outline image of special eye protection glasses worn when watching a solar eclipse.
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Eclipse Soundscapes and low vision

All about the Eclipse Soundscapes app that uses data sonfication and universal design to educate users about types of solar eclipses.

One of the coolest multi-sensory science applications I’ve encountered is the Eclipse Soundscapes application, which uses data sonification and haptic feedback to showcase a total solar eclipse and a few other views of solar eclipses as well. The Eclipse Soundscapes app has expanded since it was first introduced in advance of the August 2017 solar eclipse, and it’s a really cool way to learn about space concepts with vision loss. Here are my thoughts on the Eclipse Soundscapes app from the perspective of someone with low vision.

Downloading the Eclipse Soundscapes app

Eclipse Soundscapes can be downloaded for free on Android and iOS devices and has bilingual support for English and Spanish. I’ve linked the website below along with links for app downloads.

To use the Eclipse Soundscapes app, users will need to have location services enabled so they can get information about what the eclipse looks like in their location. Users can access the different screens within the app by tapping the icons on the bottom of the screen.

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Eclipse Center

This is the first screen in the Eclipse Soundscape app and provides information about the next eclipse for the user’s location, including the date/time with a countdown, percentage of the eclipse, and other helpful information. This information can be displayed with the device’s font size or read out loud with a screen reader or text-to-speech.

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Features

The Features screen is the second screen and shows the “Rumble Maps” for each of the views of the solar eclipse. The Rumble Maps 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.

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Media

The Media screen is the third screen in the app and shows high resolution images for the annular solar eclipse and total solar eclipse, along with audio tracks that provide descriptions for each image. Each audio track also has a transcript that can be displayed with large print.

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Menu

The Menu screen is the fourth and final screen in the app and provides tutorials and walkthroughs for using Eclipse Soundscapes, along with the option to change the display language and provide feedback. I had sent a message with the feedback tool about large print and was thrilled to get a response from one of the developers fairly quickly, which was awesome.

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My experience with using the Eclipse Soundscapes app

Any app that incorporates principles of universal design in learning is awesome to me, so I was really excited to try out the Eclipse Soundscapes app in advance of the 2017 eclipse, as well as for science education activities. I prefer to use the Eclipse Soundscapes app on my Android phone over the iPad, as I find it easier to use my phone outside than my tablet, but I find that both apps are equal in terms of accessibility features. I’m excited to see what features will be added for the 2024 eclipse!

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

Updated March 2024; original post published August 2017.

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