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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 answ

Updated: 2017-01-19T16:47:46.438-05:00


Nature for the Blind: Connecting People Who Are Blind and Visually Impaired with Opportunities for Outdoor Exploration


What ideas and thoughts come to mind when you think of nature, especially as it relates to persons who are blind and how they interact with it? Perhaps you’ve had experiences as I have where people with typical vision talked about how much they wished I could see one or more aspects of nature or some outdoor phenomenon that seemed only to be understood by people with typical eyesight. While people with blindness and low vision may not experience the outdoors in the same way as people with typical vision, they can enjoy it, learn about it, and experience it in their own unique way. This post highlights a new website,, dedicated to enhancing the understanding and interaction with nature and the outdoors by people who are blind and visually impaired. We will discuss the site’s founder and his inspiration for creating it, the information the site provides, and how you may add to its content. Nature for the Blind The Nature for the Blind website strives to connect people who are blind and visually impaired with opportunities for exploring nature and participating in outdoor recreational activities. Always interested in nature, the site’s creator, Evan Barnard, started working with the visually impaired community at age 12 in 2010 when he helped clear pathways and replace stolen Braille signs along a vandalized Braille trail in the Nature Conservancy-owned Marshall Forest in Rome, Georgia. Barnard collaborated with the local Rome-Floyd County chapter of the Georgia Council of the Blind and began advocating for increasing their access to natural areas. Barnard eventually designed and built another Braille nature trail, the Whispering Woods Braille Trail, to give more people with visual impairments access to the outdoors. The trail was designed with input from members of the Georgia Council of the Blind and built by student and adult volunteers with grants and corporate donations. The finalized Braille trail was officially dedicated with a nature walk for Georgia Council of the Blind members in 2014. Barnard began coordinating local nature walks and programs along the new Braille trail for youth and adults with visual impairments and blindness, creating the organization Nature for All to bring student volunteers together with youth who are visually impaired or blind to share nature experiences. While Barnard researched the creation of a new Braille trail at the Georgia Lions Camp for the Blind, he discovered that Braille trails and sensory gardens existed in other cities across the United States and around the world. He also determined that no one had compiled a directory that provided an opportunity for people who are blind and visually impaired to locate these mostly unpublicized trails and gardens. As a result, Barnard surmised that many people with low vision or no vision did not know that these opportunities existed, even when the trails and gardens were a part of someone’s own community, and he decided to change that situation by creating the Nature for the Blind website. Site Contents Barnard’s site, Nature for the Blind,provides locations and information about Braille nature trails and sensory gardens for members of the visually impaired community as well as people with other disabilities in the United States and around the world. It lists detailed information on 165 Braille trails and sensory gardens found in 28 countries worldwide, including 93 trails in 31 different U.S. states and Puerto Rico. These trails and gardens are incredibly diverse in terms of location, natural features, trail design, and opportunities for interaction. States like California and Massachusetts have as many as nine different Braille trails and sensory gardens, and, internationally, South Africa has 14 Braille trails, most at national parks. There are special tours available for people who are blind and visually impaired to travel to multiple national parks around South Africa and experience the different Braille trail locations with others. Some Braille trails have themes, such [...]

Quick Tip: Fred's Head from APH. Read about the more than 3000 posts and the 200 areas of interest we cover in the blog and find out how to contribute.


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A Comprehensive History of Braille


January is Braille Literacy Month APH’s copy of Procédé pour écrire les paroles, la musique et le plain-chant au moyen de point, 1829, by Louis Braille (1809-1852). Dear Readers: January marks Braille Literacy Month, an opportunity to take a step back and contemplate the importance of braille in the lives of children and adults who are visually impaired or blind. Literacy has taken on increased importance in our world as we’ve moved through history, and it has never been so critical to success and fulfillment as it is today. The ability to read and write, whether using the senses of vision, hearing, touch, or a combination of senses, is considered a critical skill for employment and leading a well-rounded life. Literacy through touch has not always been a given for those who are blind, and methods of reading tactually have evolved. Thanks to APH Museum Director Micheal Hudson, we are able to provide you with a detailed chronology of the evolution of braille and the literacy it has brought to the hands of thousands of individuals. Landmarks in Braille Literacy 1786: Valentine Haüy pioneers literacy for people who are blind when he invents the raised letter book at the Institut Royale des Jeunes Aveugles in Paris, France. 1829-1837: Louis Braille introduces an elegant and easy-to-learn tactile code based on dots, providing a simple way to read and write. Its adoption around the world will take many decades. 1854: The Braille System is formally adopted in France, two years after the death of Louis Braille from tuberculosis. 1860: The system is published for the first time in America by the Missouri School for the Blind. 1871: The American Association of Instructors of the Blind(AAIB) adopts an American adaptation of braille—New York Point—and it is soon widely used in American residential schools. 1875: The American Printing House for the Blind(APH) publishes its first New York Point book. 1878: Joel Smith, a teacher at the Perkins Institution, introduces a second adaptation of braille that he calls Modified American Braille. It is used by only a few U.S. schools initially, but they are influential—Perkins, the Overbrook School, etc. The period of competing systems will become known as the “War of the Dots.” 1892: Frank Hall, Superintendent of the Illinios School for the Blind, invents the Hall Braille Writer, the first successful mechanical braille typewriter. In 1894, Hall invents a stereotyping machines allowing the inexpensive and rapid production of embossing plates. The plates allow a dramatic expansion in braille production over the next thirty years. 1893: APH embosses its first textbooks in Modified American Braille. 1905: The Uniform Type Committee is formed by the AAIB and the American Association of Workers for the Blind(AAWB) to adopt a single uniform code for all English speaking readers. The committee decides that British Braille—basically the original French alphabet code with a complicated set of contractions—was superior to both New York Point and Modified American Braille. Initially, the committee adapts a new code—Standard Dot—that combines the strengths of all three, but there is no enthusiasm for Standard Dot outside the U.S. 1918: After years of unsuccessful negotiations with the British, the Uniform Type Committee adopts Braille Grade One and a Half, basically British braille but with a simplified set of contractions. British readers can easily read the American code, but American readers cannot read the British. 1932: At the London Type Conference, delegates from the English speaking world approve a uniform braille system, Standard English Braille. It is mostly the British braille code from 1905, but with a concession to the Americans, contractions do not break over syllables. 1941-53: Thousands of infants have their sight damaged by the oxygen in their hospital incubators. The educational community is unprepared for the sudden spike in BVI students. Many overflow into the public schools, ju[...]

Throwback Thursday Object: Todd's Improved Edison-Mimeograph Typewriter


To continue looking at alternative writing tools as we celebrate Louis Braille’s birthday, this week we feature an early typewriter adapted for users with vision loss.  Famed inventor Thomas Alva Edison developed this machine in 1894 to cut stencils for his Mimeograph machine. (A Mimeograph was an early duplicating machine that I learned how to use as a page back in my own middle school.)  The Edison Mimeograph Typewriter used a rotating disk on the base to select a letter, then a lever on the left of the machine was pressed to activate a hammer that struck a plunger that typed on the underside of the roller. To view what had been typed, an operator had to swing the carriage upward. W.G. Todd, Superintendent of the Kansas Institution for Education of the Blind from 1893-1895, sold a modified version of the Edison-Mimeograph Typewriter that he had adapted for use by people who were blind or visually impaired. Todd rearranged the keyboard and put raised letters on the keys. This example was used at the Kentucky School for the Blind, which bought its first typewriters in 1900 after Superintendent B.B. Huntoon saw them being used at other schools for the blind.
Micheal A. Hudson
Museum Director
American Printing House for the Blind

Quick Tip: Denna Lambert' Keynote Address. This inspirational talk was given during APH's Annual Meeting 2016. Please enjoy!


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