Solar eclipse: black moon in front of the sun.
Event

Solar eclipse accessibility resources: Assistive technology for blind and low vision

Devices, apps and websites for watching and learning about the solar eclipse. Enhanced visual, auditory and tactile access for blind and low vision audiences.

When I watched the “Great American Eclipse” in August 2017 from my backyard, I used the graphics in the Eclipse Soundscapes app as a visual reference, which were helpful for me to explore as someone with low vision. As I update this post in advance of the April 2024 total solar eclipse, I’ve discovered several other options for blind and low vision viewers to learn about and view the solar eclipse using a mix of visual, tactile, and audio modalities to convey information. Here is a round-up of solar eclipse accessibility resources designed with visually impaired audiences in mind, inclusive of solar eclipse accessibility for blind and low vision.

Eclipse Soundscapes: Graphics with haptic and auditory feedback

Eclipse Soundscapes is a free iOS and Android application that provides information about solar eclipses in both English and Spanish. One of the highlights of this application is the use of the “Rumble Maps”, which consist of high-resolution images that play different sounds/pitches as the user moves their finger across the image, along with haptic feedback (which works best for devices that are in a case). Accompanying the Rumble Maps is a text-based description of each image that can be read with large print, screen magnification, or a screen reader. There is also a Media screen which shows high resolution images for the annular solar eclipse and total solar eclipse, along with audio tracks that provide descriptions for each image with an accompanying transcript.

I personally used the Eclipse Soundscapes app on my Android phone since it was easier to hold with one hand compared to my iPad, but the accessibility features across both apps are identical.

Related links

AudioMoth: Data collection tool that can be configured for non visual access

The Eclipse Soundscapes Project that created the above application is a citizen science project that studies how two total solar eclipses impact life on earth. One of the opportunities to get involved with the project is through the Data Collector role, where participants collect audio data outside for five days using an AudioMoth device. The AudioMoth can be ordered from the LabMaker website, and users can construct their own data collection kits using the listed materials and online instructions.

On the Eclipse Soundscapes Project website, there is a section on how to add tactile bump dots to the AudioMoth device for nonvisual access. For blind and low vision participants setting up their own AudioMoth device, I recommend having some sighted assistance available to ensure tactile components are placed in the correct location and to confirm that the firmware flashing process was successful.

Related links

The LightSound Project: Solar eclipse sonification tool

The LightSound Project has created a handheld device that translates light intensity into sound, showing a change in musical tone as the moon eclipses the sun. The LightSound device can be used with a 9V battery or connected to a computer via USB, with options for listeners to use headphones or connect their device to a speaker to hear the sonification. There are a few different options for procuring a LightSound device, including:

Related links

Exploratorium and total solar eclipse: Live sonification with professional musicians

The Exploratorium is a science museum in San Francisco, California that will be livestreaming their own real-time musical sonification and composition on their website and Total Solar Eclipse app. The sonification will be produced by live musicians, who will play from a musical composition created in real time using data streamed from a film crew that is broadcasting the eclipse- each possible data value has been pre-assigned a note or sound, which is processed using a software program to produce the musical composition. On their website, there is also a video for the sonification of the 2017 eclipse, which was played by a string quartet.

Related links

Solar eclipse social story: Sharing what to expect

The Museum of Discovery in Little Rock, Arkansas has released a free social story that provides information about what viewers can expect when watching the solar eclipse, including how to prepare for the event. While this social story was not originally created for blind or low vision audiences, it can be shared or modified so that viewers can know what to expect and learn how they can participate in eclipse events safely.

Related links

Total solar eclipse broadcast: NASA event streamed on YouTube

For viewers who don’t live in the path of totality or that are looking for a better view of the eclipse, NASA will be streaming a Total Solar Eclipse Broadcast event live on YouTube and on their website, which will include video streams from across the path, live expert commentary, and other demonstrations, with options for streaming in Spanish as well. There will also be video streams from telescopes and sounding rockets taking off from Wallops Island in Virginia, providing several options for engaging with content.

Related links

Getting a feel for eclipses: NASA title with tactile graphics

Getting a Feel For Eclipses is a braille book with tactile graphics that illustrate different components of the solar eclipse, with the option to access additional information online via QR code. While the digital content has been posted online for anyone to access, details on how to order the book are not readily available – the only information I could find was on a Paths To Literacy post from Perkins School for the Blind. However, I did enjoy learning about the process to create the tactile graphics, including how Spanish Moss was used for a model of the sun!

Related links

Other solar eclipse accessibility resources for blind and low vision audiences

By Veronica Lewis/Veronica With Four Eyes, www.veroniiiica.com

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