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, August 20, 2015

Throwback Thursday Object: The WPA Museum Extension Project Dioramas

Top view of WPA Museum Extension Project dioramas

In the 1930s, the government created a number of relief programs to keep people working as the country struggled through the Great Depression.  One of the lesser known was the Museum Extension Project which paid unemployed artists to create educational models for school children.  I have seen a number of the architectural models of historic buildings, including a scale model of Kentucky’s Old State Capitol Building that is in our collection. 

Front view through glass of diorama featuring monks printing the Bible on a printing press

Our collection also holds eight unusual dioramas of famous scenes from history.  They are fitted into little wooden boxes with glass fronts—which makes them very hard to photograph!—and the lids open to let little hands in to explore.  They came to us from the Kentucky School for the Blind.  The subjects vary from the 1682 Penn Treaty to Coronado’s “discovery” of the Southwest in 1540.  The one shown in the picture features monks printing the bible on a printing press.  They are molded from clay and painted, with a curved painted cardboard background.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Throwback Thursday Object: How did you do arithmetic before the electronic calculator?

afb tactile slide rule on red vinyl record

Our object this week is an interesting artifact that most students today will not recognize, both for its tactile form and its outdated function.  A slide rule was an analog calculator used commonly by engineers and architects before the invention of the electronic calculator to do all sorts of mathematic and algebraic functions.   

Most were in the form of a sliding ruler, with several rulers set inside each other.  By sliding one value to a position lining it up with another, you could quickly find an answer on a separate part of the rule.  There were also circular slide rules, designed to take up less space.  

 This tactile version of the traditional circular slide rule was introduced by the American Foundation for the Blind in 1946.  It was made from a traditional phonograph record, fitted with a pair of rotating pointers. The scales were marked on the circumference of the disk in a series of raised dots.  

 We have two examples in our collection, a black vinyl version more typical of photograph records, and this one, produced in a fancy transparent red that was sometimes used for novelty records.  This one was used by Frank J. Healy, a student of the Oregon School for the Blind who later became Corporations Commissioner for the State of Oregon.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

A Guide for Colleges and Visually Impaired Students

Affordable Colleges Online (AC) has developed a Guide for Visual Disabilities on how colleges help visually impaired and blind students succeed. The guide explores how visual impairments impact the educational experience, what colleges are doing for their visually impaired students, and includes numerous resources, as well insight and tips from experts and a list of scholarships and grants.

Dan Schuessler, CEO of AC, says:

"We created this guide to show how today’s colleges and universities are improving their technology and resources to help students with visual disabilities earn degrees. The new guide also provides a list of online technology and literary resources students with visual impairments can use on their own to get ahead."

The guide also contains:

- A breakdown of assistive technology for learning
- College success tips for students with visual impairments
- A detailed look at accommodations colleges are making for fully and partially blind students
- A print screen option
- Full JAWS compatibility

Two experts contributed to the development of this guide, including Chris Danielson, Director of Public Relations for the National Federation of the Blind, and Marcus Madsen, Senior Disability Services Advisor at Capella University.

An additional guide recently was released by which assists students who are blind and visually impaired, their families, and others who advise them. This guide starts by defining what a visual impairment is; then it details statistics concerning average income and education level achieved by persons who are blind and visually impaired. Later this guide offers suggestions for handling barriers that students who are blind and visually impaired may face, such as a lack of accessibility and professors who have little or no understanding of the student's disability. Next the guide outlines organizations who assist students who are blind and visually impaired and provides a list of entities that offer scholarships for these students. Finally, the guide includes an interview with a student; the interview adds additional recommendations for finding the right college or university and suggestions for making the experience as barrier-free as possible.

The guide's authors describe the need and functions of this guide as follows:

The statistics are alarming. Fewer than 15% of people with vision loss earn their bachelor's degree as compared to about 30% of the general population. Whatever the reason, one way to mitigate this education gap is to give students with vision loss the information needed to successfully transition to college with additional support given by financial aid resources such as scholarships and grants. Our guide serves to give students with visual impairments the tools necessary to tackle their education with confidence. View the guide at

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