Wednesday 21 August, 2019

Astronomical Association of donates 3D posters to JSB

Jamaica Society for the Blind (JSB) librarian Kamika Brathwaite reads the braille on a poster that compares dandelion dispersal to comets as Nathan Henderson (left), president of the Astronomical Association of Jamaica (AAJ), explains the phenomenon. Also experiencing space through their fingertips are JSB assistant librarian Damion Rose and executive director Conrad Harris (right).

Jamaica Society for the Blind (JSB) librarian Kamika Brathwaite reads the braille on a poster that compares dandelion dispersal to comets as Nathan Henderson (left), president of the Astronomical Association of Jamaica (AAJ), explains the phenomenon. Also experiencing space through their fingertips are JSB assistant librarian Damion Rose and executive director Conrad Harris (right).

In a bid to open up the cosmos to both the sighted and unsighted, the Astronomical Association of Jamaica (AAJ) has donated four 3D tactile posters to the Jamaica Society for the Blind (JSB).

Designed with braille and other raised surfaces to help the visually impaired community “see” phenomena in the universe, the posters were handed over to JSB executive director, Conrad Harris; librarian, Kamika Brathwaite; and assistant librarian, Damion Rose, at the society’s headquarters in Kingston last Friday.

In thanking the AAJ, Harris said the posters will make “a big difference to those people who are interested in astronomy” and praised its creators for the level of detail and consideration put into each poster.

“Many times, we get maps, and they don’t really distinguish easily between the various sections. They feel very similar, and it is hard to figure them out,” he said. “[With these posters], the structures that they have used are really distinctive you can easily identify, for example, Saturn’s rings.”

Harris said the posters will be initially placed in the JSB’s library for its members to have easy access but added that he would also look into sharing them with other organisations within the visually impaired community.

“I am thinking that if necessary, we are certainly willing to share them with the Salvation Army School for the Blind as well,” he said.

Nathan Henderson, the AAJ president, who was on hand with Barnswell Dennis, the AAJ’s public relations officer, to present the posters to the JSB, said the handover while small is a step in the right direction.

“It’s a start,” Henderson said. “Accessibility to science education, because of the lack of resources often excludes those who are differently abled, and the visually impaired community is no stranger to those challenges, astronomy especially because it is a visual thing.”

He said it’s the first time, as far as he knows, that the AAJ has been able to give back to this specific community in such as way and “we don’t want it to be the last.”

The posters were acquired at the William Hrudey Caribbean Astronomy Conference in the Cayman Islands last year – as a gift from presenter Allyson Bieryla, manager of the astronomy lab and Clay Telescope at Harvard-University. Bieryla spoke on the topic of equal participation for the visually impaired in astronomy.

Noting that the posters could be designed using 3D printing technology, Henderson said he wouldn’t mind collaborating with Bieryla and her team to create something similar in Jamaica.

“I am a big fan of developing local capacity, local initiatives,” he said. “We are trying to build local capacity in electronics, engineering and physics. So, we would like to look into partnering with them.”

Speaking specifically to the presentation, Henderson said, “We want it to be the start of something. We want to expand it to other communities that can be benefitted because astronomy is for everyone.”

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