Can I Enjoy the Solar Eclipse Without Seeing It?

A total solar eclipse

Photo by Luc Viatour via Wikipedia

A show called The World aired a story on Public Radio International (PRI) this past week about an app called eclipse soundscapes made especially for people who are blind or have visual impairments.

I am blind now, but trust me, that isn’t the result of staring at the sun! I could see fine when I was a kid, and I watched the total eclipse of the sun on March 7, 1970 using a pinhole camera our school teachers taught us to make out of cardboard shoeboxes. I didn’t lose my sight until 15 years later, and that was due to a totally unrelated eye disease called retinopathy.

Hearing things touted as allowing “the blind to see” usually leaves me feeling sad. Audio description does not help me see a movie, and special lessons for the blind to teach us to plié might help me understand the moves dancers are making on stage, but they won’t allow me to see the performance. So when I found out the PRI story was titled “Helping the Blind See the Solar Eclipse” I almost switched it off. As cool as this new eclipse app might be for people who are blind, I knew it wouldn’t allow us to watch the eclipse.

But something about this thing being created for “NASA’s Heliophysics Education Consortium” and the Smithsonian Astrophysicalogical Observatoryby with an astrophysicist from Harvard and co-sponsored by the National Park Service, well, gee whiz, it caught my attention!

The PRI story included a link to a web site for more information about the eclipse soundscapes app, and the wording there was just right. It says that for people “who are unable to see the eclipse with their own eyes, the Eclipse Soundscapes Project delivers a multisensory experience of this exciting celestial event.” Not a word about us seeing the eclipse. They acknowledge we can’t see.

The site explains that the ap includes a narration of the eclipse’s progression in real time and a rumble map that will let us use our sense of touch to “geolocate the user and start the narration to align with the planetary movements as they occur.” Maybe I’ll be able to tell you what that all means next week. I am so taken by the way this site describes what it will do for those of us who are blind that I’m going to give it a try . Tune in after Monday, August 21, 2017 for a blog post here about my eclipse experience.


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