asked themselves when making decisions about which toys would most benefit children with special needs. You can use them to help guide your choices whenever you purchase toys for your child.
  • Multi-sensory appeal: Does the toy respond with lights, sounds or movement to engage the child? Are there contrasting colors? Does it have a scent? Is there texture?
  • Method of activation: Will the toy provide a challenge without frustration? What is the force required to activate? What are the number and complexity of steps required for activation?
  • Places the toy will be used: Will the toy be easy to store? Is there space in the home? Can the toy be used in a variety of positions such as side-lying or on a wheelchair tray?
  • Opportunities for success: Can play be open-ended with no definite right or wrong way? Is it adaptable to the child's individual style, ability and pace?
  • Current popularity: Is it a toy that will help the child with special needs feel like "any other kid?"  Does it tie in with other activities, like books and art sets, that promote other forms of play?
  • Self-expression: Does the toy allow for creativity, uniqueness and making choices? Will it give the child experience with a variety of media?
  • Adjustability: Does it have adjustable height, sound volume, speed and level of difficulty?
  • Child's individual abilities: Does the toy provide activities that reflect both developmental and chronological ages?  Does it reflect the child's interests and age?
  • Safety and durability: Does the toy fit with the child's size and strength? Does it have moisture resistance?  Are the toy and its parts sized appropriately? Can it be washed and cleaned?
  • Potential for interaction: Will the child be an active participant during use?  Will the toy encourage social engagement with others?
Additionally, over the past several years, celebrities have endorsed the guide and appeared on its cover. Celebrities such as Whoopi Goldberg, Maria Shriver, and Marlee Matlin have been involved. This year, the TV host Nancy O'Dell is on the cover.

The 2012 Toy Guide for Differently Abled Kids is available for free at all Toys "R" US and Babies "R" Us locations. You can also download the guide from the information page.

2012 American Grants and Loans Catalog

Press Release:

The American Grants and Loans Catalog is now available. Our new and revised 2012 edition contains more than 2800 financial programs, subsidies, scholarships, grants and loans offered by the US federal government. In addition you will also have access to over 2400 programs funded by private corporations and foundations. That is over 5200 programs available through various sources of financial providing organizations.
NEW: You will also have access to our live Database that is updated on a daily basis. This product also provides daily email alerts as programs are announced. The Database is also available with IP recognition. This allows you to login without a username or password (Great for libraries or educational institutions who want their users to access the database).

Businesses, students, researchers, scientists, teachers, doctors, private individuals, municipalities, government departments, educational institutions, law enforcement agencies, nonprofits, foundations and associations will find a wealth of information that will help them with their new ventures or existing projects.

The document is a fully searchable PDF file for easy access to your particular needs and interests. Simply enter your keywords to search through the publication. It is the perfect tool for libraries and educational institutions to use as a reference guide for students who require funds to pursue their education.
Contents of the Directory:
  • Web link to program announcement page
  • Web link to Federal agency or foundation administering the program
  • Authorization upon which a program is based
  • Objectives and goals of the program
  • Types of financial assistance offered under a program
  • Uses and restrictions placed upon a program
  • Eligibility requirements
  • Application and award process
  • Regulations, guidelines and literature relevant to a program
  • Information contacts at the headquarters, regional, and local offices
  • Programs that are related based upon program objectives and uses
Programs in the Catalog provide a wide range of benefits and services for categories such as:
  • Agriculture
  • Business and Commerce
  • Community Development
  • Consumer Protection
  • Cultural Affairs
  • Disaster Prevention and Relief
  • Education
  • Employment, Labor and Training
  • Energy
  • Environmental Quality
  • Food and Nutrition
  • Health
  • Housing
  • Income Security and Social Services
  • Information and Statistics
  • Law, Justice, and Legal Services
  • Natural Resources
  • Regional Development
  • Science and Technology
  • Transportation

CD version: $69.95
Printed version: $149.95

To order please call: 1 (888) 341-8645

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Brief History of Early Talking Books and Players

Audio—or "talking"—books are an extremely popular way for people who are blind and visually impaired to read. The BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download) website is one of several ways that someone can download accessible books. Talking books have evolved over the years, and so too have the machines used to play them. APH's Museum Director, Mike Hudson, gives us a brief history of the first talking books and talking book players.


The first talking books in America were created for the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) in 1933-34.  They were recorded at 33 1/3 rpm, a format that had been developed specifically for talking books, so that the book would require fewer discs than on the traditional phonograph record of the period, which played at 78 rpm.  Those first talking book records would play on any commercially available phonograph that featured the new speed.  The first talking book produced for AFB was Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

The American Printing House for the Blind (APH) began recording talking books in 1936-37.  Our first book was Gulliver's Travels.

Almost from the beginning, the AFB released special phonographs they called Talking Book Reproducers.  Essentially, these machines were similar to commercially available models, but were available at reduced prices.  According to AFB literature from 1934, their S-10 model, which was spring powered, sold for $22, and model AC-11 for alternating electric current, sold for $35 plus $2 for headphones.  We have both models in our museum collection. 

Later models of talking book phonographs had features like variable speed, tone adjustment, and lightweight arms.  The records themselves evolved from 33 1/3 rpm to 16 2/3 rpm, to 8 1/3 rpm by the 1980s.  The records would always play normally on most modern phonographs, as long as the machine featured the correct rpm adjustment.


Since the 1980s, talking book players have rapidly changed from phonographs to cassette tape players. Now, talking books are on USB cartridges that can be played on digital players. Or, as is the case with the BARD website, audio files can be downloaded from the web onto a thumb drive.

Much has changed since the days of 33 1/3 rpm phonograph records. The future is leading to the complete digitization of talking books, which will lead to even more change for devices for playing talking books.

Thankfully, the Museum of APH takes care of machines like the one pictured below, ensuring that future generations will always know the early history of talking books and talking book machines.

picture of first talking book player from AFB "is a global science gateway—accelerating scientific discovery and progress through a multilateral partnership to enable federated searching of national and international scientific databases and portals." In terms that the rest of us can understand, this website is a way for researchers, scientists, students, and science enthusiasts to search worldwide science databases all at once. Instead of traipsing the World Wide Web, going through multiple search engines, and spending way too much time looking for one thing, this website allows you to search only once to find what you are looking for. Instead of getting a search result for what John Doe thinks of astronomy, this website will only give you the most accurate, legitimate results. In addition, a traditional search engine could not find many of these results.

The U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Scientific and Technical Information, as a member of the Worldwide Science Alliance, runs the website. This project was started by the United States and the United Kingdom, but has since grown to over 70 participating countries.

For example, I searched for "Leber's Congenital Amaurosis," a genetic eye condition. Be aware that the results do not appear nearly as fast as Google search results, but the results were very accurate. You can narrow your search criteria by year, publication, publisher, author, or subject. Results in other languages can also be translated. Many of the results were published papers by eye experts. The site also gives you the option to receive automatic updates on your search terms, similar to a Google Alert but much more focused.

This resource may be too much for someone just interested in browsing, but if you really want some details on a scientific subject, this is the place to go.

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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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