Date: Tue, 6 Jan 1998 09:57:01 -0500
From: t v Cranmer <tvc@IGLOU.COM>
Emerson Foulke dies; was U of L professor, innovator for the blind
By Katherine L. Sears
Emerson Foulke, a retired psychology professor at the University of
Louisville who established a research center that developed
alternative forms of reading and communication for visually
impaired adults, died of cancer Monday at his Louisville home. He
Foulke, who had been blind since he was 2, worked to develop
alternatives to Braille because most blind Americans can't read
Braille, he told The Courier-Journal in 1976. People who lose
their sight later in life have difficulty learning Braille, he
He founded the Perceptual Alternatives Laboratory in 1968 and
served as its director until he retired in 1992.
Foulke developed techniques to compress information from audio-
tapes. His equipment could speed up recordings of books and text
and still enable someone to retain pertinent information.
He also worked to increase the number of ideas that could be
expressed in Braille to make it easier for people to understand
complex subjects such as chemistry and math.
Foulke also developed for blind people a curved cane that wouldn't
get caught in sidewalk gratings.
Lela Johns, an assistant of Foulke at the lab, said the university
closed it after he retired. But Foulke continued to devise
improvements to computer codes in math for the National Federation
of the Blind, Johns said.
"He was still very active in the research for improving the
educational techniques and communication for visually impaired
people," Johns said. "He was a very challenging person to work
for. He always wanted to learn more."
Louisville resident Tim Cranmer, who chairs the International
Braille Research Center in Baltimore, said Foulke was known world-
wide for his innovations in electronic communications for blind and
visually impaired people.
"He is probably the most widely published and widely quoted
(person) in the field of Braille research and tactile
communications," said Cranmer, who also is blind. "His loss is
absolutely profound as far as our field is concerned. We do not
have a successor for Dr. Foulke."
Cranmer said Foulke recently received the Louis Braille Memorial
Award - a 3-ounce solid-gold medallion and $10,000 - from the
International Braille Research Center, which Foulke helped
establish in 1985.
Last year, Foulke spoke to the World Blind Union meeting in South
America. He also earned the Distinguished Teaching Award from U of
His survivors include his wife, Marilyn Foulke; sisters Margaret
Meyer and Patricia Rountree; and a brother, Eldridge Foulke.
He willed his body to the University of Louisville School of
Medicine. A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Jan. 10 at
First Unitarian Church, 809 S. Fourth St.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Recording for the Blind
and Dyslexic of Kentucky, 240 Haldeman Ave., Louisville, Ky. 40206;
or Hospice of Louisville, 3532 Ephraim McDowell Drive, Louisville,
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