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 30, 2017

Throwback Thursday Object: Clarke & Smith Model 2048 “Tapette” Talking Book Machine

John Clarke and Alec Smith founded a radio repair company after WWII in Surrey, England.  They developed an early cassette based talking book machine in the 1950s.  Their half inch metal cassette was bulky and heavy and the player weighed over six pounds even without it!  But the idea was innovative and one step on the road to the modern cassette form of the 1970s.   The Royal National Institute for the Blind announced in 1960 that its talking book program would switch over from vinyl disk to the C&S cassette.  This machine, using a lighter, smaller plastic version of the C&S cassette was introduced in 1967.  These were used in Britain and the Commonwealth but never in the U.S. (We have included two photos. First photo caption:
The green plastic “Tapette” was 6 x 9 x 10” and had its simple controls on top. Caption for second photo: Black plastic “Tapette” cartridge and a black vinyl mailing pouch.)
Micheal A. Hudson
Museum Director
American Printing House for the Blind

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Throwback Thursday Object: Rare Talking Book

Gulliver’s Travels
Our object this week is a recent find, and very significant.  In February 1936, APH installed a model recording studio in a small room in its already overcrowded building and began experimenting with a new idea:  the Talking Book.  The braille presses were humming, but American Foundation for the Blind President Robert Irwin had convinced the APH leadership that recorded books were the next big thing.  That year, APH recorded five books and the first, narrated by Louisville radio pioneer Hugh Sutton, was the Jonathan Swift classic “Gulliver’s Travels.”  Last autumn, an electrician in Colorado Springs named Michael Lucas got in touch with our museum.  He had fourteen vintage Talking Books from the earliest days of the program, and among them was a copy of Gulliver.  APH only pressed about 100 sets of that first book.  When Talking Book libraries began to convert from phonograph records to cassettes, most of these early records were destroyed or discarded.  This might very well be the only surviving copy of Gulliver.  We are very much looking forward to hearing Hugh Sutton, our first narrator, read again, so look forward to hearing it soon in this spot! (The photo shows a closeup of the record label).

Micheal A. Hudson
Museum Director
American Printing House for the Blind

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Throwback Thursday Object: The Musicwriter

Did you know that March is Music in Our Schools Month?  Our very unusual object this week is the Musicwriter, a patent electric typewriter whose key set was altered to type the full range of musical symbols.  It was invented by the prolific American composer Cecil Effinger in Colorado Springs in 1954, originally to type up musical scores.  The company he founded to manufacture it lasted more than thirty years.  Effinger, interestingly enough, taught instrumental music at the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind for a few years in the late 1930s.  At APH, his invention was used to prepare proofreading copies of music in print as they were being translated into braille.  Braille sheet music used to be a major line at APH and our vaults are still filled with the stereotype plates used to emboss the music. (The photo shows the Musicwriter, and we include this information caption: The Musicwriter was a heavy gray aluminum machine, shoehorned into the case of an Olympia typewriter, but with a large cable to allow it to be connected to a computer.
Micheal A. Hudson
Museum Director
American Printing House for the Blind

Monday, March 13, 2017

Alexa, "Open March Madness"! Play the Accessible Bracket Game, and Get All Your March Madness Information!


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.

Filling Out an Accessible Bracket

Regardless of your level of tournament knowledge or interest, we provide you links for participating in an accessible bracket contest and for listening to or watching the games. If you have tried to play bracket contests in the past, you are keenly aware that many of them lack accessibility. There are too many available contests to test for accessibility, and interfaces change seemingly from year to year; 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 sign up, 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.

Checking Out the Games

So how can we watch or listen to the games. The most comprehensive site is which contains schedule information, details on which television channel broadcasts each game, 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 TruTV; the remaining tournament games appear on CBS, TBS, TNT and TruTV. 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. You also may choose to stream the TV telecasts at

Listening to the Games

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, and game highlights and recaps certainly are available. Westwood One offers five channels; one is the national Westwood One broadcast which highlights one particular game and moves back and forth among the remaining action. If you listen on a “regular” radio and not using SiriusXM or the TuneIn app, you will hear this channel. If the game you care about most is not featured, you can hear it on the Westwood One site for free on one of the other four channels, one for each tournament region, 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 are a subscriber; 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.

All Information in One Place

Tournament coverage increases annually with games becoming available on more platforms each year. The most comprehensive roundup of every way to view tournament games in 2017 is found at which details how to watch games, listen to games, view highlights, play the official bracket game, download the March Madness Live App, and more. If you are uncertain about where to go to find information, go to this site as it links to anything and everything else you may wish to locate

Please note that we have not tested the app, the bracket game, or the methods for watching the games for accessibility. You may wish to do so at your convenience. We can say, however, that with all the partnerships mentioned on this page, individuals can access NCAA tournament games on 15 platforms, including Amazon Alexa Devices and Xbox for the first time. There also is a new interactive bracket via Apple TV. Additionally, Turner’s iStreamPlanet will handle live streaming infrastructure for all games made available through NCAA March Madness Live which is supposed to enhance the quality of the live stream. The site also boasts many other changes and upgrades. One which may especially interest people who are blind and visually impaired is the new March Madness Alexa skill which will allow fans to ask “March Madness” questions concerning scores and results and also provides direct access to the Westwood One play-by-play feeds. To interact with March Madness content using Alexa, download the March Madness skill and say, “Alexa, Open March Madness.”

The aforementioned site provides much greater detail about all of the options for viewing and listening to the games; check out and enjoy the Madness!

You may wish to try several bracket games and check for accessibility either on the website or the accompanying app. No matter how many contests you enter, please consider supporting the accessible bracket site,

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Throwback Thursday Object: Sculpture of a Clenched Fist from the Father Thomas Carroll Collection

Sculpture of a Clenched Fist
Our object this week comes from our Father Thomas Carroll Collection.  Robert "Bob" Amendola (1909-1996) was an artist working as an engineering illustrator at an aircraft plant in the 1940s when he was “borrowed” by Father Carroll to help blinded veterans develop their sense of spatial awareness. After the war, Amendola joined Carroll at the Catholic Guild for the Blind in Boston and developed a course of spatial orientation and sound localization that he called "videation."  His work impacted thousands of trainees over four decades.  According to the Carroll Center website, "Amendola continued his work as an artist... completing many commissioned sculptures, notably the Stations of the Cross in the Chapel of St. Thomas Moore at Yale University and the statue of George Washington Carver as a boy at his Diamond, Missouri birthplace, now a national monument."  This clenched fist is a plaster casting, painted dark bronze.

Micheal A. Hudson
Museum Director
American Printing House for the Blind

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Throwback Thursday: A Look Back at Susan Merwin and Her Contributions to APH

Who is Susan Merwin? This informative piece provides a look at this influential woman who played an important role in the growth of APH.
Our object this week celebrates Women’s History Month.  Susan Merwin (1874-1923) was only the second woman to head an American school for the blind when she became Superintendent of the Kentucky School for the Blind in 1912.  And she became the only woman to head APH when she took over our reins from B.B. Huntoon in 1919.  In truth, though, Merwin had been running APH for years as Huntoon’s assistant while he suffered from various ailments.  Her work in Washington DC in July of 1919 while still assistant superintendent was critical.  She testified before the House Committee on Education and Labor, leading to the first increase in the federal appropriation to APH in forty years.  After becoming superintendent, she lead a series of initiatives to modernize equipment, remodel the building’s interior and exterior, and accelerate the transition at APH to the production of braille.  Her death in 1923 from influenza cut short a brilliant career.  In her official portrait, (included here) shot in 1916, she wears a white dress, a gold pendant around her neck, and her dark hair is pulled back.  She stands at an angle, holding a spelling book half open, and looks slightly off camera.
Micheal A. Hudson
Museum Director
American Printing House for the Blind

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