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, September 27, 2018

Throwback Thursday: Raised Letter Book from Mexico

The binding of Pequeña Geografia del Distrito Federal
with black and green marbled paper cover
by Mike Hudson

Our object this week is a new acquisition, and a wonderful find.  This is a raised letter edition of a geography textbook, “Pequeña Geografia del Distrito Federal,” or "Geography of the Federal District."  It was embossed at the Escuela Nacional de Ciegos (National School for the Blind in Mexico City, Mexico) in 1899.  I consulted our friends at the Perkins School, the American Foundation for the Blind, and the NFB Jacobus tenBroek Library, and none had any raised letter books from Mexico.  The font is heavily influenced by the flowery fonts used by Valentin Haüy and Sebastien Guillie to emboss the first raised letter books in France rather than the angular fonts more popular in England and the United States.

The title page of Pequeña Geografia del Distrito Federal,
embossed in flowery raised letters

Friday, September 21, 2018

Joining Blindness Organizations

A Step Forward in Professional Development
by Jessica Minneci
     Young students and professionals are often on the fence about whether or not they should join a blindness organization such as The American Council of the Blind (ACB) or The National Federation of the Blind (NFB). Whether or not you choose to join one or both of them, it is crucial that you understand how they can benefit you as you progress through academia and into a full-time career. As a member of ACB, I have firsthand experience I’d like to share to help you make a decision.
A group of young adults leaving a brick building
      Upon winning a college scholarship in 2015, I flew to Texas for the ACB annual conference and convention. There, I not only received my award, but I also became a member of the affiliate ACB Students. Since then, I have served on the board, first as treasurer and currently as first vice president. Aside from providing scholarships, ACB Students hosts a number of professional development events at convention. Previous sessions included an informational discussion about the social network LinkedIn, which connects employers and job candidates, and speed networking, where college students met one another as well as other experienced professionals who are blind. Attending convention and serving on the board taught me valuable skills, such as collaborating with others, participating in committees, and planning events.
     At each convention, other opportunities present themselves. I have introduced myself to other writers, people with similar career goals as myself. More groups in ACB exist for people who aspire to be attorneys, entrepreneurs, government workers, IT specialists, vendors, and teachers. One committee assists prospective employees get their foot in the door by holding workshops and job fairs at convention. This committee, known as the employment committee, also produces training materials and does advocacy work for employees and employers who are blind or visually impaired. Similarly, in one of their events at convention, the ACB leadership institute training committee helps new and developing leaders. As a result, employers are given the chance to recruit future staff.
     You may also want to join a blindness organization just to take part in special-interest groups. These affiliates allow people with similar backgrounds to connect and support one another. For example, I am involved in GDUI, Guide Dog Users Inc., where I continue to learn about different guide dog handling techniques and new policies that can effect guide dogs and their handlers. Likewise, outreach groups give people a chance to assist in advocating for social issues including Braille literacy, legislation for the deaf-blind, the importance of talking glucometers for diabetics who are blind, healthcare access, and the needs of students who are blind or visually impaired. In this way, people from many different careers work together to meet the needs of the blind community.
      For all of these reasons, I am proud to be a member of ACB and I plan to continue participating with this organization in some capacity after I graduate from college. I hope my experience will encourage you to consider getting involved.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Throwback Thursday: A Candelabra Club Original

This month celebrates—I guess—our sixth year of writing this blog about the interesting things we hold in our museum collection here at APH.   I don’t know that I thought it would last this long, but our object this week is a hoot.  Back in the 1950s, one of the biggest celebrities anywhere was pianist and showman Liberace.  And he had at least one huge fan at APH, a lady named Elizabeth Judd who had been working here since before World War One!  Elizabeth was a member of a local Liberace fan club—do those still exist? —called the Candelabra Club.  She worked in braille production, and in 1954 she used the tactile graphics machinery there to make a very clever embossing plate featuring Liberace’s piano with his signature candelabra sitting on it and his poodle Suzette nearby.  Everything is captioned in braille.  Several proofs, like our object, were taken from the plate, but the original was given to Liberace—he loved it! —at his concert that week in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. 
 A smiling Liberace in a white tuxedo
sitting at a piano.
 Tactile graphic featuring a grand piano, candelabra,
and sitting dog

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

MATT Connect Software Gets Update

The MATT Connect from APH just got a makeover! We're happy to announce software modifications that will benefit all MATT Connect users. This software update, which is exclusive to APH, will change the interface options. Currently, users have two options: Standard and Simple. The Simple Interface will be completely removed and the MATT Connect will now feature three interfaces: Basic, Standard, and Advanced! These interfaces will increase user-ability for learners of all skills and ages.

Basic Interface will allow the MATT Connect to operate as a basic video magnifier. Users will have access to two live image modes: Magnifier and Distance Viewing. This setting is perfect for first time assistive tech users, young and old. With simplified options on the button banner, users will more easily learn to operate this interface. Personalized settings can be locked by a teacher or caregiver to ensure end users get the most out of their MATT Connect.

If you choose the Standard Interface, you'll get all the features of the Basic Interface, with the added ability to capture images, access the gallery, and enable OCR reading. This interface is perfect for more experienced users who have the skills to navigate this additional functionality.

Advanced Interface unlocks the full potential of the MATT Connect. Operating in this capacity gives you all the benefits of the Standard interface while also allowing users to access applications through the APH Toolbox and even exit the Prodigi software altogether to use other applications on the tablet.
A young girl with a pink bow and glasses
sits on the floor using a MATT Connect to draw

When connected to WIFI your MATT Connect will automatically prompt you to install the update. 

You can find our updated user guide and accompanying skills checklist on the downloads page of our web site. 

Don't have a MATT Connect for your classroom? It's available on quota:

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Throwback Thursday: Patronato Nacional de Ciegos

Twelve by nine inch poster promoting eye health
Our collection includes items from all over the world.  This poster come from the Patronato Nacional de Ciegos, the National Association for the Blind in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  The colorful design, by H. Olivera, features a large yellow eye on a blue background above stylized male and female figures.  The Spanish text translates to “Good vision contributes to good health and good health to good vision.”  As in America, public health officials in Argentina knew that many eye conditions that can lead to blindness are easily preventable.  We have several other posters in the country’s campaign to encourage its citizens to have their eyes checked.  This poster dates from the 1950s, but even today, the World Health Organization estimates that over 80% of all vision impairment, worldwide, can be prevented or cured.

Internships: A Beneficial Endeavor

by Jessica Minneci

If you are blind or visually impaired like me, the thought of obtaining an internship might feel overwhelming. Questions that swam through my head included: "Will they have the assistive technology I need? Will my boss be willing to adapt things for me, like converting PDFs into word documents? Will I do well at the tasks assigned to me? Will my co-workers like me?" All of these questions could run through your head when you are deciding if you want to do an internship. I hope insight from my experiences as an intern at American Printing House for the Blind will assist others by shedding light on the advantages and disadvantages of being an intern. 
A quick Google search reveals some of the disadvantages of an internship. Many don't pay and you may be assigned to work odd hours or given menial tasks. If you want the internship to count toward your college credits, you still have to pay the college for those credits: so you could end up losing money. Also, if people are not careful and do not negotiate the longevity of their internship, they could end up being an intern indefinitely, thereby keeping them from moving up the company ladder into the role of a full-time employee. Thankfully, I did not have these experiences.
Despite a few disadvantages, interning for a company has a plethora of advantages. The most obvious benefit of working as an intern is adding work experience to your resume. If an internship is in your field of study, you will be more marketable. Additionally, these short-term internships provide real work experience. You adjust to an 8 hour schedule, learn to dress professionally, and improve your communication skills. As a communication intern at APH, I got a taste of my chosen field. I learned about aspects of communication that I enjoy doing, such as social media. I utilized skills that I learned in college, such as target audience awareness, and to craft blog posts. My internship allowed me to apply what I knew to a real work environment.

Photo of Jessica outside reading braille at table. Taken during her internship at APH.
Jessica outside reading braille at table. Taken during her internship at APH.
New skills can also be acquired through interning for a company. For example, I learned how to use my screen reading software to use Microsoft outlook and set up meetings. Another benefit to interning is representing the company at different events. While attending the American Council for the Blind convention in St. Louis, I was able to show off my skills as an intern with APH by conducting an event for students. Through an internship, you can also build a network of contacts and learn about other jobs or fields within that company. For example, I was taken under the wing of APH's director of sales and sold some products in St. Louis.
At the end of most internships, students receive professional evaluations from their bosses. This feedback can assist you as you learn about your strengths and weaknesses as a worker. The employer may be impressed with you and offer you a full-time position at the company after the conclusion of your internship. If the employer does not extend an offer, that is okay, too. Either way, you’re going to leave the internship more confident in your working capabilities. You are now given the opportunity to choose whether the field you interned in is right for you.

An internship is a great way for you to get your foot in the door and try your hand at your chosen field. Fortunately, the few disadvantages of working as an intern do not outweigh the advantages. I believe that it is in every student's best interest to give an internship a shot.

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