Since iPhones and iPads first went on the market, software updates have gradually incorporated more and more features to aid the visually impaired, most notably voice commands and screen readers. But when it comes to electronic reading, both children and adults who are blind or have a hard time seeing have been relegated to hard copies and Braille books. For children at least, that time might be coming to an end — a new e-book, named Reach for the Stars, is being designed with them in mind.
With a play on words, the children’s book will be interactive, allowing children to touch the screen and learn about stars. It was inspired by an image from the Hubble Space Telescope showing the colorful star-forming region known as 30 Doradus, and called the Tarantula Nebula. “We want to convince children that science is cool, is fun, and that anybody could be a scientist if they want to,” said Elena Sabbi, of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md., according to The Periscope Post. “Technology is improving so fast that we are sure you will be able to learn and to do things. Things are becoming more reachable.”
The astronomy book will target children aged 10 to 12, and will be about 90 pages long. Visually impaired children will be able to use Braille screen overlays, screen reader functions, or the zoom feature to understand text. But the e-book won’t only be for the visually impaired. “We created this mainstream book in a way that would benefit everybody,” said Ed Summers, a senior manager at SAS, an analytics software company in North Carolina, according to NDTV. Therefore, the e-book will also have vivid images, graphics, videos, and animations. For visually impaired children, some of these images will be interactive, using pitch to indicate the stars’ brightness — the higher the pitch, the brighter the star.
According to the National Federation of the Blind, data obtained by the American Printing House, which polls states to determine how many elementary and high school children are eligible for free reading matter in Braille, large print, or audio, there are about 59,000 legally blind children in the U.S. Globally, uncorrected refractive errors are the main cause of visual impairment, these conditions include myopia, hyperopia, and astigmatism, according to the World Health Organization.
Reach for the Stars: Touch, Look, Listen, Learn doesn’t have a release date yet, but it will be released through Apple’s iBook store as a free download. The first chapter was previewed, according to Optometry Today, at the winter meeting of the American Astronomical Society.