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, 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. 


Karen Wheeldon said...

I never met Fred in person. However, from the time I began teaching students with vision impairment, Fred helped me trouble shoot problems with a Braille N' Speaks and embossers. He provided help whenever it was needed, and always had a kind way of teaching one to be more independent. Fred was a talented individual and possessed a heart of gold. He will be greatly missed!

Karen Wheeldon said...

I never met Fred in person. However, from the time I began teaching students with vision impairment, Fred helped me trouble shoot problems with a Braille N' Speaks and embossers. He provided help whenever it was needed, and always had a kind way of teaching one to be more independent. Fred was a talented individual and possessed a heart of gold. He will be greatly missed!

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.