Astronomy for visually impaired

Manasi Saraf Joshi
Friday, 1 March 2019

Students from Jagruti School for Blind and Bhosari Blind School visited IUCAA and the stall and lauded the efforts taken to bring astronomy closer to visually impaired students.

PUNE: Taking a step further to teach astronomy to visually impaired persons, Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), for the first time, displayed items including a tactile globe, maps, planet Venus, etc.

‘We wanted the visually impaired to learn geography and astronomy the same way we learned it and this is just an attempt to introduce them to the world of astronomy,” said Neha Deshpande, who is working on the project ‘Inclusive Astronomy’. The project, which began about a year ago, was in collaboration with the University of Valencia, under International Astronomical Union, Office of Astronomy for Development.

“The display stall, which had roughly five sub-stalls, had a constellation made out of cardboard, rubber blocks and buttons. There was also a model to understanding the concept of hemispheres, which shows the Earth is divided into Northern and Southern Hemispheres with North and South Poles,” Neha said. “This will also help them understand why we have different seasons on Earth,” she added.

“The planet Venus, which is near the Sun in our Solar System, was also on display. The students learned about the planet by touching it. We made it with the help of 3D printing method to show mountains, valleys and other surfaces on the planet. This was gifted to us by the University of Valencia, accompanied by a book in Braille and English,” Neha said. 

The tactile maps and globe, which highlighted the borders with the help of thread, wool, glass painting material and maps, had Braille inscriptions. 

“It made easy for them to imagine the size and shape of the country/continent,” said Neha. “We have received a great help while conducting this project from two students of Savitribai Phule Pune University, who were pursuing their masters and are visually impaired,” she added. 

“Apart from sighted visitors, we also had visually impaired visitors and their teachers, who have given us very valuable inputs to further improve upon the project,” she said.

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