Astronomer Elena Sabbi of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland wants to convince blind children that they too can be seen pushing the barriers of science and technology; and what better way to do that than by coming up with the world’s first ebook meant for the visually disabled. Also, perhaps no other title could have been more appropriate: ‘Reach for the Stars: Touch, Look, Listen, Learn’ which itself draws its inspiration from the images beamed back by the Hubble telescope of ’30 Doradus Nebula’, a vast stretch in outer space where new stars are formed.
The ebook which is currently being developed in collaboration with the North Carolina based company SAS will be made available at iBooks for free. SAS is chipping in with their expertise in ‘analytics software to help people analyze and visualize data’ though SAS officials have been quick to point out the ebook will be suited not just for the visually impaired but to all.
Among the special features the ebook will incorporate include reading the texts aloud to benefit those who are blind to high contrast display to aid those with partial vision. There will also be the VoiceOver’ screen reader that those with visual impairments can fall back upon to comprehend the book. Also, with lot’s of colorful images included in the book, SAS is making use of pitch of let those who can’t see to have an idea of how bright a particular region is. For instance, for the star that is extremely bright, touching it will emit a sound of higher pitch than those with slightly lesser brightness.
The ebook will also include closed captioning feature to help those with hearing aids. In any case, many of the images will be interactive, which means those will be marked with circles, and touching them will launch a small caption detailing the star and so on. There will be videos, animations and graphics included in every chapter to make it interesting to the readers. The book will run through 90 pages divided into 6 chapters. Also, to stoke interest even further, each page of the book will begin with a question followed by the answer.