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, May 25, 2017

Throwback Thursday Object: Braille Tiles--A 19th Century Braille Teaching Tool

Our object this week is a new find, something I found in France with the help of our good friend, Mireille Duhen, a volunteer at the Association Valentin Haüy.  It is a beautiful set of nineteenth century braille tiles, a braille teaching tool.  The tin box holds six rows of red wooden tiles, with the braille symbols picked out in nickel-plated brass pins, and the print symbol stamped below.  Each tile is about the size of a domino.  The tiles are arranged in sets of ten, just as Louis Braille intended his code to be taught.  Braille originally published his system in 1829, but this set of teaching tiles reflects French braille as published in his second edition in 1837.  The use of nickel plating technology on the pins suggests a date in the second half of the nineteenth century when that process became practical for ordinary hardware.  The code is somewhat different from modern French braille, switching the symbols for parentheses and quotes, among other things. Photo Caption:
Flat tin box holding six rows of red wood braille tiles.
Micheal A. Hudson
Museum Director
American Printing House for the Blind

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

3 Reasons for Using a Fake Name for Your Service Animal in Public and 5 Tips for Choosing the Best One for You

Photo Caption: a black lab that's outside by a park railing laying in the shade and looking out beyond the railing.

I took my seat on the Paratransit vehicle, across from a colleague, a lady with her dog guide. The third traveler on the vehicle asked the lady what her dog’s name was; her reply totally took me by surprise.

“What did she just call that dog? That’s not that dog’s name!”

That was exactly what I was thinking. The other rider said hi to the dog using this fake name and then went about his business. The driver dropped him off, and immediately I asked the lady why she gave the guy a different name for her dog. You will discover her answer as we provide 3 reasons why you, also, may wish to use a false name for your service animal in public. Then we will offer 5 tips for picking the best made-up name for your service animal.

The Problem

Traveling with a service animal (a guide dog in my particular case) has many benefits; the admiring public often is not one of them. Sure, it’s great when people tell you how cute your dog is; it’s much more troubling when they want to stop and “Converse” with him, repeating his name time and time again.

Based on the incident outlined above and another similar one I witnessed a few months later, I decided that the “Fake name” idea was a good one. Here are 4 reasons why you also may wish to adopt this strategy.

#1. Safety

While the tasks each service animal performs differ widely, dog guides certainly must concentrate on their work; a dog guide’s mistake could be fatal to the dog and the human it guides. Even in situations where severe injuries and death are not likely, safety is a top priority!

Nothing can prevent onlookers from speaking to your dog, and ultimately you, the handler, are responsible for keeping your dog focused on its work. Nevertheless, you can avoid some dangerous situations by giving strangers a fake name when they ask for one. Each of my guide dogs have react quite positively to hearing their names; they almost always do not react at all if you use a false name. If your dog doesn’t react when you call it by a false name, it is likely to pay much less attention to a stranger who uses that made-up name, keeping both you and your dog much safer.

#2. Distractions

While distractions are related to safety, something can distract a dog and be more of an annoyance than a major safety issue. Again, you cannot remove all possible distractions, but you can remove this frustrating one. Your dog may react to hearing, “Hi, doggie!” But it assuredly will react to, “Hey Juno (or whatever its actual name is!)” You probably can think of many situations where your dog got distracted. While the distraction may not have affected safety, it may have led to the dog misbehaving or losing focus, causing you to correct the dog. If the stranger called the dog by a fake name, the dog probably didn’t react, wasn’t distracted, and didn’t get corrected.

#3. Fun

Ok, this concept may seem strange to some of you, but some people wish their dog’s name was different. Maybe you really don’t like your dog’s name, but, for the dog’s sake, you continue to use it. In public, however, why not use a made-up name? Not only would it, in this instance, lessen distractions and improve safety—it also lets you pretend, even if only for a short time, that your dog had the name you would have chosen instead of its name that you really have trouble tolerating.

Perhaps you have no interest in changing your dog’s name, but you du enjoy pranking others. Giving someone who asks a made-up name for your dog, if nothing else, is a way to prank, fool, or trick someone, and if you’re a prankster, you can have your fun and be safer at the same time. Incidentally, the lady on the Paratransit vehicle cited each of these three reasons when explaining why she used that false name.

5 Tips for Choosing the Best Fake Name

So you’ve decided to try using a fake name for your dog in public; here are 6 tips for picking the best one for you.

#1. Differs Totally from Dog’s Actual Name

Since the goal is for the dog not to react to the name, it should be totally different from the dog’s real name. For instance, if your dog’s name is Hannah, you would steer clear of Ana, Briana, Angela, and maybe any name starting with the letter H. Names like Sally, Trish and Meg would work.

#2. Differs from the Name of a Dog You Are Around Often

You’ve selected a name you like for your dog, but you run into a problem; it sounds too much like the actual name of a dog someone else has at work. Your colleague’s dog is named Larry. You realize that Gary probably isn’t a good name since it’s too similar to your colleagues’ dogs’ name. If this happens, pick something very unique so you don’t cause another dog handler unnecessary problems.

#3. Gender-Neutral or Fits Dog’s Gender

We don’t want to stifle your creativity; nevertheless, you probably don’t want to call your mail dog, Jennifer or your female dog, Rex. You don’t want someone to say something like, “No really! What’s your dog’s name?” Choose a name that is believable, or the stranger may realize you’re “Playing” them which just might lead that stranger to develop a negative opinion of people with disabilities.

#4. Not Offensive

It happens! You come in contact with someone who makes you uncomfortable and may even be a threat to your wellbeing. Even so, it’s best not to use a false name that is offensive or draws too much attention to yourself. Your dog can’t go by “Killer”, “Cujo”, or some other name that makes it out to be overly aggressive. The last thing you want is for someone to call your bluff and try to hurt you or your dog. Using a name that implies that your dog is aggressive draws undue attention to you and the dog—attention you definitely don’t want or need.

#5. Something You Like

If you’re going to use a fake name, make it something you like, especially if you aren’t thrilled with the dog’s real name. Also, if someone’s going to use the name to try to get the dog’s attention, it might as well be a name you would like your dog to have.

Final Thoughts

Here are a few things to consider as it relates to giving people a fake name for your dog.

Don’t Expect the Dog to Respond to It

Whatever situation you come up against, it’s unwise to use the dog’s fake name when you want it to obey you. Use the dog’s real name, and speak at a lower volume, or use hand signals to get the dog to do what you want. In some instances, you don’t need to use a name at all. Many times I’ll say something like, “Come on Mr.” or “Let’s go, boy!” My dog still pays attention, and I didn’t have to use his name.

Admittedly, such a scenario may make you decide that you can just take your chances with just telling people your dog’s real name. I found, though, during my most recent trip to train with a new dog that distractions in public places were easier to handle if the inquisitive public didn’t know my dog’s actual name and couldn’t distract him in that particular way. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide if this method will work for you. Maybe you can try it when you go somewhere you won’t go often so you can see if it works well for you.

Avoid Using a Fake Name with People You See Often

One time you probably do not want to employ a false name is around family, work colleagues, or around people you will know well. You are around these people and, in most cases, you can teach them not to use the dog’s name in a distracting way. They will ask how your dog is doing and may use its name, but that usage usually is not distracting.

We have discussed reasons for using a false name in public for your service animal and provided tips for picking a name that works for you. You may wish to try it and see how well this method works for you. Let us know your thoughts and opinions in the comments or through social media.

Second photo caption: A female black lab laying down on a white couch with her head resting on a man’s legs. The dog is looking at the camera.




Thursday, May 18, 2017

Throwback Thursday Object: Voyager XL CCD Video Magnifier

Our object this week is an early video magnifier.  It was purchased second-hand by the donor, Pat Humphrey, circa 1985 from a Louisville Telesensory dealer, Dick Barnett, for $3,000. Low vision all her life, by the time she entered high school it had deteriorated to the point that she "couldn't read the blackboard."  Humphrey hid her visual abilities and remembered that "lots of people did not know I was blind."  She even drove a car, "though I knew I shouldn't."  After making do with optical magnifiers for years, she was delighted to acquire this unit, using it to read her mail and write checks.  A platter beneath the camera slides out and holds your reading material.  By moving the platter under the camera, you can scan around the document.  The picture from the camera is reproduced on the television monitor above.
The first closed circuit television or “CC-TV” units were developed by Samuel Genensky and his team at the Rand Corporation in the late 1960s.  By the early 1980s, there were a variety of models on the market.  The Voyager was a brand of Visualtek in Santa Monica, CA.  Visualtek was bought by Telesensory in 1989.  Telesensory Systems was a leading accessibility technology firm founded in 1970 at Stanford University.  By the 1980s they were beginning to focus exclusively on low vision products like the Voyager.  I found a video of one being used here.
Micheal A. Hudson
Museum Director
American Printing House for the Blind

Friday, May 12, 2017

May 2017 APH News

This issue continues our focus on partnerships.
A Few of This Month’s Headlines:
Partnerships: You Cannot do it Alone
  • NEW! Bright Shapes Knob Puzzle
  • Order Fall 2017 Textbooks Now!
  • Field Tests and Surveys
  • APH Annual Report Celebrates the Year of Braille
  • STEM Corner: the DNA RNA Kit
  • New on the APH Website: Tactile Skills Matrix
  • Parts Lists Download Page Now Available!
  • Typhlo and Tactus is Underway!
  • Social Media Spotlight
  • APH Travel Calendar and more…

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Throwback Thursday Object: Tactile Map of Southeast Asia

I love maps.  Maps help us find where we are right now, but they also help us dream of places we would like to go, and learn about places far away that we may never visit in person.  We have lots of maps here at APH, because geography is one of those core curriculum subjects that is not very accessible until you make a few adaptations.  Our object this week is a thermoformed relief map of Southeast Asia including the historical parts of Indochina—think Vietnam and Thailand--and island nations like Indonesia and the Philippines.  If you are not familiar with thermoforming, it basically involves heating sheet plastic in a way that forces it to form over a mold.  This one comes from a set made by the American Foundation for Oversea Blind (AFOB), around 1950, in Paris, France.  The water is indicated by horizontal ridges, and the relief helps you understand how mountainous the peninsula and many of the larger islands are.  The map is geopolitical, meaning it has national borders in raised lines, and the nations are keyed in braille, although the key to the captions is not embossed on the map itself.  The plastic is the same institutional green as my elementary school, although I don’t think that comes through in this photograph.  Back in the day, it was considered a calming and soothing color.  Perfect for studying geography!
Micheal A. Hudson
Museum Director
American Printing House for the Blind

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Throwback Thursday Object: Light Detector Prototype

Light Detector Prototype             
Our object this week is small, about 6” long by 1.5” square.  There is not much to it, an aluminum box with a short piece of PVC pipe on one end and a blue button on top.  It is a battery powered prototype developed by inventor Tim Cranmer around 1982 of the “Kentucky Light Probe”.   When you pointed the tube at something and pressed the button, the unit would beep if it detected light.  Tim was Director of Technical Services for the Kentucky Department of the Blind.  He and his staff, folks like Fred Gissoni and Wayne Thompson, were constantly coming up with handy little devices like this.  Often they would publish the plans along with parts lists and let hobbyists assemble their own creations on the cheap.  If you wonder how Radio Shack ever made a profit, there is your answer.  Tim conceived this device to detect small lights, such as an on/off light on a household appliance or computer, or to generally detect if lights were working in a room.  By the way, there are apps for this now for your cell phone, just like everything else! Photo caption: Kentucky Light Probe.
Micheal A. Hudson
Museum Director
American Printing House for the Blind

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