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, September 27, 2012

What happened to the recorded World Book Encyclopedia?

Every so often, we receive interesting questions from visitors that we would like to share with everyone. This question, concerning the recorded World Book Encyclopedia, and its answer, give a great overview of a part of APH history. 

"Hi, I was hoping you could tell me what became of the recorded version of the World Book Encyclopedia. I remember using it in school, as best as I can remember it was the 1980 edition or thereabouts. It needed a special kind of player to use it, not a regular talking book cassette player. You looked up in the index (which was a couple dozen fat braile volumes with cassettes in the front and back) and when you put the cassette in the machine you had a couple of dials to turn to the right number/letter combination to find the article you wanted on the four tracks of the cassette. The machine was big and heavy like the books of the index.

I realize that with the internet this talking encyclopedia is obsolete or close to it, but I remember how much I liked using it when I was growing up and I wondered whatever happened to it, whether any later versions were recorded, etc. I cannot find a single bit of information online about it, so that's why I'm writing to you.

 The answer provided by our Museum Director, Mike Hudson:

You've got the date spot-on.  The recorded version of the 1980 World Book came out in 1981 from APH, and it used a special player that allowed you to use the encyclopedia's indexing features.  It was a major project here at APH for several years.  As far as I know, it was the only attempt ever to record an entire encyclopedia in the U.S.  APH put out annual yearbooks, which in the old days was the way that you kept your encyclopedia up to date, until 1985.  At that point, sales had declined, and the product was discontinued.  Although there has been occasional interest in reviving the concept of a recorded encyclopedia, the accessibility of the electronic versions of the various encyclopedias has improved to the point where a narrated version might never happen again.  We have copies of the cassettes and players on display in our museum, and perhaps in the future we may post a sample of the audio on our website.  Good question!

Physical Blindness VS Mental Blindness

by Lumi Hinata
My maternal grandfather became legally blind when I was young (3) years old only to become totally blind a few years later. I watched him become completely proficient over the years. He went from bumping into objects, feeling wall-to-wall to find his way around to making his own meals and going on vacations out of the country. Although he may have had feelings about never being able to see his grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and all those important images in life, he never once complained. He never once gave up on himself. Up until the day he returned to the essence, he was one of the strongest members of my family. If you looked up perseverance in the dictionary, you would surely find his face next to it.

We all depend on our power senses - sight, hear, taste, touch, smell. Each one serves a particular purpose and when we end up losing one of these senses, we become forced to replace that sense in order to elevate. Case in point - my grandfather lost his vision in not only one, but both eyes. As a result, he was forced to 'focus' more on the remaining senses. Using touch to feel where utensils were in the kitchen and he would remember perfume scents to determine which female family member was near him. If you ever have the privilege of being around someone who is visually impaired you will see how perceptive they are. You could never sneak up on him, he could hear a mile away. So, although he suffered from physical blindness, he found ways to better his condition because he had the mind-set to move on. He knew within himself that he still wanted to travel and live out his dreams to the fullest. But, what happens when a person is lacking 'knowledge of self'? My grandfather clinically was diagnosed as someone with "NLP" or "no light perception", so no matter how he tried, he could not see any form of light. In regards to someone who is lacking 'knowledge of self' they also suffer from "NLP". They have not discovered how to find the light in themselves therefore it is a foreign thought to them.

"He keeps them blind to themselves"

When an individual is 'physically blind' they devise ways to adapt to their surroundings. Now when a person is 'mentally blind' they allow other people of authority around them to construct ways for them to live because they do not see the importance in self. They trust everyone else before themselves. Think of terms that deal with the word "blind". There's "blind date"and "blind spot". A blind date can and has led to a person being completely disappointed. A blind spot can be the reason why you just got into a car accident. So the term 'blind' in itself means "a lack of knowledge'. Why would someone choose to KEEP you blind? Obviously they want to hide a filthy affair of theirs. Why would they choose to KEEP you blind to YOURSELF? Well, a person that does not know their own strengths becomes the perfect pawn in another's game. People will plant fear in you. Why? Because you fear what you cannot physically SEE! "See" is the understanding degree in the Supreme Alphabet. We cannot begin to understand our value if we are busy looking at everyone else around us. We must be perceptive in terms of knowing what we want and what we need in life. We don't want someone else to be able to say they can master us because we are deaf, dumb and what? Blind. We should not be speaking anyone else's language UNLESS it is the Universal greeting of Peace.

A visually impaired man or woman understands that there are currents real cold and warm and some swift and changeable, meaning they can come up on anything. They can encounter a street curb, someone riding too fast on a bicycle and can hit them, a street light not working properly. Anything goes. I remember a waiter in a restaurant tried to cheat my grandfather out of money but unknown to the waiter, my grandfather folded certain $10 bills one way and $20 bills another and so on, so he called the waiter on it! So although he couldn't see, he developed a way to stay swift regardless to whom or what. He didn't take what they waiter said on face value. The waiter was on some "devilishment type (mental)ity", so if you ask me do I hope to see the Gods take the Devil into heel in the very near future, I say INDEED! Its already in the making.

Needless to say, lose no time searching for a way to find your true self. It goes beyond knowing what your favorite food is or favorite color, but really getting to the essence of what you are about, therefore no one else can define YOU by making you blind to yourself and more importantly no one can trick you.

Blindspace: an Accessible Social Network

About the social networking site Blindspace:

If you are looking for a totally free social network for the blind and visually impaired, then why not check out Blindspace. Blindspace, is a social network designed for those who are blind and or visually impaired, to connect with one another and talk about whatever they want for free. Some of the features include, an accessible facebook style chatroom, private messaging, profiles, message boards, and a whole lot more. We have a great team of people that are willing to help you anytime, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. For more information about Blindspace, or to sign up for an account, visit our website, at

Friday, September 21, 2012

Test Ready: Plus Reading Book 4 through 6

Picture of Test Ready: Plus Reading Book 6 Teacher's Guide

Test Ready: Plus Reading now includes books 4, 5, and 6!

Book 4: Student Book
Book 4: Teacher's Guide

Book 5: Student Book
Book 5: Teacher's Guide

Book 6: Student Book
Book 6: Teacher's Guide

This test prep series offers practice for today's standards-based assessments for grade levels 3 through 12.

Test Ready®: Plus Reading provides preparation and review, in as little as two weeks before testing day. It also provides a program of instruction and remediation.

Students practice test-taking skills for:
  • Recalling information
  • Constructing meaning
  • Evaluating literary forms
  • Interpreting fact & opinion
  • Evaluating & extending meaning
Test Ready: Plus Reading is a review program that provides practice in test-taking skills in reading comprehension and open-ended writing tasks.

In just 14 days, students can be test ready with:
  • Timed pretest to diagnose skills gaps
  • Standards-based skill-specific lessons
  • Timed mixed-practice post-test, mirroring pretest to show growth

Accessible Formats

The APH Teacher Guides and Student Books are available in several accessible formats, so that the entire class can work on math together in a multi-media approach. The large print and braille editions include a CD with an .html file and a Digital Talking Book (DTB) file with built-in player.

The large print student edition includes a specially formatted large print answer document. However, it is recommended that each student have a book in his or her preferred reading medium, and should feel free to mark answers in the test books. Used this way, the student books become consumable items.

Note: Copies of regular print Teacher Guides and Student Books are available from the publisher at: Curriculum Associates, Inc., 153 Rangeway Road, North Billerica, MA 01862-0901, 800-225-0248, Fax: 800-366-1158,

 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:

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Getting To Know You: a Curriculum for Social Skills/Ability Awareness

Picture of Getting To Know You kit front cover, girl with white cane and boy smiling

Description by Burt Boyer

Since the 1990s, educators and related service personnel who teach students who are blind or visually impaired have come to recognize the importance of teaching social skills.  Professionals and families understand that social skills instruction for students with visual impairments provides them with the tools to interact and play effectively, develop and maintain friendships, effectively interpret non-verbal cues from others, and successfully seek and maintain employment and independent living opportunities as adults.

The original curriculum was developed for use with high school students with visual impairments and their sighted peers and was later adapted for kindergarten through middle school so that it spanned the entire school age spectrum.  For purposes of this curriculum, “social skills” is defined as those skills needed to interact successfully with other individuals.  “Ability awareness” is defined as understanding the techniques needed and used by a person with a visual impairment to accomplish everyday tasks. 

All of the lesson plans included in this curriculum are designed to be user-friendly.  Each lesson contains a clearly stated objective, skills addressed, an introduction, a list of materials needed, and a systematic explanation of the activities.  An icon at the top of each page identifies whether the lesson is about social skills, ability awareness, or a combination of the two.  The curriculum is divided into three groups:  kindergarten through second grade, third through fifth grade, and middle/high school.  This product supports the Expanded Core Curriculum.

The Kit includes:

- Facial Recognition Cards
- Go Fish Cards
- Bingo Cards with Tokens
- Through Grandpa's Eyes in print and braille
- Three Low-Vision Simulators: 20/200, 20/400, Tunnel Vision
- Adhesive Picture Labels
- Airline-Style Sleep Mask
- Getting to Know You Guidebook
- APH Innovations Tote Bag

Catalog number: 1-08052-00

Friday, September 14, 2012

How Can Distance Learning Be Made More Accessible?

By Donna J. Jodhan

I'd like to answer the following frequently asked question: 

How can distance learning be made more accessible to blind and visually impaired people?

Many blind students today continue to face huge barriers when it comes to being able to take advantage of distance learning classes.  Many professors are often at a loss as to how to make their courses more accessible to blind and partially sighted students.  Believe it or not, there is a happy medium and I'd like to offer some suggestions.

The first thing to remember is that accessibility should be viewed through the eyes and ears of the student and not through those of the professor.  Each individual has a unique or specific need and no two students are alike.  A good start would be as follows:

1. Make sure that your student can access web content on your website independently.  That is, that the student does not have to depend on sighted assistance to navigate the website.  

2. Make sure that your forms are accessible.  That is, that the student can read it with their access technology; screen readers and screen magnifiers and they would need to ask for sighted assistance to do so. 

3. Make sure that your student can use these forms to do such things as request and search for information, and complete tasks without having to ask for sighted assistance.

4. Your student should be able to obtain information in alternate formats; braille, large print, in MSword, HTML, RTF, and TXT versions of files. 

5. Documents and files should be made available on CDs and/or flash drives.

6. Your student should be able to complete online exams without having to seek sighted assistance and they should be given additional time to do so if they require it.

7. If the student is required to write their exams at a center, the center should be equipped with the required access technology.  That is, whichever hardware the student uses along with the appropriate software. 

8.  Videos should contain adequate audio description. 

I hope that these points can help to give you a good start.  It is not as daunting as you may think.

I'm Donna J. Jodhan. 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)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Organizing Jewelry

Many women have loads and loads of jewelry: dressy, casual, costume, gold, silver, and so on. Sometimes it is hard for women to keep all this jewelry organized. Imagine how hard it is, then, for a blind or visually impaired woman to organize her jewelry!

Here are some hints that have greatly helped me in organizing my gobs of jewelry.

The biggest suggestion I have is to buy yourself a good, large jewelry box with multiple drawers and separators. This jewelry box is similar to the one I own. 

Why I like it:

-It has two doors, one on either side, for hanging necklaces. You can hang silver-chained necklaces on one side, and gold necklaces on the other, for instance.
-The top flips up to reveal multiple rows of cushions for rings, as well as an open compartment on either side. I keep expensive/dressy rings on one row, casual rings on another, class rings on another, and so forth. Gold on the left, silver on the right, with a space in between so I know where one ends and the other begins.
-There are 5 drawers. The top drawer in my jewelry case has six different slots. I put dressy gold in one, dressy silver in another, and casual silver and casual gold in the remaining four. I separate the casual jewelry by hoops or dangly earrings with backs.
-The next drawer down has four compartments. I typically separate earrings in that drawer by color or type of earring. See below for more tips on earrings.
-The lower drawers are larger. They are perfect for bracelets or other items of jewelry.

More Earring Hints:

It is essential to know the shapes and colors of your earrings. Try not to buy the same earring in two different colors. Make sure your hoop earrings are different sizes and textures.

Earrings that dangle are trickier. Some earrings only have teeny-tiny rubber backs that can be impossible to put on an earring. Worse yet, try finding one of those things on carpet if you drop it. So frustrating! Luckily, there are other types of earring backs that are much easier to handle. sells earring backs that haveround, plastic disks on them. These, although they are still small, are much easier to hold on to and handle.

These are just some of the ways to make organizing jewelry simpler and easier.

Do you have a suggestion for how to organize jewelry? Leave a comment!

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.