Yesterday Alexis and I went with Mom and a friend of hers to tour the American Printing House for the Blind in Louisville. I went on a tour of APH in 2000 when I was attending the ACB convention; but the group was so big that I really don't remember much of the experience. It was nice to have a more intimate experience.
We intended to arrive early enough to have lunch, then go through the museum for a while, and then do the 2:00 tour. It turned out that the lunch service was very slow; so we toured before going through the museum.
We ate at a place called the Blue Dog Bakery and Cafe. The food was delicious but expensive. My sandwich had apples on it!
One of the things I didn't see in 2000 was the sign on the front door of APH. It's in braille. Mom tried to take a picture of me reading it, and a staff person came up and told us there was a better sign inside.
I was unprepared for what we found inside. The braille on the sign was made for visual effect, not tactile effect. There were huge dots made of the same material as the wall and set in the same proportions as standard braille. To the left of the braille representation was the hugest raised print lettering I've ever seen! It must have been an inch out from the wall and four or five inches high, reading "American Printing House for the Blind." A better sign, indeed!
The first stop on the tour was in a room where we sat down for a presentation about the history of APH, given by the tour guide. She had a few metal plates with examples of the types of embossing used during the various historical periods.
Next we saw a few of the products APH distributes. Most were new to me--it's been a long time since I was a student! We saw some games, tactile drawings, overlays used with the light box, children's books, and a few educational tools. My mom really enjoyed this part of the tour because it gave her some insight into how I had been learning as a child. Even though the products were different, the concepts were the same: the use of different types of dotted and solid lines in tactile diagrams, tactile shapes in children's books, etc.
We went briefly into a room where people were proofreading. I missed a lot in this room because we had to be quiet. Mom said there was a blind person reading braille aloud and a sighted person following along and monitoring for mistakes.
In the braille production room, there are computers using Duxbury to translate files and send them to machines with these huge rolls of paper--like rolls that are chest-high on me. There are also presses that take a page between two metal plates and bang it together. These are called clamshell presses. They are VERY loud.
In the basement, they have exhibits of some old things that didn't fit in the museum. Most of it is old equipment: an old braille press, the first IBM computer they had, etc. There is also a HUGE globe with tactile markings. I've seen a tactile globe before, but never anything like this.
The museum was fun to visit. They have an entire braille World Book Encyclopedia on display: 154 volumes. We had one of these when I was a little girl. It took up almost an entire garage wall, and I did a fair amount of learning to read on it. When I was in my teens, we gave it to another family with a young child. There is a picture display showing the print encyclopedia next to the braille one.
The museum also has a display of old braillers and old slates. These were interesting to look at. Mostly on the braillers the keys are in differant places, and on the slates the number of lines or dots may be different.
There is also a display showing different styles of lettering, including French raised lettering I tried to read it, but the letters were too small even though I can read some French.