APH Press Release

Long-Serving Employee Retires From the American Printing House for the Blind

Louisville, KY – Fred Gissoni will retire from the American Printing House for the Blind (APH), the world’s largest nonprofit company devoted solely to researching, developing, and manufacturing products for people who are blind or visually impaired, on December 30, 2011 after 60 years of working in the field of blindness, 23 of them at APH.

Fred Gissoni was born in Northdale, New Jersey. Born blind, Fred used products from APH beginning with the early years of his education. Later, he became such an important and knowledgeable force in advancing access to services and to technology for those who are blind, that APH created a blog with tips, articles, and resources for blind and visually impaired people and named it "Fred’s Head" in his honor.

Fred has a B.A. degree in Sociology from Rutgers University and a Masters in Counseling and Guidance from New York University. A brilliant intellect, inventive and knowledgeable, Fred has always been drawn to technology. He became a licensed radio amateur in 1946, a program that included learning Morse code. He came to Kentucky in 1956 to work as a placement counselor and rehabilitation teacher at the Kentucky Department for the Blind; he later became head of the Assistive Technology Unit there.

"Fred’s impact on the lives of blind and visually impaired students and adults cannot be measured," said Gary Mudd, Vice President of Public Affairs at APH. "He has had a positive influence on generations of people, not just in the United States, but around the world. I am one of those fortunate people. He encouraged me throughout my high school years, college, and still today. If someone is experiencing a vision loss, Fred is the person to talk to. I’ve seen him counsel people from anywhere, at any time, and in any time zone. He’s one of those people who hasn’t forgotten anything. He’s just as kind as he is good."

In the ’60s, while at the Department for the Blind, Fred worked on several projects that continue to have an impact. He did extensive work with infra-red and ultrasonic obstacle detection devices for use by blind people. Some of this material was incorporated into studies in O & M (orientation and mobility) which is still used today. During that period, Fred also worked with Tim Cranmer to develop an accessible abacus for people who are blind and approached APH to produce and sell it. Fred wrote the instructions for the "Cranmer Abacus." In 1968, APH was working with IBM on a braille electronic typewriter. Fred worked on the project and created the special keyboard arrangement for it.

Fred, along with Wayne Thompson, an engineer from the Technology Unit, conceived and worked out a prototype device called the Portabraille. It represented a breakthrough in technology, allowing blind individuals to read, write and edit information in braille for the first time. Their information shared through public domain, laid the foundation for the "APH PocketBraille" and the "Braille ‘n Speak," electronic note takers used by blind people throughout the world. Because of the impact of the Portabraille, Fred and Wayne received the 1998 "Creative Use of Braille" award.

In 1987, Fred was asked to serve on a Microcomputer Materials Advisory Committee to advise APH about how to deal with promising new technology products that were being developed. The advice of the committee was that because this type of product would be more and more important for accessibility, but was new to consumers, there should be a position created to advise and answer questions. APH took the committee’s advice. In 1988, they created the new position; Fred applied and was hired.

Today, Fred is Product Support Specialist. He answers questions, and otherwise assists customers with questions about APH products and how they work—especially the technology products. Over the years he has also written instruction manuals for various products and taught classes in use of assistive technology.

For more information about APH and the work it does, call (502) 895-2405 or log on to www.aph.org.

About the American Printing House for the Blind

The American Printing House for the Blind, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is the world’s largest company devoted solely to researching, developing, and manufacturing products for people who are blind or visually impaired. Founded in 1858, it is the oldest organization of its kind in the United States. Under the 1879 federal Act to Promote the Education of the Blind, APH is the official supplier of educational materials for visually impaired students in the U.S. who are working at less than college level.

APH manufactures textbooks and magazines in braille, large print, recorded, and digital formats. APH also manufactures hundreds of educational, recreational, and daily living products. APH’s fully-accessible web site (www.aph.org) features information about APH products and services, online ordering of products, and free information on a wide variety of blindness-related topics. One popular feature of the site is the Louis Database, a free tool to help locate accessible books available from organizations across the U.S.

The American Printing House for the Blind, Inc. is located at 1839 Frankfort Avenue in Louisville, Kentucky.

Visit Our House!