Athlone School for the Blind

Athlone School for the Blind
Day three of National Science Week 2013 at the Bellville Public Library

On day three of our recent National Science Week nine day scienceathon (a phrase coined by Evan) Lynnette, Auke and I had the privilege of presenting a short astronomy program to a group of 43 learners and their four teachers from the Athlone School for the Blind at the Bellville Public Library.

Teachers and staff of the Bellville Public Library serving soup and sandwiches to the learners from the Athlone School for the Blind. Some of the Chandra Braille posters are in the tables

At the heart of the presentation were the fantastic Braille astronomy pictures with their accompanying Braille explanations, courtesy of Kimberly Kowal Arcand.  Kimberly is part of the NASA/Chandra X-ray telescope’s educational project to take astronomy to the visually impaired and she is based at Harvard University, located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

WOW! I didn’t know it was that hot.


Can you believe how big and far away it is!

The group of learners represented a spectrum of visually impaired, multiply disabled and blind learners.  Not all the learners had mastered the Braille system, so we split the group.  While the teachers assisted those who could read Braille with the printed material, I gave a short talk to the others on the importance of space research and also talked about the efforts in the United States to give visually impaired people access to astronomy.

DSC_0027_NSW_BellBib_D1_ASB_Brailleposters_Ki nders
Hey guys, this is way cool. How do they know all this stuff?
So if we are at the bottom we are standing on our heads?
Yes, we can ask Edward and Lynnette to come to the school and tell us more about all this.
This is crazy stuff, man, Cool but really crazy!

The expressions of wonder and amazement on the faces of the learners reading the printed material and experiencing the Braille images and the information they contained for the first was, to say the very least, an exceptionally rewarding experience.  Some of these expressions have been captured in the photographs Lynnette took and it is a pity that we have no actual recording of the enthusiastic comments passed by the learners.

Perhaps the most poignant experience was having blind learners request that they be photographed with us and knowing that they would never see the photograph.  Many of the others also wanted to be on these photos too, but it was the requests from the blind ones that we found particularly touching.

The group wanting to be photographed got larger and larger with every click of the shutter.
Lynnette had her own supporters group and the lad in red was especially keen to be in on the action.
The boy in the middle requested to be photographed with me. He is totally blind yet his brother has perfectly normal sight. Life really is not fair.