Interactive ebook to inspire visually-impaired children to reach for the stars

 
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Interactive ebook to inspire visually-impaired children to reach for the stars
Here comes a first ebook for children with visual impairments which would soon be available at Apple's iBook store and can be download for free on the iPad.

The book, titled 'Reach for the Stars: Touch, Look, Listen, Learn,' is inspired by a latest Hubble Space Telescope image of the colourful '30 Doradus Nebula' - a giant star-forming region.

"We want to convince children that science is cool, is fun and that anybody could be a scientist, if they want to," said astronomer Elena Sabbi of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland and the inspiration behind this project.

According to Sabbi, 'Reach for the Stars' shows the blind that there are no barriers to scare them. "And technology is improving so fast that we are sure you will be able to learn and to do things. Things are becoming more reachable," said Sabbi.

Sabbi and her team are developing the book in partnership with SAS, a company based in North Carolina that develops analytics software to help people analyse and visualise data.

Not just the visually-challenged, but anyone can read the book. "We created this mainstream book in a way that would benefit everybody, rather than something that is specifically dedicated to a relatively small audience of students with visual impairments," stressed Ed Summers, senior manager at SAS.

The ebook would have six chapters and run about 90 pages. Every page of each chapter would begin with a question, followed by a short answer.

Children with visual impairments would not only hear the text read to them but also access the book using a refreshable braille display, the 'VoiceOver' screen reader, or the zoom feature that is included in every iPad.

Images, graphics, videos and animations would also appear in every chapter.

Some of the images will be interactive. Several prominent star clusters in an image of the 30 Doradus Nebula, for example, are marked by circles. Touch a circle and a short caption appears on the screen describing the cluster.

In addition to the VoiceOver and read aloud options, the book would also offer closed captioning, a compatibility option for people with hearing aids, and a high-contrast feature for those with low vision.

For brightness, SAS is using pitch to tell people with visual impairments the brightness of a particular star when they touch it. The brighter the star, the higher the pitch, said Summers.

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