This App Could Help the Blind Experience the Solar Eclipse

App to Assist Blind People to Experience Eclipse

 
After a blind colleague had asked solar astrophysicist Henry Trae Winter to describe what an eclipse would be like, it kept him thinking and speculating on it thereafter. Winter commented that he was caught totally flat-footed and had no knowledge how to convey what seems to go on during an eclipse to someone who had never seen it before in their life.

He recalled a story which a friend had narrated to him about how crickets could begin to chirp in the middle of the day as the moon tends to cover the sun at the time of an eclipse. This story he had conveyed to his colleague. Winter informed that the reaction she had seemed powerful which he wanted to reproduce that sense of awe and wonder to as many as he could all over the country.

He began working at the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts intending to build an app to assist blind people in experiencing this summer’s eclipse. Winter informed that he was of the opinion that it is a glaring omission that it is time to answer. Eclipse soundscapes that has been launched for iPads and iPhones recently tends to feature real-time narration of various phases of the eclipse planned for the location of the user.
 

Rumble Map – Hear/Feel Phenomena

 
`Rumble map’ enables the users to hear as well as feel the phenomena when they tend to touch photos of earlier eclipse. The dark spaces in the photos, such as the solid black face of the moon are quiet when touched.

Wispy strands of sunlight shining out from behind the moon release lower hums and on touching the brighter spaces such as the shards of light which peek out from behind the valleys of the moon tend to produce higher frequencies.

The sounds are combined with vibrations, soft for darker spaces and more intense for brighter areas. Miles Gordon, the apps’ audio engineer had informed that they managed in creating frequencies which resonate with the body of the phone so the phone is vibrating completing utilising the speaker.

Winter had stated that `the goal of this app was not to give someone who is blind or visually impaired the exact same experience as a sighted person but hoped this as a prototype, a first step something they can learn from, in making the next set of tools’.

Other tools exist to enable blind people in experience the eclipse including perceptible maps as well as book though it is still comprehended as visual phenomena. Less recognized are the changes in temperature, wildlife behaviour, weather pattern which supplement total eclipses.
 

Software Easy for Navigation

 
Colleague, Chancey Fleet who had first asked Winter, to describe an eclipse during a conference some months back was doubtful when she learned about his idea for an app. Fleet who is an accessible technology educator at a library in New York, had informed that `the first time she had heard that blind people were being asked to pay attention to the eclipse, she sort of laughed to herself and attempted to contain her dismissive reaction.

However on learning about the sounds connected with the eclipse, she seems interested in trying out the app of Winter. Fleet commented that she is looking forward in experiencing it and not just hearing or reading about it and nothing is just visual really. The app development team had the support of Wanda Diaz Merced an astrophysicist, who is blind, to ensure that the software is easy for navigation.

She is of the belief that the app will show people that there is more to an eclipse than spooky midday darkness. Diaz Merced had commented that `people will discover, Oh I can also hear this and I can also touch it’.
 

Eclipse Soundscapes – Grant from NASA

 
She also perceives the app as a tool to get more blind kids involved in science stating that` it is very important’. The Eclipse Soundscapes team supported by a grant from NASA has engaged the National Park Service, Brigham Young University together with citizen scientists to record audio of how people as well as wildlife tend to respond at the time of the eclipse.

Phase two of the project is to build an available database for those recordings in order that blind people could access them with ease. That is the component of the project which Diaz Merced is excited about from a scientific perspective.

After Fleet had lost her sight in her late 20s she had to develop her own computer program in order to alter telescope data to sound files in order to continue her research. She expects that this project would spur more interest in making the data reachable to scientists like her.

Diaz Merced had commented that what she hopes is that databases in science will use this database model for people like them to be capable of having meaningful access to the information and probably through the database they will not be segregated. And in this way she hopes that the impact of the eclipse would last much longer than a day.

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