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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Friday, August 31, 2018

Introducing Two Great APH Childhood Literacy Products

--> The Tactile Book Builder Kit and the CVI Book Builder Kit 

For a typically sighted child who is not yet a reader, visual illustrations offer an important bridge to “making meaning” out of the story, helping him/her take a more active role—first, as listener and later, as a beginning reader.
How do you create those same benefits for a child who is blind or visually impaired? Customized learning tools can make a big difference, but creating them can be difficult and time consuming. APH is happy to introduce two great products with the same mission: making it easy to create meaningful and appropriate books that provide a foundation for literacy for young learners.   

Close up of adult hands cutting green materials for the TBB
The Tactile Book Builder includes binders and a variety of page types, provided in black and a range of colors. The materials in the kit allow you to use objects and textures to create different types of tactile illustrations, accompanied by print or braille text. The Tactile Book Builder manual guides teachers and parents in designing individualized books—first-hand experience stories, concept books that are meaningful and appropriate for young tactual learners and dual visual/tactual learners.  

Close up of adult hands cutting red material for the CVI BB
CVI Book Builder was created for children with Cortical/Cerebral Visual Impairment (CVI). Because children with CVI often have difficulty in understanding objects, pictures, and letters presented against a complex background the CVI Book Builder takes a different approach. In the kit you’ll find black pages and black binders that serve as low complexity backgrounds where you can present familiar items, photos, and eventually words. The CVI Book Builder manual guides parents and teachers in creating individualized books specifically for their reader with CVI.
The possibilities are endless with our customizable book builder kits! From infants to grade schoolers, you can help your child learn the kind of narrative tracking & story telling that typically sighted children get from visual illustrations including fine motor, exploratory, & cognitive skills.

Interested in buying a book builder kit? Want to see what each kit contains? Follow the links below for more information.

Tactile Book Builder:

CVI Book Builder:

Thursday, August 30, 2018

O&M Strategies for Working with Students with CVI

Partners in O&M: Supporting Orientation and Mobility for Students Who Are Visually Impaired, is a resource that bridges the gap between what O&M specialists teach, and every day life with parents and TVIs. In chapter 4, readers learn about O&M for children with CVI.

O&M Strategies for Working with Students with CVI
Roman-Lantzy (2010, 2018) suggests that teaching strategies and modifications used when working with students with CVI should be individualized, based on the student’s CVI characteristics as well as O&M principles. The following are a few strategies and modifications that can be used by the O&M specialist as well as other members of the educational team.

  • Present objects in a student’s preferred visual field.
  • Draw attention to non-preferred visual fields with movement or use of a preferred color.
  • Increase visual attention to visual fields at a distance that are not preferred.
  • Use lights, Mylar pom-poms, or other reflective materials with light shining on an object to motivate reaching behavior or movement.
  • Present target objects against a contrasting color background.
  • Use familiar objects.
  • Use single-colored objects presented against contrasting solid backgrounds.
  • Attach a familiar object to a novel object you want the student to view to make it easier to initially view the novel object.
  • Accommodate visual latency by allowing extra time to view objects.
  • To make a student’s desk highly visible, place a yellow ink blotter on the desk and use clear contact paper to keep it in place.
  • Use a chair that is a different color from the color of the student’s desk.
  • Use reflective tape or paint to mark stairs and other elevation changes.
  • Travel in brightly lit corridors.
  • Use a brightly colored rug or other material to label a landmark; remove it once the student becomes familiar with the landmark.
  • Use verbal prompts such as “slow,” “look,” and “check.”
  • Make the student aware that visual field preferences may create potential hazards during O&M instruction. Practice increasing the use of other fields.
  • Start with a simple, controlled environment. Be aware of impediments and complications as the student’s travel environment becomes more visually complex or contains high levels of sensory complexity (e.g., noisy downtown area).”

This timely new resource reflects innovative thinking in teaching O&M to children, provides a solid foundation for future O&M specialists, and addresses concepts and strategies other professionals need to know to reinforce O&M skills. In addition to prospective O&M specialists and teachers of students with visual impairments, Partners in O&M will be useful for special education teachers, physical and occupational therapists, paraeducators, and interveners, among others. Check it out:

You can find more excellent resources from AFB Press, now distributed by APH by visiting:

Throwback Thursday: Braille Checkers

Cardboard box filled with round and square plastic game pieces.
 The round pieces are pink and the squares are white.
One part of our collection that I do not write enough about is our games.  I love board games, myself.  My family has a mountain retreat stocked with favorite books, well-worn vinyl records, and stacks and stacks of board games.  Our Throwback Thursday object this week is a cardboard box of plastic checkers.  One set is round and the other is square.  They were distributed by Lions International, around 1970, and marketed as “Braille Checkers,” but there is really no braille on them.  You sometimes see tactile things marked that way, as if “braille” is a synonym for tactile.  I think Louis would have liked that, but it probably drives folks who work on the braille code crazy.  The checkers were manufactured by Wilson Plastics and the set came with a plastic board made by Dow Chemical that featured indented squares.  Unfortunately, we do not have one of the original boards, but we are still looking!

Monday, August 27, 2018

Deciding When to Cross at Uncontrolled Crossings

Instructing someone who is blind or visually impaired how to cross the road is an important O&M skill. Properly gauging the traffic around you can be the difference between safely getting around and being in an accident. Orientation and Mobility Techniques has a handy guide for crossing at uncontrolled crossings.

Deciding Where to Cross
Deciding When to Cross at Uncontrolled Crossings
Purpose: to enable the learner to evaluate the crossing situation and determine whether she can hear or see traffic with enough warning to know when it is clear to cross and to make the correct timing decision for the crossing (Sauerburger, 1999, 2005, 2006, n.d.).
     1. The learner estimates the width of the street and the amount of time it will take to cross the street.
     2.  The learner waits for a quiet period, then listens for approaching vehicles on the perpendicular street.
     3.  The learner notes the warning time of each vehicle (the time between when it was first hear or seen and when it passed in front of her) and compares that to her crossing time.
     4.  The learning repeats steps 2 and 3 for numerous vehicles until she can draw a conclusion about whether vehicles can be heard with enough warning to be confident as to when it is clear to cross. 
     5.  If vehicles are not detected with enough warning, the risk of crossing is assessed.
     6.  If it is too risky, the learner considers alternatives to crossing at that location.

Looking to learn more about O&M? Orientation and Mobility Techniques has been revised and updated for today's fast-changing world. With new, easy-to-read color format, accompanying photographs, updated information on street crossings at complex intersections, and a new chapter on O&M for people with low vision, this revised edition is a must-have in your O&M library. See what other updates made it into this new addition:

You can find more excellent resources from the AFB Press, now distributed by the APH Press, by visiting:

Friday, August 24, 2018

Special Collections Librarian Creates "Blind Musicians" Collection

“Music, at its essence, is what gives us memories. And the longer a song has existed in our lives, the more memories we have of it.” - Stevie Wonder

Justin sits smiling with the listening station behind him
Justin Gardner, a special collections librarian at the American Printing House for the Blind, has always had a passion for music. So it’s no surprise that he was in attendance when Michael Cleveland, a Kentucky School for the Blind graduate and award-winning American bluegrass fiddle player, played at the APH Bards and Storytellers event. Impressed by the performance, Justin was inspired to do some research on this local musician that had made it big. Justin soon found there were very few articles on someone who he considered to be such an influential musician in the BVI community. Luckily, Justin saw this as an opportunity to use this passion for music. He was inspired to create a comprehensive library of music created by musicians that are blind or visually impaired. Spanning from the 13th century to present, this collection has greats like Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, the quirky street performer turned composer Louis Hardin also known as “Moondog,” and the relatively unknown Foot Patrol.

Close up of Justin's hand perusing the catalog
With this collection, you can enjoy this immersive opportunity to explore BVI musicians throughout history. This project was made possible through a grant by the H. W. Wilson Foundation. The complete collection, including all available songs from each artist is currently only accessible through the listening station at the American Printing House for the Blind located in Louisville, Ky. You can listen to a sample of each artist’s work on a Spotify playlist made by Justin. This playlist has about 4 songs from each artist and can be found in an embedded player below. Spotify was chosen to host this sample list as they have the most comprehensive collection of music for free. You can also listen to Spotify through your Alexa or Google Home.

Justin continues to add to this playlist as new artists are discovered and old artists are uncovered. If you see a famous musician from the BVI community that did not make the list, please feel free to contact Justin Gardner at at

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