Experience April’s Total Solar Eclipse, Innovative Technology Lets the Blind Hear and Feel the Spectacle

As eclipse enthusiasts turn their gaze skyward, individuals who are blind or visually impaired will have the opportunity to experience the celestial event through their senses of hearing and touch. On April 8, during a total solar eclipse traversing North America, sound and touch devices will be provided at public gatherings.

Device known as a LightSound box, which translates changing light into auditory signals. The device emits high flute notes when the sun is bright, transitioning to mid-range clarinet notes as the moon covers the sun, and a low clicking sound when darkness falls. The LightSound device is the brainchild of Wanda Díaz-Merced, an astronomer who is blind, and Harvard astronomer Allyson Bieryla. Díaz-Merced’s expertise in translating astronomical data into sound for her research inspired the creation of the device. Collaborating with various institutions, they aim to distribute at least 750 devices across eclipse-viewing locations in Mexico, the U.S., and Canada. Workshops have been held to assemble the devices, and DIY instructions are available on the group’s website.

The Perkins Library, associated with the Perkins School for the Blind in Massachusetts, plans to stream the LightSound device’s changing tones over Zoom for its members, ensuring accessibility for individuals unable to attend in person. Additionally, the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired incorporates the Cadence tablet from Tactile Engineering into its curriculum, allowing students to feel the eclipse’s progression through tactile feedback.

Sophomore Jazmine Nelson anticipates participating in NASA’s eclipse-watching event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where the Cadence tablet will be available. For Nelson and her classmates, this opportunity offers a rare chance to feel connected to a significant astronomical event.

The innovative technology developed to enable blind people experience April’s total solar eclipse represents a significant step forward in accessibility and inclusivity. By harnessing the power of sound and touch, these advancements ensure that everyone, regardless of visual impairment, can participate in and appreciate the awe-inspiring beauty of celestial events. As we continue to prioritize accessibility in science and astronomy, we not only enrich the experiences of individuals with disabilities but also foster a deeper sense of connection and understanding for all.

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