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 24, 2016

Throwback Thursday Object: Puzzle map of the US

Our object this week is a molded puzzle map of the United States from the 1940s.  APH Superintendent Benjamin Huntoon began making wooden relief maps in the basement of the Kentucky School for the Blind in the 1870s.  Little changed in their manufacture for fifty years.  In 1922, APH bought electric carving tools to speed the process, but the manufacture of the maps continued to require skill and tedious handwork.  In 1936, an article in the Courier Journal featured an interview with the foreman of the APH map shop, William J. Butler, who was working on a wooden model of a U.S. map to be used to "make a mold for experiments in compositions."  The copyright date on the mold of 1939 suggests the experiments were completed by that date.  Production of dissected maps almost doubled in the years between 1938 and 1944, reaching levels not seen again until the mid 1960s.  By 1945, the desk-sized hard rubber relief map of the U.S. appeared in the APH catalog.  A 1945 report on map work by Mrs. Hugh D. Johnson praised the APH dissected relief maps in general as the "ones most eagerly used by teachers and children alike," and in specific "the special delight of all my classes is the desk sized hard rubber relief map..."  Former employee Ron Gadson described the hard rubber process as the mixing of liquid rubber with a powdered binder, which resulted in a brown material.  The casting was cut apart on a band saw and hand painted.  In the mid 1960s, APH began molding  the map in plastic.  The plastic version last appeared in the APH catalog in 1986.  A U.S. puzzle map of different design was reintroduced in 2002

Friday, March 18, 2016

Microsoft's Disability Answer Desk

Recently we wrote about Apple's Accessibility Page. But Apple is not the only mainstream technology company who has demonstrated a concerted effort to reach and assist people with differing disabilities. If you use Microsoft products of any kind and you have a disability, Microsoft’s Disability Answer Desk is the place to turn for assistance. Microsoft describes the disability answer desk as follows: “The Disability Answer Desk is where people with disabilities can get support with Microsoft products and accessibility features.”

To reach the disability answer desk, call 1 (800) 936-5900 between 5am-9pm (Pacific Time) on weekdays and 6am-3pm (Pacific Time) on weekends. You may also contact them via videophone at 1 (503) 427-1234 for American Sign Language Support. The site which provides information about the answer desk also offers a chat option that is available 24 hours a day. To use the chat feature, it appears that you must log into your Microsoft account; I clicked the chat link and immediately reached a log in page.

Personally I have used this service due to a problem with Windows Live Mail. The agent took time and examined my system thoroughly. He walked me through the process of fixing my system and even connected remotely to it to attempt to fix it remotely.

We hope you find the service useful.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Accessible March Madness Resources

If you’re anything like me, you find yourself caught up in the phenomenon aptly termed “March Madness.” Even the most casual college basketball fan can find something to interest them as it relates to March Madness—a local school who succeeds in the tournament, a small school who defeats bigger schools and advances, or the inspirational story of a player who has overcome adversity to make an impact on the tournament.

Regardless of your level of tournament knowledge or interest, we are providing you links for participating in an accessible bracket contest and for listening to or watching the games. First, you know if you have tried to participate in bracket contests that many lack accessibility. There are too many out there to test all of them; however, we know that there is one specially created bracket contest, the goal of which is to provide a fully accessible bracket for screen readers. To participate, go to to get all of the information and to fill out a bracket. Understand that going to the link shows you the bracket; you must click on the “pool” link to play the game and create a potentially winning bracket. Also on this site are links for schedules, scores and live broadcasts from Westwood One Radio.

Terrill Thompson, who sets up this bracket, also runs an accessible sports list which you can subscribe to by filling out the form at Note that once you fill out the form, you must wait for moderator approval before you are subscribed.

So how can we watch or listen to the games. One very comprehensive site is which contains schedule information, details on which television channel each game will appear, links to the March Madness Live app which provides radio and television broadcasts and a bracket game, and much more information. The games in the First Four round all are on True TV; the remaining tournament games appear on CBS, TBS, TNT and True TV. Therefore, if you have all of these channels, you may flip from game to game on your television without being locked into watching a blowout simply because your CBS affiliate chose to show a particular game.

If you want just radio broadcasts, the best site is which will allow you to listen to every game including the First Four. You may also be able to replay games you missed. The other advantage of this site is that the national Westwood One broadcast highlights one particular game and moves back and forth among the other games. If the game you care about most is not featured, you can hear it on the Westwood One site for free, or you can listen on SiriusXM Satellite Radio if you are a subscriber.

Finally, if you wish to listen to the games on your Smartphone, of course, you can use the SiriusXM app if you subscribe to it; however, the app that works best and usually is accessible enough, even if it is a bit confusing at first glance, is the TuneIn radio app. The quickest way to locate it is to search for TuneIn on your app store of choice; however, for more information, go to to read more information or download the app. Please note that TuneIn has a free version, a paid version that removes ads, and a premium version which offers a monthly subscription for listening to audio books, NFL and MLB broadcasts. You may select any of these options based on your particular taste, but please note that the free version is all that is necessary to listen to the NCAA tournament games.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Blindfold Games: iOS Games for the Visually Impaired

Do you want to use your iOS device to play games? Maybe you thought it was impossible or that the selection was quite small. Fortunately Marty Schultz of Kid Friendly Software has developed a series of games developed for blind and visually impaired people to play. Sighted people also can play these games, many of which are adaptations of card games or board games you probably already know.
Marty describes the development of Blindfold Games as follows:
At Blindfold Games, we're building audio games for visually impaired kids, teens and adults. Since 2013, we've created over two dozen games that are enjoyed by thousands of blind people.

With Kid Friendly Software, I create game apps for visually impaired and sighted children, teens and adults.  The first game we built was Blindfold Racer, an audio game where you drive with your ears instead of your eyes, built as a STEM project with 4th, 5th and 6th grade children.  That game was so popular, and we received so much praise from the blindness community, that we continue to build dozens of other accessible games that now comprise the Blindfold Games series.

Each game in the series lets you play several rounds by giving you a number of coins which, essentially, are free turns or plays of a game; in order either to unlock advanced features or to continue playing without using coins, you can purchase one or more packs for each game. Marty also is attempting to build the games so that they allow for play with other human players and not just the computer only.

When you navigate to the site hosting the games,, you reach Marty’s blog where you can read his latest updates about new games, insights, and other relevant information. You also can sign up to receive blog posts via email or follow Marty on twitter @blindfoldgames. Additionally, once you download one game, if you enable notifications, you are notified immediately when Marty releases a new game. Also, however, you find this information when you open the game unless you’ve disabled the screen that shows this information. The screen alerts you when a new game is available in the series, and you can download it right from that screen.

Each game has a detailed help file with rules, hints and game information. The series contains 31 games, and new games are added regularly. Check out the site for a list of games or search for "Blindfold Games" (without the quotes) on the app store. Happy gaming!

NEW! Accessible Tests Resource Center

APH’s new President Craig Meador envisioned an online Accessible Tests Resource Center. Director Debbie Willis accepted the opportunity to make valuable test-related data/information/resources available for use by test publishers, item developers, accessible media producers, test takers who are blind or visually impaired, their parents, guardians, teachers, school administrators, test administrators, and a variety of assessment personnel and test teams across the country. Communications Department Director Scott Blome, Media Specialist Ricky Irvine, Webmaster Malcolm Turner, and Social Media Specialist Paul Ferrara agreed to create this new sub-site of our APH website, to check content for logical flow and accessibility, and to incorporate information provided onto the site, while adding interesting graphics-based information to enhance readability of the text-based information.
At this time, there are 25 major categories that focus on the topic of Accessible Tests. The list of categories include accessibility, accommodations, assistive technology, common core standards, expanded core curriculum, federal and state laws and guidelines, NAEP and major/minor consortia, position papers, research, resources, and more. For the new site’s official launch scheduled to take place on Friday, March 4, 2016, the Accessible Tests Resource Center project team has focused on six categories which are accessibility, educational policy, expanded core curriculum, NAEP and major/minor consortia, position papers, and resources.
In order to make this new site as comprehensive, up-to-date, and valuable as possible, Director Debbie Willis is asking for your involvement. There is a form included on the new site that can and hopefully will be used by you and others to provide your comments, data, ideas, information, resources, suggestions; relevant photos, graphics, and quotes for interest and readability; to ask questions; to express concerns and/or test-related needs; to recommend additional major categories and/or subcategories; and very important, to submit your own contributions such as documents, presentations, webcasts, videos, resources, photos, etc.
Visit the new site at Project staff looks forward to hearing from you. Thank you in advance for your help and involvement with the new Accessible Tests Resource Center site on the APH website. The Project Team hope this new site will prove to be valuable to you and others involved in developing or adapting standardized tests, providing accessible media and/or tools and assistive technology, and administering and interpreting assessment results of test takers who are blind or visually impaired.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

O&M for Wheelchair Users with Visual Impairment or Blindness

This web-based publication helps O&M instructors learn how to train students who are wheelchair users to travel safely and effectively.

Follow Scott Crawford as he instructs a variety of adult wheelchair users—who also experience vision impairment—in the proper techniques to complete tight turns, enter and exit through doorways, trail sidewalks and curbs, ascend and descend stairs and escalators, and much more. Scott's ability to analyze the environment and to solve mobility obstacles make this a must have educational tool.

This website shares techniques and strategies that are proven successful with students in the rehabilitation setting. It does not suggest that any particular skill be taught in a particular method, and acknowledges that what works successfully with some students may fail with others.

The O&M for Wheelchair Users website includes 12-chapters with Q&A and True Story sidebars plus 197 demonstration video clips. Each chapter has easy access to the top of the chapter, main menu, previous chapter, and next chapter.

System Requirements:
• Internet connection. Because of the video content, you may wish to use a WiFi connection rather than a cellular data connection.
• Windows: IE9+ or Chrome 18+
• Mac: Safari 6+, Chrome 18+
• iPad and iPhone: Safari

Note:Firefox does not support html5 vtt captioning.

Note: This online publication cannot be ordered directly using the APH Shopping Site. Please contact the Customer Service Department. Once ordered, you will receive an email containing a link to access the website. Please make sure to provide us an email address on your order.

This publication IS available on Quota!

Product Image - click to enlarge

Monday, March 07, 2016

APH on Pinterest

It is our goal to interact with you in as many ways as we can. Besides this blog, facebook and twitter, we have significantly increased our presence on pinterest. With the creation of our two newest boards, deafblind and APH sale items, we now have 23 pinterest boards. Besides increasing our boards, we have also sought to add pins from many places covering multiple topics.
For anyone who may be unfamiliar with pinterest, it is a site which people use to promote things they like with the use of pins. Each pin is a product, recipe, item or picture thus making pinterest an excellent way to shocase products visually while, at the same time, adding a written description and providing a link to view, obtain information and purchase the product.
You may discover some overlap between boards. You may also wish to repin pins to your own boards or add pins to ours. We hope you utilize these boards and that they benefit you, and if pinterest is something you have not experienced, this is an excellent way to discover how it works. Check out our boards and follow them by going to

If you wish to follow us on twitter, go to

Finally "like" us on facebook and follow our posts at

Friday, March 04, 2016

March 2016 APH News is now online!

**This Month’s Headlines:

  • Louis Braille Book Unveiling
  • Dorinda Rife Joins APH as Vice President
  • MARCH 25TH DEADLINE to Enter APH InSights Art Competition!
  • APH Museum Readers Theater presents, “The Mousetrap”
  • Episode Five of TGTV Now Available!
  • Treasures from the APH Libraries
  • Quick Tipsfrom APH
  • Social Media Spotlight
  • APH Travel Calendar
  • New Products from APH
  • The Braille Book Corner and much, much more…

TapTapSee: A Blind and Visually Impaired Camera

TapTapSee is a mobile camera application designed specifically for the blind and visually impaired. Versions are available for both Android and iOS devices. The app utilizes the smartphone’s camera and a mobile screen reader like TalkBack or Voiceover to photograph objects, identify them and speak the identity out loud for the user.

TapTapSee enables the user to double tap on the device’s screen to photograph any two or three dimensional object at any angle, have it accurately analyzed, and defined within seconds. As was stated above, once this process is complete, the mobile screen reader then speaks the identification audibly to the user.

Moreover, TapTapSee includes the following additional features: Repetition of the last image’s identification, ability to upload images from the camera roll, share identification via Twitter, Facebook, text or email, rotor reader, flash toggle, and the ability to save the identified image to the camera roll with the attached tag. The ability to upload images from the camera roll is especially helpful when one wants to determine what pictures are on their phone.

TapTapSee was an American Foundation for the Blind, 2014 Access Award Recipient in January of 2014, a Royal National Institute for the Blind, App of the month in March of 2013 and was inducted into the AppleVis iOS Hall of Fame in 2013.

When the app was first launched, it was free to download and free to use. For a period of time, the app’s developer, citing high maintenance costs, began charging for pictures. One could choose to pay for 100 pictures which never expired or to pay a fee for as many pictures as one could take in a month. Now, however, the app is, once again, totally free to download and use, a fact which garnered high praise from the blind community.

TapTapSee is available through the Apple iTunes Mobile App Store and the Google Play Store. For best results, follow the guidelines set forth by the app developer.

The camera on the phone is located in the top right corner behind the front facing screen of the phone when the device is in the upright position so it is advised to hold the phone about 8-12 inches (20-30 centimeters) away from the object being photographed. This method will help ensure that the object is in the scope of the camera. TapTapSee has an autofocus notification to let the user know when the photographed object is in focus. For best picture identification, wait until the app beeps before taking a picture. The autofocus notification can be turned ON and OFF in the About menu. Pictures snapped with TapTapSee should be taken in a well lit environment. The app also features an automatic flash, which can be turned ON and OFF in the About menu. The barcode on canned goods is almost always located to the left of the seam of the can where the two label ends meet and overlap. Other written information, such as brand, product name and info is usually across from the seam on the opposite side of the can. To get the best results when taking a picture of the label, be sure to keep the camera 8-12 inches (20-30 centimeters) away from the can.

When you open the app for the first time, it presents a privacy notice which you must accept; additionally, you must enable the app to use the camera. Normally a notification pops up right away prompting you to allow this to happen. Note that you can permit or revoke this permission in your phone’s settings app.

Once you accept the privacy notice and give the app permission to use the camera, you are taken into the app. You find a camera and four buttons at the top of the screen - Repeat, Library, Share and About. To take a picture, double-tap on the camera button, the screen where you hear the word “Camera” and wait approximately seven to 10 seconds to receive an identification. The wait time may fluctuate depending on your network connection. The image is sent to the server where it is identified and sent back to the user. The identification then is spoken to the user. Up to three images at a time can be identified. After the third image is identified, unless you save one or more of the images to the camera roll, the app starts back with image one, and the previously taken pictures disappear.

TapTapSee gives users a general identification of any picture taken. However, if, for example, the user takes a picture of a can of soup and wants to know the name of the brand, the application will be able to read the label and return the identification with the brand name. Nevertheless, keep in mind that TapTapSee will only be able to recognize the object that is within the camera's scope and in focus. Lighting conditions are also important for the quality of the identification. Just to see what would happen, I snapped a picture of my pastor who was described by TapTapSee as a “bald man wearing glasses.” While photographing people is not the app’s main purpose, you may find that you can get some general descriptions of people with it. The app even identifies animals and their general color or at least that you have a picture of a dog rather than a cat. I find it most helpful for distinguishing between boxes of k-cups, my favorite use for the app.

The toolbar, as noted, contains four buttons. The Repeat Button restates the last picture identification spoken aloud in case it was missed the first time. The Library Button accesses the device's Camera Roll in order to send images to TapTapSee for identification. To access this feature, simply double-tap the Library button and select an image that you want to have identified from the Camera Roll. The Share Button shares the image via Twitter, Facebook, Email or Text and also includes the option for the user to save the image to the device's Camera Roll. The saved image will include the tag that was provided by TapTapSee.

To download the app, search your app store for “TapTapSee”, and you should find it. Otherwise, for iOS users, go to:


Finally, if you wish to contact the developers of the app, for questions, concerns, or inquiries email us at Follow us on Twitter @TapTapSee. Like us on Facebook at

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Throwback Thursday: Our First Talking Book

Our object this week helps us celebrate the 85th anniversary of the passage of the Pratt-Smoot Act on March 3, 1931.  Pratt-Smoot helped create the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped within the Library of Congress.  Originally, the NLS planned to circulate only braille books, but the American Foundation of the Blind and its director Robert Irwin championed the inclusion of audio books too.  In 1936, the American Printing House installed a model sound recording studio, and by the end of the year, APH Superintendent A.C. Ellis was boasting that we were the only institution in the world with the capacity to record and press talking book records.  Our first book was “Gulliver’s Travels,” but unfortunately no copies have been preserved.  Our object is a the first record from Washington Irving’s  “The Sketchbook,” which came on sixteen black vinyl 33 1/3 rpm phonograph records, one of four other books we recorded that year.  You’ll note on the record label that it is a “Phonographic Book.”  We started calling them “Talking Books” in 1937.  It was narrated by APH legend George Patterson, a broadcaster for WAVE radio.  You can hear a short excerpt here.

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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.

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.

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