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From Arcan Ridge to APH

Just before Thanksgiving, our museum at the American Printing House for the Blind unveiled a new, temporary exhibit featuring an international treasure of a well-known activist and icon: Helen Keller’s writing desk now holds a prominent position as you enter the museum. The desk came from Arcan Ridge, the home Helen shared in Connecticut with her longtime assistant, Polly Thompson. While the pair were on a fact-finding mission to war-torn Europe in 1946, their house had burned, and this desk was purchased by her friends when the house was rebuilt. The desk is on loan from the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), where Helen worked for 44 years.

Helen Keller, a thought leader and national figure, was one of the world’s most significant working women of the 20th century, who spent her life breaking down barriers. Helen was the first person who was deaf-blind to earn a college degree, was a well-published author (13 books, and countless articles translated into 50 languages), and was America’s first Goodwill Ambassador – traveling to Japan after the atomic bombs were dropped. Helen’s career was uncommon for any woman in the mid-1900’s, and she accomplished it all with multiple disabilities.

From behind her desk, Helen advocated for people with disabilities, challenged prominent political leaders, and wrote about her beliefs. Now APH will use the desk to inspire and teach children the importance of overcoming their barriers, and that, as Helen said, “life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” The desk will be on display through the end of next summer.

Product Updates

  • Designed for people with low vision, EZ Track products utilize large print of at least 18 points, easy-to-use binder formatting, and special accessories as aids in organizing important day-to-day activities. There are four products in the EZ Track series: Address Book, Calendar, Financial Record Keeper, and Medical Record Keeper.

    This calendar offers a systematic and organized way of keeping track of appointments, holidays, and other events. Each large print page holds four days, with enough room to write notes and appointments. The calendar comes with a three-ring binder.

  • The Functional Skills Assessment (FSA) is a tool for evaluating daily living skills for students at all levels.

    FSA is divided into four modules that cover a number of skills. Each module has a corresponding teacher’s guide and set of scoring forms. All modules can be customized for use with students who have multiple disabilities.

    Examples of the daily living skills in each assessment include:

    • Clothing Management: Clothing storage, laundering, sewing
    • Food Management: Managing cooking tools and equipment (including using appliances), planning menus, preparing food, labeling and storing food
    • Home Management: Organizing surfaces and materials, managing household chores, understanding home safety practices
    • Self Management: Grooming, social skills, consumer skills

    Recommended ages: Grades K-12.

  • HumanWare has announced some new MATT Connect features! The clip located on the front of the stand that releases the tablet will now have the option of being fixed in place. The updated design will ensure that the tablet cannot be removed from the stand without the use of an included screwdriver. The packaging will include all of the tools necessary to fix or remove the tablet as desired.

    The clip is now black, instead of orange, to bring less attention to the clip, which previously caused distraction from the tablet. The clip now has a small hole in which you can place a screw to lock the tablet in place using the included screwdriver as needed).

    The new Android version improves the touchscreen sensitivity, allowing the use of a stylus and a screen protector (now included with the MATT Connect).

    When connected to WIFI, your MATT Connect will automatically prompt you to install the update. Before starting the update, make sure that the tablet is connected to the power supply and to WIFI. This update may take approximately 15-20 minutes to install.

  • We are pleased to announce that BrailleBlaster version 1.1.17-stable is now available for download.

    Updates include:

    • New file type fixes – Headings are now getting KeepWithNext. No unnecessary blank lines are appearing between list level changes. ePUB3 elements that appeared spatially are now appearing on a single line, and editing them does not cause any issues. Minor bug fixes for specific files.
    • Spatial Math Editor – Nonspecific alerts have been made clearer.
    • Accessibility – Installer works with high-contrast settings. TOC Builder Headings drop-down accessible by keyboard.
    • Uncontracted tables – Uncontracted UEB and UEB with Nemeth tables are using the same math translation tables as the contracted versions of those tables.

    We invite you to support BrailleBlaster by helping to make this amazing tool even better. While BrailleBlaster is free software, it takes resources to continue development and provide support. You may donate to the effort here.

    Thank you for your on-going support and for using BrailleBlaster. If you have any questions please let us know.

  • At American Printing House for the Blind, we talk a lot about making sure students have the learning tools that best fit their needs. Sometimes the best way to help students is to change the way we do things, or the products we create. Last year the APH Educational Products Advisory Committee (EPAC) made a recommendation for APH to phase out the production of the APH Traditional Enlargement process. After consideration, APH will follow that recommendation, putting our renewed commitment and resources into the APH Large Print and Digital Textbook process.

    The phase out of Traditional Enlargement will happen slowly. To make sure you don’t get caught unaware, below is a detailed schedule off what will be happening and when it will happen. The schedule has been spaced out to accommodate your needs and make the full adoption of APH Large Print a smooth transition for all.

    Jan. 31, 2019- We will be removing all Large Print and Enlarged Print textbooks 10 years or older with low sales from our collection. The removal of these titles should affect very few people and help eliminate out of date information (health, science, technology). These books will also be removed from the Louis Database. For anyone that would like to order one of these textbooks, a list of these titles will become available soon.

    Sept. 30, 2019- We will no longer accept new titles for the APH Traditional Enlargement process. Textbooks released from that date on will only be available in APH Large Print and digital options.

    Sept. 30, 2021- We will cease reprinting all APH Traditional Enlargement textbooks.

    The removal of the APH Traditional Enlargement process and the renewed focus on APH Large Print and Digital textbooks will help us create the most comprehensive and accessible collection of textbooks for K-12 students produced in the United States.

Treasures from the APH Libraries

  • Finkelstein, Sam, editor. The International Roller Skating Guide, 1949-1950. 1st Annual ed., William-Frederick Press, 1949.

    Although The International Roller Skating Guide might not be the first place one would look for historical information on visual impairment, the 1949-1950 edition contains two articles of interest. In “The Blind Can Skate,” E.L. Palmer describes an indoor roller skating rink that was constructed at the New York State School for the Blind.

    It included special orientation features, such as an upward slope toward walls, and ridges between skating lanes. It was such a successful tool for introducing lifelong exercise and socialization skills, that the school had plans to construct a second outdoor roller rink. In the second article, the editor discusses 12-year-old Betty Clark. Blind from birth, Betty had already become a famous singer, piano player, and tap-dancer.

    She had her own weekly radio show, and had performed in support of the War effort. Having added roller skating to her list of skills, Betty had begun to study under one of the most prominent roller skating instructors in the nation. The International Roller Skating Guide has been digitized for Internet Archive.

  • Alpha Chi Omega Fraternity. (1967). Alpha Chi Omega Toy Book: Self-help Toys to Make for Handicapped Children. (3), Indianapolis, IN: Alpha Chi Omega National Headquarters

    One of the more unique titles in the Barr Library’s educational and visual impairment research information collection, and holiday appropriate for want-to-be Santa elves, is the 1967 booklet of the Alpha Chi Omega Fraternity’s self-help toy project dedicated to children. It contains a selection of therapeutic toys that are designed to “entertain and to develop muscle coordination and finger-elbow dexterity, teach self-help skills such as dressing, stimulate visual perception, encourage hand grasps and coordination, motivate speech, and give dramatic play for handicapped children.”

    As part of the fraternity’s commitment to service and philanthropy, university chapters contributed patterns to the publication from their own community work and involvement. Illustrations and directions are given for the construction of 38 toys; 10 additional toys and 11 kits for play activities are also suggested. Examples include oversized dominoes, puzzles, stuffed and padded animals for balancing and coordination, lacing boards, and button cloth board, to name a few. Along with safety tips, the toy project committee stressed among the toys the use of contrasting colors to provide visibility and recognition, interactive features such as tactile or sound, and a teaching correlation to life practical skills.

    The APH Barr Library supports research initiatives at APH, while the Migel Collection is one of the largest collections of nonmedical information related to blindness in the world. Although the collections do not circulate, arrangements can be made to use the materials on-site. In addition, an ongoing digitization effort means APH will continue to make materials available through the online catalog at

    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.

Event Calendar

  • The Science and Engineering Division of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and the National Association of Blind Students (NABS) will present a joint phone conference on avenues of success in STEM courses (including the laboratory) for school-age, college, and graduate students with visual impairments. STEM professionals and parents of students with visual impairments are also welcome to participate.

    The call will take place from 8:00 PM to 9:00 PM EST on Sunday, February 24, 2019. The call-in number is 712-770-5197 and the Participant Access Code is 265669.

    Call for Speakers!

    If you are interested in giving a 10-minute STEM-related talk during this joint phone conference, please contact Louis Maher at 713-444-7838 or email with your topic.

  • Load up a world of savings on selected APH products with APH’s Fall Harvest Sale 2018, October 1—December 31. As always, first come, first served.

  • Presentations/Exhibits

    December 8-11, 2018
    SOMA Conference (Southeast Orientation & Mobility Association)
    Tampa, FL

    January 29-February 2, 2019
    ATIA 2019
    Orlando, FL

    January 29 – February 2, 2019
    CEC 2019
    Indianapolis, IN



    March 11-15, 2019
    CSUN Assistive Technology Conference

APH Braille Book Corner

APH offers a number of recreational books in braille available with Quota funds. Each of these titles was originally transcribed and produced by APH for the National Library Service which has graciously granted permission for this offering. As usual, these titles have been added to the APH Louis Database where you can find thousands of titles produced in accessible formats. Note: all books are produced upon receipt of orders, therefore, please allow several weeks for delivery.

  • By: Jaqueline Kelly: T-N2221-00 – $26.00

    When Travis discovers an abandoned baby skunk, he can’t help but bring it home and take care of it. Stinky, as Travis names him, settles in pretty well. But when Travis discovers Stinky’s litter-mate, Winky, who is in need of some help, things get complicated around the Tate house. Grades 2-4. *(AR Quiz No. 184775, BL 4.5 Pts: 1.0)

  • By: Alexandra Diaz: T-N2211-60 – $128.00

    After his cousin is murdered for refusing to join a local gang, twelve-year-old Jaime and his fifteen-year-old cousin, Angela, become the gang’s next targets. They make the treacherous journey from Guatemala to the United States to live with Jaime’s older brother. Grades 4-8. *(AR Quiz No. 185810, BL 5.6 Pts: 10.0)

  • By: Rick Riordan: T-N2214-20 – $226.00

    Thor’s hammer is missing again. The thunder god has a disturbing habit of misplacing his weapon – the mightiest force in the Nine Worlds. But this time the hammer isn’t just lost, it has fallen into enemy hands. If Magnus Chase and his friends can’t retrieve the hammer quickly, the mortal worlds will be defenseless against an onslaught of giants. Ragnarok will begin. The Nine Worlds will burn. Unfortunately, the only person who can broker a deal for the hammer’s return is the gods’ worst enemy, Loki, and the price he wants is very high. Grades 5-9. *(AR Quiz No. 184478, BL 5.1 Pts: 17.0)

  • By: Paul Doiron: T-N2169-50 – $179.00

    After a mysterious woman gives Mike Bowditch disturbing news, the game warden goes looking for a family secret in a Maine ski town and discovers a vigilante who seems to be targeting sex offenders.

  • By: Manoush Zomorodi: T-N2207-70 – $131.00

    The host of the technology podcast Note to Self discusses the benefits of embracing boredom. She argues that our prevalent use of digital devices means that we never really unplug, and that it is in these increasingly rare moments of disconnection that creativity occurs.