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, December 28, 2017

Quick Tip: An APH Night Before Christmas. Who else is ready for some holiday fun?

Our final Quick Tip video for the year.

APH Awards Its Highest Honor to a Deserving Member of the Field

Dr. M. Cay Holbrook Awarded APH’s 2017 Wings of Freedom Award

Photo of Cay Holbrook holding her Wings of Freedom Award.
Cay Holbrook has been an important member of the APH family for over 20 years. Her accomplishments have strongly benefited the teachers, students, and families we proudly serve. Her professional credentials as a vision teacher in several states, as vision program director and assistant professor at Johns Hopkins, associate professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, and professor at the University of British Columbia, make her uniquely qualified to guide projects and author policies that make us, and our field, stronger.
Other facets of Dr. Holbrook’s amazing career include her work with the Carter Center in China, her co-creation of the biennial Getting in Touch with Literacy Conference with Janie Blome (GITWL), and countless edited and authored textbooks, articles, and curriculums, including her groundbreaking work with Alan Koenig to create the Learning Media Assessment that continues to be used internationally.
Cay has been honored throughout her career by a grateful field. Recognitions include AER’s Warren Bledsoe and Alfred Allen Awards, CECDVI’s Distinguished Service Award, GITWL’s Alan J. Koenig Research in Literacy Award, the Holbrook-Humphries Literacy Award, JVIB’s Reviewer of the Year Award, and UALR’s Faculty Excellence Award in Public Service.
In 2005, APH proudly announced Dr. Holbrook as our first Executive in Residence. Thanks to a well-earned sabbatical, Cay was able to join APH from September through November of 2006, when she primarily assisted with department of Educational Product Research projects. Among her many areas of interest were developing a research matrix – matching research topic needs of APH with possible field solutions, providing forums with department staff to discuss research techniques, working on product development, and looking at "tried and true" products with new eyes…for expanded use. One very important and timely project that Cay undertook while in residence was the creation of the company’s Expert Panel process, as required by the Department of Education. A team of nationally-drawn experts continues to meet annually to rate new products on a variety of criteria, generating a report that is sent to the federal government. Another important project that Cay offered her expertise on was APH’s flagship literacy product known as Patterns. Cay became lead consultant on this landmark effort that became Building on Patterns. Cay continues to serve as an active participant in this ongoing work.
Cay’s favorite teacher was Anne Sullivan who once shared, “I cannot explain it, but when difficulties arise, I am not perplexed or doubtful. I know how to meet them.” Cay personifies her hero, for she never appears perplexed or doubtful but seems to instinctively know how to meet the challenging tasks that lie before her. For this, a grateful field says thank you!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Here it is! December 2017 APH News!

This month, APH is transforming access as dramatically as braille did back in the 1850s with the introduction of BrailleBlaster™ software.

A Few of This Month’s Headlines:

  • APH Approaches Major Milestone
  • NEW! Color-by-Texture CIRCUS Coloring Pages
  • NEW! AnimalWatch Vi Suite (for iPad)
  • Field Tests and Surveys
  • Create your own Braille at Home!
  • APH InSights Art Competition 2018 Now Open!
  • Braille Badges Contest Deadline is Here!
  • Winner Announced! We Have a New Unforgettable APH Video Star!
  • STEM Corner
  • Social Media Spotlight
  • APH Travel Calendar and more…

Thursday, December 07, 2017

The Pearl: A Throwback Thursday Object for Creating Tactile Graphics

On the seventy-sixth anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, we tried to find something that applied to remember the day, but we don’t have that kind of collection.  But we do have a PEARL!  The Plate Embossing Apparatus for Raised Lines was invented and designed by APH engineer Gary Davis in 1984.  To my knowledge, only two were ever made.  The PEARL is a metal tooling machine that functioned much like a sewing machine, only instead of stitching fabric, it embosses raised lines on metal embossing plates used to create tactile graphics.  About four feet wide, the PEARL is all business with its gray paint and stainless steel hardware, so in that regard it does reflect those ships on battleship row.  The operator sat in front of the machine and fed the plate under the tooling arm.  Although most of our tactile graphics production has gone digital, we still have a PEARL ready to produce plates for jobs that run on our Heidelberg Presses.

Photo Caption (The Plate Embossing Apparatus for Raised Lines)
Micheal Hudson
Museum Director, APH

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Braille: A Foundation for the Future


Braille: A Foundation for the Future
by Craig Meador, President, APH
Photo shows a boy reading braille.

Technology has been a boon for everyone and people who are blind or visually impaired have benefited a great deal from the availability of, and perhaps, more importantly, the efforts to make technology fully accessible.  There are more ways to learn and access information and entertainment than ever before, thanks to these advances in technology. While this has provided great cause for celebration (believe me, we at APH are the biggest fans) it has also come with some misinformation and incorrect assumptions about the need for braille.  Let me begin by saying these advances will not take the place of braille as e-readers will never entirely replace printed materials.

Braille is an established form of communication used by people around the world who are blind and visually impaired. Braille is essential to literacy, because it incorporates all the elements of the printed word, including spelling and punctuation. Although screen readers and audiobooks provide people who are blind or visually impaired additional ways to access information, braille is foundational for lifelong learning.

At the American Printing House for the Blind (APH), we see evidence that braille is alive and well every day. We’re printing more braille pages than ever before. We’re filling more orders for braille teaching tools than in the past. And more for-profit companies are coming to us for braille printing services. That’s due, in part, to hard-fought laws that require companies to provide braille materials as part of making their information accessible to everyone.

At APH, we’re so confident about the importance and future of braille that we recently introduced BrailleBlaster™, a revolutionary new software tool that translates text into braille quickly, easily, and accurately. When we started this project, our goal was to provide a tool that made it possible for every child to have braille materials on the first day of school. Braille textbooks are widely used in schools, but it can take weeks or months to produce braille materials using manual braille transcription. BrailleBlaster efficiently converts print into braille so students who are blind or visually impaired can have their textbooks on the first day of class.

BrailleBlaster’s innovative technology will help put students who are blind or visually impaired on equal footing with their sighted peers—letting them show everyone that they can achieve just as much as anyone else, if they’re given equal access to information. Best of all, BrailleBlaster can be downloaded absolutely free by braille transcribers, teachers, students, businesses, community organizations, and of course, parents at By providing BrailleBlaster for free, APH is hoping to expand access to braille around the world to unprecedented levels.

There’s plenty of other evidence that braille is here to stay.  Several groups are creating full page braille displays and graphic tablets and braille technology is getting more and more affordable. The Orbit Reader 20 will be the first refreshable braille device you can purchase for less than $500, making braille access through technology even more widespread around the globe.

At APH, we believe in braille. We know it’s crucial to literacy and independence. Please hear me clearly on this point.  We are not saying that other technology, such as screen readers that now come standard with many devices, like the iPhone, or the AI advances that read signs and materials to you aren’t important options. We’ll always support the availability of new technology that helps make information more accessible and promotes independence. But this technology’s place is alongside braille—as a complement, not a replacement.

 We are on the cusp of a braille revolution. With better access to transcription, the support of accessibility laws, the hard work of good teachers, the advent of affordable braille technology and the advocacy of parents and professionals we are poised to see braille elevated in schools, workplaces, homes, and communities like never before. APH is proud to be a part of this revolution, and we look forward to sharing the exciting days ahead with all of you.

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