Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

2015 Hall of Fame for the Blindness Field Nominations are Now Being Accepted

Hall of Fame for the Blindness Field logo

Who should be the next inductees in to the Hall of Fame for the Blindness Field

"The Hall of Fame for Leaders and Legends of the Blindness Field is dedicated to preserving, honoring, and promoting the tradition of excellence manifested by the specific individuals inducted into the Hall of Fame and through the history of outstanding services provided to people who are blind or visually impaired."

The nomination process is easy and can be done electronically. Submissions are due by March 27, 2015.

What are the criteria?

  • Persons who have made significant contributions to improve the lives of those who are blind or visual impaired in such areas as professional practice, research, writing, leadership, direct service, and/or in their professional organizations.

Who is Eligible?

  • Persons are eligible five years after departure/retirement from positions where their significant lifetime body of work was made.
  • Individuals from North America are eligible for nomination. (North America is defined as US, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean).
Questions?  Contact:

Jane Erin, Chair, Hall of Fame Governing Board,
Bob Brasher, Curator, Hall of Fame,

Monday, October 27, 2014

Parenting with a Visual Impairment

Parenting with a Visual Impairment book from APH
Parenting with a Visual Impairment: Advice for Raising Babies and Young Children, a new book and CD set from APH, shares helpful tips, techniques, attitudes, and preparatory experiences from successful parents who are blind and visually impaired.

The parents in Parenting with a Visual Impairment: Advice for Raising Babies and Young Children each completed an extensive written questionnaire and a 90-minute phone interview about how they accomplished parenting tasks using non-visual techniques.

Book Summarizes Parents' Responses:
  • Decided to have children
  • Prepared to become parents
  • Acquired information about pregnancy and childbirth
  • Fed, diapered, and kept their newborns clean
  • Read to, played with, and visually stimulated their infants
  • Child proofed their homes and monitored their babies
  • Managed fevers, medications, and medical care
  • Taught colors, print letters & numbers, and drawing
  • Monitored and kept their toddlers safe indoors and outdoors
  • Traveled independently with their young children
  • Dealt with reactions of medical care providers, family, and the public at large
  • Handled attitudes of day-care staff, preschool teachers, and their child’s friends

  • Provides family and Consumer Science students with visual impairments with information pertinent to their own lives as visually-impaired parents-to-be
  • Helps transition students realize that their visual impairment should not stop them from including parenthood in their future plans
  • Gives teachers an accurate picture of how blind adults take care of children so that teachers can impart this positive self-image to visually impaired students
  • Gives adults who have lost vision tools to continue to care for their children
  • Shows medical service, psychology, social work, counseling, protective service, and legal professionals how adults with visual impairments using alternate skill sets parent their children effectively
  • Corrects the negative stereotypes about parents with visual impairments, which have, even in the 21st century, resulted in a newborn’s removal from her parents solely because both parents were blind  

*Note: The braille version (catalog # 6-00100-00) is available, but must be ordered by phone for now. It will be available online soon.

Order online or call 1-800-223-1839.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

In Memoriam: Fred L. Gissoni

Fred Gissoni portrait

We are mourning the loss of the incomparable Fred L. Gissoni, who passed away Sunday, September 21, 2014 at the age of 84. Fred contributed 60 years of service to people who are blind and visually impaired. Fred was known across the United States and around the world for his brilliant intellect, inventiveness, and impish sense of humor. Before coming to APH in 1988, he retired from what was then called the Kentucky Department for the Blind.

Fred served for 23 years at APH, retiring in 2011 from our Customer Relations Department, but his legacy will live on for years to come. He helped create several products for people who are blind, including creating a prototype device that would eventually lead to APH's Braille 'n Speak. For his work on this device, Fred, along with Wayne Thompson, was the recipient of APH's "Creative Use of Braille Award" in 1998.

Fred had an encyclopedic knowledge of the blindness field. He would usually be able to answer customer questions immediately. He was very generous with his time, and patient with customers of all skill levels. Fred's world of knowledge eventually became what is now this blog. He is a legend, and he will be greatly missed.

Read a 2009 interview with Fred, which talks more about his career and legacy. 

Fred Gissoni touched innumerable lives during his life. Below are just a few comments from those people:

"Having worked with Fred in Customer Relations for over 16 years, I have far too many memories to share here. But suffice it to say, I could write a book of Fredisms. my first memory of him however, goes all the way back to my own middle school days. My parents had purchased our first computer. Someone referred us to Fred, so my father went and picked him up at his home and brought him to our house so that he could work with me hands on with the (then new) software that could make an Apple computer talk. The man was kind and patient and never, ever aged a day. So when I started work at APH as a 22-year-old many years later, his first question to me was, as if I were still in 11 year old, "how is your mommy and Pappy?" he never forgot a single detail about any person or any situation. I think it goes without saying that those of us who knew him and worked with him at APH will never run out of Fredisms to reminisce about. RIP Fred!"
"How can I begin to express how sad I am to hear that my wonderful friend and role model Fred is no longer with us. Fred knew me when I was a teenager who had just entered public school in the 11th grade. I needed his help with the Braille 'n Speak, and that's how our 23 year friendship began. He told me that I would receive a job teaching in a public school setting after I was so discouraged at the response I got from interviewing, "and I don't tell many people that" he said. He gave me a Janice slate for graduation from college, and business cards to use as labeling materials when I got my job. I still have that box full of cards 16 years later. "They hold up real well," he said, and I think of him every time I use them. He made such an impact in my life, and has given me the gift of helping people not feel like they are dumb when it comes to helping with technology or anything else for that matter. I'll never forget what you've done for me Fred. I hope I can impact students and people in the special and generous way you have that all of those you've touched."
"I have talked with Fred for so many years. Always so helpful. He had the most amazing voice. He will be missed."
"What an incredible loss. Fred will always hold a very special place in my heart... no matter the amount of time that passed between our conversations, he always knew my voice ... the California girlfriend ... I will so miss our conversations but I will smile whenever I think of you ... your emails and wonderful sense of humor. Rest in paradise, my friend. It is well-deserved!"
" I first knew about Fred when I got my first Braille'NSpeak. He helped me learn how to make a macro so I could address envelopes with it. He was the kindest, most patient man. When I worked for Center for Independent Living in Berkeley in the 90s, he agreed to speak to us. I don't remember the content of his talk, but his soul shown through in such an articulate manner. He never made me feel like a dope when I had a question. Be at peace, Fred."
" I met Fred several years ago when I was visiting APH, after hearing of him through a firend. His kindness and generosity came to me as I was adjusting to loss of vision. He later sent me a small tool and continued to answer questions and offer support. This genius of a gentleman will be missed and his memory and gifts treasured."
"A genius and a true gentlemen who will be missed."
"I will always remember how he "helped" and chided me at the same time with my old unit, once. I had managed to password protect a document and couldn't remember the password. So he had me repeat "I will not password protect my documents." a few times...then told me that I as kind of stuck.  Still made me laugh, even if I was disappointed. But you know what? It worked!I never password protected another document. LOL!"
If you have comments or memories of Fred that you would like to share, please leave a comment. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Developing Accessible Apps for People who are Deafblind

By Dr. Arun Mehta, Bapsi

Bapsi is a small NGO in India that seeks to help those with multiple disabilities via free and open source technologies, with a current focus on the needs of the deaf-blind. Earlier, they needed an iPhone with a braille display to communicate. With free apps from our Vibration series, they can use Android smartphones costing as little as $50 to be able to send and receive information independently. To someone completely lacking vision and hearing, the phone sends text by vibrating in Morse code.

Taking advantage of a grant from the Information SocietyInnovation Fund, we are conducting training in Morse code for trainers at the Helen Keller Institute for the Deaf and the Deaf-Blind in Mumbai. We are also developing apps for two major categories of the deaf-blind: 1) senior citizens, who often have low vision and poor hearing, and 2) pre-literate children. 

Narangi is an Android app designed with the help of friends at the HomiBhabha Center for Science Education. It lets you draw with your finger in black on orange, and also sense what you have drawn -- when you move your finger on the screen, the device vibrates when there is black color under your finger. To clear screen, change the phone orientation from landscape to portrait or vice versa. 

Watch a short video on Narangi.  

Do you have any app ideas for people who are deaf-blind? If so, email Dr. Arun Mehta at arun (dot) mehta (at) gmail (dot) com. 

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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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