Materials for Students
- Background Information: The American Printing House for the Blind and the Museum
- Tour Tips: What to expect on your tour of APH
- The Basics of Braille: A brief history of its development and how the braille cell works
- The Alphabet in Braille: A braille chart and practice exercises
- Grade 1 (Uncontracted) and Grade 2 (Contracted) Braille
- Knowledge Quest: Questions to find answers to during the tour and suggested museum activities
- Meeting Someone Who is Blind
- Facts About Dog Guides
- Vocabulary List
- Additional Resources: Books and Web Links
What is the American Printing House for the Blind?
The American Printing House for the Blind (APH) is a nonprofit company founded in 1858 to print books and create other products for people who are blind or visually impaired. Since 1879, when the United States Congress passed the Act to Promote Education of the Blind, APH has been the official printer of educational materials for legally blind students in the United States who are below college level. Over the years, APH has grown and has expanded its products and services. The company’s mission remains the same– to provide products and services that help people who are blind or visually impaired live independently.
Today, the American Printing House for the Blind prints books and magazines in braille and also produces them in large type. The company records books and magazines on audio cassette tape (better known as "talking books") and provides educational software for computer use. APH also develops tools and aids to help people who are blind or visually impaired in their daily activities.
The Museum of the American Printing House for the Blind
The Museum is located on the second floor of the American Printing House for the Blind. The museum collects books and other artifacts (objects of historic interest) that were produced for and used by people who were blind or visually impaired. Many of the artifacts date back to the 1800s! The museum also has on display some of the equipment and tools used in the past by the American Printing House for the Blind. Through its collection, the museum helps to record and preserve history and to make history available to you.
There’s a lot to see, touch, and do during your visit to APH. We’re glad you are coming. To make sure you have a great visit, we ask that you keep a few simple guidelines in mind:
- Stay with the tour group at all times and within designated areas, to be a safe distance from plant machinery.
- Give the tour guide your full attention. Your tour guide will have lots of interesting information to share with you.
- Wait for the tour guide to give you directions about
hands-on displays, and handle objects carefully.
- Walk only–for your safety, the safety of
APH employees, and to protect the museum displays.
- Talk quietly, so as not to disturb other visitors or employees working in the building.
- Spend time at each museum display if possible; there is a lot to learn and experience at the museum.
- Some employees may have dog guides with them. The dog guides are working, too. Please don’t distract them by trying to call or pet them.
- Read the Basics of Braille, Meeting Someone who is Blind, Facts About Dog Guides, and Vocabulary pages included in this material before you come for your visit. They are filled with interesting and useful information.
Braille is a touch (tactile) system of reading and writing. Six raised dots are combined in different ways to represent letters, numbers, punctuation, and symbols. Who developed this system? Louis Braille.
He was born in France in 1809 and became blind when he was a young boy, after an accident in his father’s harness shop. At that time, there was no practical system for both reading and writing for people who were blind. The idea of a system of raised dots was kindled when Braille learned about a raised dot code in use by the French military. The code, known as "night writing," was invented by Charles Barbier. The military used it to write messages that could be read by touch in the dark. Louis Braille developed the code into a useful system of touch reading and writing. His system is called Braille.
The Braille Cell
Braille dots are arranged in cells. A cell is the space that can hold up to six dots. Each cell can be up to three dots high and up to two dots wide. Below is a cell with six dots. Each dot within a cell has a position number.
(Shading indicates a raised dot.)
Refer to the braille alphabet chart above to complete the following practice exercises. Your dots won’t be raised, but the exercies will help you learn the basics of braille.
1. Write the word "book" in braille. Shade the correct dots, one letter to each cell.
2. Write your first name in braille by shading in the appropriate dots.
3. Write a message in braille by shading in the appropriate dots and have someone else read it.
There are two grades of braille–grade 1 (uncontracted braille) and grade 2 (contracted braille). You have just completed some practice exercises in grade 1 braille.
In grade 1 braille, the dots in each cell represent a single letter. When you wrote the word "book," you filled in dots in four cells (one cell per letter).
Grade 2 braille is a shortened or contracted form of braille–the dots in each cell can represent contractions, short forms of words, and even whole words. For example, the word "go" in grade 2 braille is written the same way as the letter "g" in grade 1 braille:
The contracted form, grade 2 braille, takes up less space and is faster to read and write. Most braille books and materials are printed in grade 2 braille. "You can go" is written like this in grade 1 braille:
In grade 2 braille, "you can go" is written this way:
During your visit, be on the look out for answers to the following questions:
- Before Louis Braille developed his dot system, books were embossed with raised letters of the alphabet. How did Braille’s system improve tactile reading and writing?
- Why do the pages of braille books and magazines need to be loosely bound?
- What new inventions or technologies for using information have been developed since the time of Louis Braille and are especially useful today for people who are blind or visually impaired?
- Write your name using a braille writer. Then, try another braille writing device called a slate (with this device, you write from right to left–you’ll find out why).
- Visit the interactive computer display. The computer has voice synthesized software, so it reads aloud to you. Try one of the math problems on this computer–don’t worry if the answer is wrong, the computer will tell you the correct answer!
- Check out the games display. How were playing cards, dice, checkers, and other games adapted to be tactile? Can you find the chess set handcrafted by Morrison Heady? Heady was a poet from Louisville who was blind. He was influential in generating interest in the establishment of the American Printing House for the Blind.
- When meeting someone who is blind or visually impaired, always introduce yourself and speak in a normal tone–there’s no need to speak loudly or slowly, unless the individual has a hearing impairment. Speak directly to the individual and, at the end of the conversation, let the person know when you are leaving.
- Don’t hesitate to use visual words, like "see" or "look," when talking to someone who is blind or visually impaired. Expressions such as "see you later" are commonly used by lots of people.
- Some individuals use canes or dog guides to assist them in walking independently. However, there may be times when having another person assist as a "sighted guide" is desirable. You can ask a person who is blind or visually impaired if your assistance is needed. Offer to let the person hold your arm as you walk along. The person you are assisting will hold your arm above the elbow and follow.
The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) publishes a fact sheet titled "Sensitivity to Blindness or Visual Impairments." You can find the fact sheet on their website. The website address for AFB is listed in the Additional Resources section of this document, along with other relevant websites.
- That’s the first lesson! Dog guide is the politically correct term. "Seeing Eye" and "Guide Dog" are names of training centers, so saying "Seeing Eye Dog" is like using a brand name.
- Dog guides are available from about 15 training centers across the U.S. Generally, a blind person trains with the dog at the center for a month.
- Dog guides are usually one of these breeds: Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers (Black, Yellow, or Chocolate) or German Shepherds.
- Dog guides help their blind partners by walking the person around obstacles, like telephone poles or street barricades.
- Dog guides do not know when a traffic light has changed (they can’t see colors), but they will listen and watch for traffic and will only cross the street when it is clear. Safety is the dog’s responsibility.
- Dog guides do not automatically know where to go; they follow orders that are issued by the blind person as a series of commands, such as "Forward," "Left," and "Right."
- Dog guides wearing harnesses are at work. People should not pet or otherwise distract a dog guide from his job. Ask permission if you want to pet the dog.
- Dog guides are invisible. At least that’s the way you should act if you’re wondering how to behave when you meet a blind person with a dog.
- Dog guides can go wherever the blind person goes. That means restaurants, airplanes, and stores. It’s the law.
- When the harness is off, the dog guide is a regular dog–ready to play!
Reprinted from: In Touch published by the American Printing House for the Blind, Louisville, KY.
There are several dog guide training programs in the United States. A list of programs is provided at various websites on the Internet. For an overview, visit the Fred’s Head Database.
- Having no useful vision.
- A system of raised dots that can be read by touch and can be written in different combinations to represent letters, symbols, punctuation, and numbers.
- braille writer:
- A writing device that looks similar to a typewriter but embosses paper with raised dots.
- The space in which braille dots are arranged; each cell can be up to three dots high and two dots wide.
- To print a raised dot, letter, or line onto paper that can then be read by touch, using your fingertips.
- legally blind:
- Having measurable vision of 20/200 or less in the better eye with correction, or having a field of vision no greater
than 20 degrees with correction. A person who is legally blind needs to be within 20 feet of an object that can be seen at 200 feet by someone with unimpaired vision.*
- A tool used for writing braille. Paper is clamped into the slate and dots are embossed on the paper by pushing a stylus (pointed handheld device) into the open rectangles (cells) of the slate.
- A sharp pointed handheld tool used with a slate to emboss paper with braille dots.
- Describes something which can be understood or read by touch. For example, some maps and books are tactile. They have raised lines and raised dots, instead of printed letters, and are read by touch.
- visually impaired:
- Having very limited vision, even when wearing glasses or contact lenses.* Special aids such as large-type textbooks and magnifying devices, are necessary for reading, writing, and other activities.
*Source: What Museum Guides Need to Know (American Foundation for the Blind, 1989.)