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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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Throwback Thursday Object: The Band of the Minnesota Braille and Sightsaving School

Minnesota Braille School for the Blind band uniform

Our artifact this week is a very trim mid-20th century uniform from the Minnesota Braille and Sightsaving School in Faribault, Minnesota. We have very few historic textile items in the collection, so this girl’s band uniform was a real find when it was offered to us in 2013 by the Rice County Historical Society in Faribault. The Society didn’t know much about it, unfortunately, but according to some MBSS band alumni, the uniforms were used by many students over a long period of time. The neat blue wool and polyester blend jacket and skirt had tags inside dated 1957 from the Kansas City firm Stanbury and Company, which by the 1950s specialized in the production of marching band uniforms (and still does!). 

Minnesota Braille School for the Blind band uniform close up view

Today, the marching band at the Ohio State School for the Blind gets a lot of press when it performs “Braille Ohio” at football games, but according to former MBSS student Steve Jacobson, bands were common at residential schools.

“The band director from the late 1950s into the 1970s was Wilho Korpinen. The size of the band varied with the school's enrollment, but the range was generally fifteen to twenty members. We did not march, although I have heard that some schools did do that, however, we did participate in parades on the back of a truck. The band was a significant part of school life as we all enjoyed listening to the band even before we were members.  We were also aware that the band was highly regarded in the surrounding area, being reasonably talented for a school of such a small size.  Members of the band usually participated in an overnight band trip once a year which involved going to one or more locations to give concerts.  In addition, there were usually a number of concerts given at area schools and that gave the school and the students positive public exposure as well.  As was probably the case for most schools for the blind of the period, the band, the choir, and the wrestling team were the three main activities that resulted in public exposure, although larger schools for the blind also had track teams.”

Band, cheerleading, athletic or scouting uniforms, and other textiles from historic residential schools help us understand daily life at these institutions, but are pretty rare.  

We would love to hear from any school alumni or former faculty who might be saving treasures like this at

APH Quick Tip: the Power Switch on Your Book Port Plus

Find out when you don't need to use the power button on your Book Port Plus:

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Throwback Thursday Object: The "Bundu Basher"

Bundu Basher long cane
Our museum object this week is a very interesting long cane design from the AER/Warren Bledsoe Archives held at APH.  Specially designed canes are a fairly recent phenomenon for the blind community.  In fact, the negative stereotype of the blind beggar and his walking stick made the adoption of the first mobility canes during World War II proceed much more slowly than you might imagine.

Learn more about Richard Hoover and the wounded veterans he worked with at Valley Forge Hospital. 

Hoover and his disciple Russell Williams introduced a sturdy aluminum cane with a large crook and a pencil style tip.  It worked well on city streets and hospital floors.  Today long canes come in a great variety of shapes, materials, and tip styles. 

Bundu Basher cane close up of rounded tip
The "bundu basher" white cane tip was invented in South Africa by O&M specialists Beverly Atkinson and Andre Neimandt for navigating the uneven ground of the bush country ("bundu" in Afrikaans). The original version simply added a rounded crook on the bottom of the cane.  Its curved tip was thought less likely to catch on obstructions. Neimandt adapted the angled shape seen on this model, but the one piece construction wore out too quickly. The invention of a replacable nylon tip was the final step in the development of the tool. The cane was donated originally to AER Division 9 Archives by Moira Higgerty, head of the College of Orientation and Mobility, South African Guide Dogs Association for the Blind.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

APH Quick Tip: Finding Titles on a Book Port Plus

So, you have a Book Port Plus, but don't know how to find titles on it? Let Maria Delgado show you how with this week's APH Quick Tip!

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

APH Quick Tip: Braille Readers Theater

This is the fourth year of the Museum of the American Printing House for the Blind’s Readers Theater! Come attend a showing of this year’s dramatic production! Upcoming performances:

- Friday, March 13, 7:00 PM
- Saturday, March 14, 1:00 PM

Each performance will include four short plays:

- “The Dogalog” by Rick Roderick
- “Milday Hero” by Barbara Henning
- “A Fire’s Definition” by Madelyn Lloyd
- “The Message That Wasn’t There” by Dave Trevino

Space is limited, reservations are required. To make reservations call 502-899-2213 or email Best for ages 12 and up.

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