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APH News

April 2020

COVID-19 and its Effects on the APH Community

We are dedicated to keeping our employees and customers safe during this difficult time. Due to COVID-19, our office is open and doing business, but our staff is working from home. We are currently holding shipments to schools and agencies that may be closed, unless you tell us you are open and ready to receive them. Read our blog to find out about current updates and ways you can learn and engage during this time of staying safe at home.

Virtual ExCEL for Students with Visual Impairments

Stuck at home and looking for ways to continue your student or child’s education? Participate in the Virtual ExCEL Academy, the joint effort between APH, Paths to Literacy and California State University, LA. This Academy offers free, engaging lessons for students with a variety of abilities. An adult must register the student to attend. We suggest the student’s TVI log on and participate at the same time, and then connect with the student after the lesson to review or answer questions pertaining to the student’s educational needs. This service is not a substitute for individualized instruction, but may be considered as alternate extension activities. For more information regarding lessons, instructors, and registration, visit our partners at Paths to Literacy.

Student typing on laptop wearing headphones

#AtHomeWithAPH Resources

Keep your student or child learning and having fun with this list of resources compiled by APH!

Change maker banner silhouette of people in colored square backgrounds

Brand-New APH Podcast

We’re thrilled to announce that APH has launched our podcast, Change Makers! Our first topics will focus on important information you need to know during the COVID-19 global pandemic. Once we are through this crisis, we will transition to our standard format, which will highlight people who are making a difference in the field of blindness and visual impairment, while also providing information about APH products and resources. Please, listen and subscribe. The podcast will be coming to Apple Podcasts and Spotify soon.

A New Home for APH News

We have now archived past and recent editions of APH News. Easily find topics and products with our new search feature.

New Products

APH is excited to announce the release of the following new product(s):

  • Let's Eat book opened to Desserts Page 6

    Embark on a journey of reading and tactile learning with Little Wolf and Little Chick as they discover and devour a variety of foods. For emergent print readers, pictures act as an important bridge helping the child take a more active role in reading, as a listener and as a reader. Tactile illustrations in Let’s Eat are designed to serve a similar purpose. In addition, they offer critically important opportunities to build exploratory skills, tactile discrimination skills, and encounter spatial relationships.

  • one hand on Mantis Q-40 with collapsed white cane

    Mantis Q40™: The Mantis Q40 is a first-of-its-kind Bluetooth® keyboard and refreshable braille display. The Mantis’s full-size, laptop-style QWERTY keyboard and built-in 40-cell braille display can be used as a host or stand-alone device. Connect to other devices via USB or Bluetooth, or use the Mantis by itself to read books, edit and manage files, check the date and time, and make basic mathematical calculations.

    Chameleon portable 20-cell braille display sitting on dark surface

    Chameleon 20™: Designed specifically for students, the Chameleon 20 is a portable 20-cell braille display with a Perkins-style keyboard that can be used in and outside of the classroom to improve braille literacy skills. With two modes of connectivity, Bluetooth and USB, students can connect the Chameleon to a computer to do research and edit assignments. The Chameleon can also be used as a stand-alone notetaker, allowing students to edit and manage files, read books, check the date and time, and make basic mathematical calculations.

    Overhead view of LED mini Lite Box

    LED Mini-Lite Box™: An updated version of the original Mini-Lite Box – the LED Mini-Lite Box now comes with energy-efficient LED lightbulbs. This all-inclusive, person-centered learning tool is beneficial for blind and visually impaired students and for students with CVI or other disabilities. LED Mini weighs only four pounds and can be positioned on a tabletop or on a wheelchair, gait trainer, stander, or other mobility device with commercially available mounts.

    Rendering of PixBlaster Embosser

    PixBlaster™: PixBlaster is an embosser that combines tactile graphics with braille text. This embosser easily produces double-sided interpoint braille with smooth, rounded dots for improved readability and industry-leading tactile graphics with variable dot heights for color representation. Simply connect to Wi-Fi, use BrailleBlaster, and emboss using 12-inch wide tractor-fed paper.

    Rendering of PageBlaster embosser

    PageBlaster™: PageBlaster is a portable and powerful braille embosser for continuous fanfold paper. The tractor-fed design provides smooth paper handling. Utilize the embosser’s Wi-Fi capability and connect to BrailleBlaster to produce double-sided interpoint braille.

    Watch your email and APH News for more information about our pre-order process, and please let us know if you have any questions.


Spring Product Sale

Spring has sprung, but the prices of some APH products have dropped. Stay tuned to your email for over 100 APH products now on sale.

The Braille You Need — FAST!

Braille is in high demand, and sometimes, it is needed right away, especially if you are learning or working from home. To help meet this need, APH offers a free NIMAS-to-braille translation service. Simply send APH a NIMAS source file, and we can convert it into a brf and bbx file for you within three business days. Learn more about how to request a file

  • The March-April issue of Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness (published by Sage Publications) and the April issue of Closing The Gap Solutions (published by Closing The Gap) feature case studies of three learners who advanced through the sensorimotor stage zones from attention to exploration to function using APH’s Sensory Learning Kit (SLK). Since APH launched SLK, authored by Millie Smith, in 2005, it has continuously been a top seller with requests for workshops across the country. The SLK serves learners who have significant cognitive disabilities (SCD) or complex communication needs (CCN) in addition to visual impairment.

    APH field-tested SLK for 3 months, but it is difficult to measure outcomes in such a short time for learners with SCD and CCN. Author, Millie Smith, and APH Project Leader, Tristan Pierce, longed for an education vision professional to conduct a study on SLK. As the years went by, Millie continued to work with school districts in Texas and conduct workshops nationwide. When the Coppell Independent School District in Texas asked Millie to work with the district’s teacher of students with visual impairment (TVI), Stacey Chambers, and the teams serving their learners with visual and multiple impairments, she considered it an opportunity to help validate the methodologies of SLK. Tristan saw this as an opportunity to create videos showing the effectiveness of the SLK.

    The two filmed four learners from December to May, capturing the progress in real-time. This collaboration proved fruitful for the learners, their families, and the teaching teams (e.g. special education teacher, speech language pathologist, occupational therapist, adapted physical education teacher, etc.). The teams conducted the SLK assessments, established each learner’s sensorimotor stage zone baseline, and created goals. They then constructed meaningful SLK lesson plans and SLK routines to help each learner meet their goals. All three learners met their goals and progressed to the function sensorimotor stage zone. Understanding is the goal of sensorimotor learning—not independent motor performance. A learner who understands the meaning and purpose of a spoon is at the function level even if he does not have the motor skill to scoop applesauce onto the spoon.

    Research Article, Published March 23, 2020
    Smith, M., Chambers, S., Campbell, A., Pierce, T., McCarthy, T., & Kostewicz, D. Use of routine-based instruction to develop object perception skills with students who have visual impairments and severe intellectual disabilities: Two case studies. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, (114-2) pp. 1-13 ©2020 Sage Publications. DOI: 10.1177/0145482X20910826.
    Videos relating to JVIB article
    Freddy demonstrates understanding of the function of objects — Sensory Learning Kit (SLK) (youtube)
    Isaiah achieves anticipation, exploration, and function goals — Sensory Learning Kit (SLK) (youtube)

    Accessible Technology Magazine-Products, Published April/May 2020
    Smith, M., & Chambers, S., (2020). Technology assisted active learning: Aarna’s case study, Closing The Gap Solutions, (39-1) pp. 12-21
    Video relating to Solutions article
    Aarna Learns Cause/Effect and Means/Ends — Sensory Learning Kit (SLK) (youtube)

  • APH Museum houses artifacts that outline the history of APH and of the blindness and rehabilitation field. We spoke with the Director of the Museum, Mike Hudson, about how he and his team obtain, preserve, and display artifacts at museum events.

    Q: How many employees work with you in the museum, and what do they do?
    A: Anne Rich is our Collections Manager. She is responsible for knowing where everything is, monitoring the condition of our collection, and maintaining all our documentation. Anne is also our primary reference archivist, answering questions from inside and outside the company about blindness and rehabilitation, and leads tours of the museum and factory. Katie Carpenter is our Museum Educator. She plans and implements our schedule of educational programs for scouts, home schools, public schools, nursing programs, community groups, and the general public. Katie is also our weekend supervisor during Saturday hours.

    Q: What does your job at the museum entail?
    A: I manage our staff, handle budgeting, and serve on a variety of working teams across the company. I serve as the public face of the museum, speaking to community groups about APH, and on community committees like the Louisville Arts and Culture Alliance. I am also the curator of the museum, which means I am responsible for knowing what everything in our collection means, what is significant, and what we should be collecting to fill in holes. I write the scripts for all of our exhibits and supervise their design and installation. I also lead tours.

    Q: Since not many EOTs come to Louisville, what kinds of artifacts are featured in the museum?
    A: Our museum preserves and interprets the history of education and rehabilitation for people that are blind or visually impaired. That history starts with the invention of raised letter books and dot codes, and proceeds through the development of writing tools, educational aids for all areas of curriculum, the history of residential schools, the development of orientation and mobility training, and the impact of technology. We have:

    •  Forty different braillewriter models
    • Copies of the first raised letter book ever published
    •  The first publication of the braille code
    •  A dog harness worn by the first Seeing Eye Dog: Buddy
    • The stage piano from the Michigan School for the Blind played by Stevie Wonder
    •  A copy of the first Talking Book record pressed at APH in 1936, “Gulliver’s Travels”
    •  Helen Keller’s desk from her home at Arcan Ridge
    • Speeches written by rehabilitation pioneer Father Tom Carroll
    • A long cane used by Russell Williams, the first head at the Hines V.A. Blindness Program

    Q: How do you obtain these artifacts?
    A: Initially, APH collected a lot of items from within its own walls. As our museum became better known, folks began seeking us out, looking for homes for things they were throwing out, or for their precious heirlooms that they wanted to preserve. We do buy things every now and then, and we have partnered with other blindness organizations like AFB, AER, the Carroll Center for the Blind, BANA, and the Kentucky School for the Blind to preserve their stories.

    Q: How do you store and preserve older artifacts? Are there special considerations when taking care of the Helen Keller archives?
    A: Good storage involves stable temperature and humidity, no light, and wrapping objects in archival materials (tissue, foam, and cardboard supports) that have been manufactured to be stable and non-reactive over long periods of time. In order to store the American Foundation for the Blind Helen Keller Archives, which arrived from AFB in January, we built a brand-new storage space with mobile compact shelves, LED lighting, and a special HVAC unit capable of maintaining 50% relative humidity and 70 degrees Fahrenheit year-round.

    Q: How do you decide what artifacts to display and where?
    A: We always start with a story. Then, like a painter choosing colors from her palette, you select artifacts, photographs, and documents from your collection that illustrate the story. The Stevie Wonder piano is a 1922 Steinway Baby Grand. But, it carries a lot more heft when you start with a little twelve-year-old boy from Detroit whose mother was in trouble with the truant officer. When you tell the story right, you are there with Stevie as his parents, teachers, and record executives tried to figure out what to do with this special boy.

    Q: What types of methods or processes are in place to educate people about the museum and its artifacts?
    A: We have a website. There are a lot of resources there, and we are always adding more. We do monthly education programs, although all of that is on hold right now while we deal with the virus crisis. You can get a tour of the factory and museum, and if you have research questions, we are always available to help.

    Q: Tell me more about the process of planning and executing museum events.
    A: In June, Katie Carpenter will meet with us to review her schedule for the following calendar year. Most of the programs are implemented by Katie and our community team of museum associates, who are all blind or visually impaired. Every March, our Braille Readers Theater puts on a show. Some summers, we will have a Bards & Storytellers program that celebrates performance traditions within the blind community through history. We make masks, mosaics, holiday ornaments, and cards. A few years ago, we held a reading marathon where narrators from studios all over the region re-recorded our original recording of “Gulliver.”

    Q: Do you have any events planned for when the museum reopens?
    A: We do not know when we will reopen. Our number one priority is the safety of our staff, visitors, and community. If things get back to normal, we are hosting a program on Blindness in Japan on Saturday, April 25th, organizing a touch tour of the new Louisville Botanical Gardens for May 16th, and celebrating Helen Keller’s birthday on June 27th with a discussion program about the recent controversy in Texas. We hope to be able to reschedule our Braille Readers Theater performances of Eugene Ionesco’s “The Bald Soprano.”

Stem Corner — News for the Biology Classroom

There is now an alternative to using preserved frogs for the classic animal dissection biology lab. Made by the Florida company SynDaver, the SynFrog™ is a life-like synthetic frog made of water, fibers, and salts. Each “frog” is constructed with a skeleton; musculature; and digestive, respiratory, circulatory, and reproductive systems. Storage is in water, which eliminates the unpleasant odor of and contact with formaldehyde preserved animals. Although the cost is greater than that of preserved animals, students learning with SynFrog™ are more enthusiastic about participating in this type of lab in biology class. To get more information, go to and click STEM under the Shop by Specialty tab.

Treasures from the APH Libraries

From the Migel Library: Molter, Harold. “Games for the Blind which May Be Played Anywhere.” Popular Mechanics, pp. 11-15.

For the most part, this article simply describes the rules and game-play of a dozen common games of the early 1900s.  The detailed illustrations of more than a dozen tactile games, however, provide an incredible window into tactile game design of last century.  A set of dominoes is shown that fit together like puzzle pieces, with small push pins for dots.  Most all of the wooden and cardboard game boards have compartmentalized sections for game pieces.  Wooden chess and checker boards, for example, have sunken and raised alternating squares.  Many other games rely on pegs being placed into holes along tactile lines carved into wood.   Although the article is undated, it was clearly published during the First World War, as the author notes that the German-made war game “Siege” is “characteristic of how these people train their children.”  The article has been digitized for Internet Archive at

The APH Migel Collection is one of the largest collections of nonmedical information related to visual impairment in the world. Although the collection does not circulate, an ongoing digitization effort means APH will make materials available online. The digitized texts are available in a variety of accessible formats, including DAISY, Kindle, EPUB, PDF, and read-aloud. Contact Library staff:, 800-223-1839, ext. 705.

APH Travel Center

Due to COVID-19, all APH conference travel has been suspended through May. As we have dates for conferences where we will be exhibiting and/or presenting, we will share them with you. We hope to see you in the coming months. Stay safe and healthy!

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