Hello! Hope May is going well!
Today I’d like to share something I came across last week (which actually a friend, Will, shared with me originally via twitter.) The video is about how the visually impaired can experience Hubble images. And that is based on the book “Touch the Universe” by Noreen Grice, published in 2002. The book combines Braille and large-print captions of Hubble Space Telescope photos in order to help visually impaired people experience or “see” the universe. It consists of embossed shapes such as stars, gas clouds, and jets of matter streaming into space.
This book includes the “Hubble Deep Field” photo! Every time I look at this photo, I am reminded of the scale of the Universe and it invokes a feeling that is difficult to put into words. So I am trying to imagine how this image was translated to Braille and how the depth and emotion of it is captured.
However, aside from being able to experience the wonders of our universe, these resources are important for accessibility as well. I believe there are challenges science/STEM fields where some information is not available in non-visual form. This obviously limits access and opportunities available to the blind and visually-impaired people. I realize that a book such as this is very introductory but definitely a start of something. I do wonder how or if this could be applied to more rigorous scientific studies. I’m not an expert on working with astronomical images or braille so I don’t know the technical process, but it’s still interesting to ponder about.
The author has published other books similar to this: Touch the Stars, and Touch the Invisible Sky. The latter actually includes images from the Hubble Space Telescope, Spitzer Space Telescope, Chandra X-ray Observatory, and ground-based telescopes. The book has a summary of the concept of light and spectrum to complement the photos.
I am personally very interested in accessibility in STEM, and so I admire projects and initiatives like these. I have an earlier post on another way people can experience space: “Sound of Space“.