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 watching the solar eclipse with low vision?
Luckily, there are people who thought ahead about accessibility. The Eclipse Soundscapes Project, which is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and NASA’s Heliophysics Education Consortium, 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.
How to access
For users watching the solar eclipse with low vision or blindness, the eclipse will be audio described. There will be live narration of the eclipse 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.
The app will pinpoint the user’s location in order to determine what the eclipse looks like from where they are. Users will need to enable location services in device settings.
In order to show the physical qualities of the eclipse, there will be a tactile map for watching the solar eclipse 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.
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.
While I won’t be looking at the sky like the rest of my family, I will still be able to partake in watching the solar eclipse with low vision. I’m so happy that people with blindness and low vision are able to be included in such an incredible experience!