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More than 160 years of life-changing innovations.
Since 1858, The American Printing House for the Blind has operated in Louisville, Kentucky as the world’s largest nonprofit organization creating accessible learning experiences through educational, workplace, and independent living products and services for people who are blind and visually impaired.
There’s no other place like it. Creating things that make a real difference in people’s lives is what we do. Please take a moment or two to watch our video.
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The APH Mission
Empowering people who are blind or visually impaired by providing accessible and innovative products, materials and services for lifelong success.
We believe the future belongs to everyone.
A Need for Books
Dempsey Sherrod, a blind man from Mississippi, convinces his state to charter a national “Publishing House to Print Books in Raised Letters” to be located in Louisville, KY. The General Assembly of Kentucky passes an act to establish the American Printing House for the Blind.
Delayed by the Civil War
APH begins raising funds from citizens in Mississippi and Kentucky, but is delayed in beginning operations by the onset of the Civil War. After the war ends, donations from Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana restart its operations. The following year its first book is printed: Fables and Tales for Children, in Boston Line Letter.
A Federal Subsidy for Embossed Books
Congress appropriates funding for students who are blind for the first time. The Act to Promote the Education of the Blind provides embossed books and “tangible apparatus” from the Printing House to students all over the country.
Federal funding creates new demand for embossed books and the Printing House outgrows its basement room at the Kentucky School for the Blind. APH constructs its own building on land nearby.
The Era of Braille Production Begins
Building expansion doubles the capacity of the APH press room and bindery. Meanwhile, the preference for the braille code over raised letter embossing continues to grow. Educational aids at this time are basic–braille slates, writing guides, maps, spelling frames, etc. 1928 saw the introduction of Reader’s Digest in braille.
New Products and Services
The Pratt-Smoot Act expands funding for literature for blind adults. In response, APH installs a complete recording studio and vinyl record production line. Hugh Sutton narrates the company’s first Talking Book, Gulliver’s Travels.
The Work Continues Despite a World War
APH creates a large type department. The popularity of large type textbooks and growing demand for braille and Talking Books following World War II allows the Printing House to build a major new wing.
Expansion and Innovation
During the 1950s, IBM and APH partner to write an English text-to-braille computer translation program. The Department of Educational Research is established and APH dramatically expands its production of education aids. Fifty-two braille magazines are in production at this time.
The Digital Revolution Begins
IBM presents APH with a computer that can be used to automatically translate print to braille. APH completes the largest braille project ever undertaken – the World Book Encyclopedia®. UNICEF funds a project that sends older APH stereograph machines to foreign countries.
1970s and 1980s
Embracing New Media
Cassette tapes are introduced as a medium for talking books. A computerized database for textbooks (Central Automated Resource List — CARL) replaces the Central Catalog card catalog. APH Braille Transcription Editors (electronic braille writing terminals) become operational and braille production is now largely computerized.
Moving Toward a New Millennium
The Museum of the American Printing House for the Blind opens in October 1994. The Accessible Textbook Initiative and Collaboration (ATIC) is created to address the issues of timeliness and availability of textbooks in a variety of accessible media.
The 21st Century and Beyond
Dramatic growth occurs in the number and variety of new educational and daily living aids coming from the Printing House. In both braille and large type, new processes and digital technology convert APH from a traditional publisher to a company able to produce one book for one child, on demand.
Accessibility Made Better, More Affordable
The Printing House creates the Technology Product Research Department to emphasize the need for better, more affordable technology tools. APH introduces products that exploit GPS technology, braille translation software, digital magnification, and other promising developments. The company’s involvement with the international Transforming Braille Group, results in the introduction of the world’s first refreshable braille display under $500, the Orbit Reader 20.
Board of Trustees
Meet the dedicated people who help guide us on our mission.
A Message from Our President.
“The Helen Keller desk represents the fierce belief in human potential, and the miracles that happen when we use our collective ingenuity to release that potential into the world. Believing and working for a world that welcomes everyone isn’t just a platitude, it is the key that unlocks innovation, prosperity, and happiness for all.”