Watching the Solar Eclipse with Low Vision

It seems like everyone around me has been extremely excited for the solar eclipse. There have been lines that spanned across parking lots to get the special glasses, a few of my friends have made t-shirts for the eclipse, and a lot of local museums and libraries are holding special events for visitors. So, how can someone with low vision or blindness be included in the event?

Luckily, there are people who thought ahead about accessibility. The Eclipse Soundscapes Project, which is affiliated with Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and NASA's Heliophysics Education Comsortium, has developed a multi-sensory experience for people who have low vision, blindness, or simply don't want to look at the sun. It also would be a great addition for sighted people who are watching the eclipse! Below, I am outlining the different ways to experience the eclipse with information I found on their website (Eclipse Soundscapes website).

How to access

There is an iOS application available for free download in the App Store. It works for iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch. There is also an Android version available for free download.

Descriptive audio

The eclipse will be narrated live by the National Center for Accessible Media from within the app. However, if users want to listen to the audio, VoiceOver must be disabled, as otherwise it will result in competing audio. If desired, users can have their VoiceOver read the descriptive text from within the app.

Location services

The app will pinpoint the user's location in order to determine what the eclipse looks like from where they are. Location services will need to be enabled in device settings.  

Rumble map

In order to show the physical qualities of the eclipse, there will be a tactile map for users with low vision, called the rumble map. As users move their fingers around the screen, the speakers and screen vibrate to show the brightness of the different sections. The vibration increases depending on the brightness of the areas. The map will work best with the speakers turned all the way up, and no headphones.

Soundscapes

While this won't be available until after the eclipse, there will also be a recording of the sounds of the eclipse, showing audio fluctuations and other phenomenon. Users can even record sounds from their surroundings and submit them through the app in order to be included.

While I won't be looking at the sky like the rest of my family, I look forward to enjoying the eclipse using this application, and will be posting a review of it after the eclipse. I'm so happy that people with blindness and low vision are able to be included in such an incredible experience!

 

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