I am a person with impaired eyesight or Legal Blindness who enjoys Astronomy. For me, it’s not so much about seeing but in thinking to understand. There is so much good and helpful information online to review and talk about. I have learnt much from listening to people who can see the sky. My local Astronomy Club ‘Horowhenua Astronomical Society‘ has welcomed me to meetings and gatherings. Members make time to help me understand the multiple wonders of space and beyond.
The International Astronomical Union has taken a lead in helping people with disabilities to access Astronomy and our wonderful ever-expanding universe. The International Astronomical Union has a Working Group on ”Astronomy for Equity and Inclusion”. Through this group, astronomers (both sighted and visually impaired astronomers) are developing methods and resources to facilitate access to astronomical information “for people with special educational or physical needs, or those who might be excluded for their particular race or gender.” Their resources are available at http://sion.frm.utn.edu.ar/iau-inclusion/?page_id=27
The IAU office has funded projects for visually impaired persons, one of which resulted in the creation of an Astronomical kit for the visually impaired. More information on the kit is at http://astrokit.uv.es/ These resources can be downloaded from the site.
There is a very good resource published by the ‘One Minute Astronomer’ Dr Brian Ventrudo which any novice or armchair stargazer wanting to learn a few bright stars would be well advised to read. This guide includes maps and tours in PDF format, plus an MP3 audio file so vision impaired people can follow along. There’s no charge for this guide. which is freely available at – http://oneminuteastronomer.com/stargazing-101/
Looking at the night sky is an inexpensive and absorbing pass time which can be enjoyed by everyone even if you are in a wheelchair or require magnification. There is another good resource available with lots of excellent information aiming at ‘Teaching Astronomy’ is www.teachastronomy.com/
I have found Youtube has a number of good tutorial videos. Here is one I have enjoyed
And here is another which ilustrates the Planets.
There is an excellent facility in the Waikato at ‘Te Awamutu’ known as the ‘Space Centre’ www.spacecentre.nz The Space Centre is a privately-funded project run by Dave Owen and his family. It has been a work in progress since around 2009 and has enjoyed steady growth since then. Each Wednesday Dave hosts a live Netcast on Facebook and Youtube and its worth viewing.
Astronomy is a fantastic hobby with some fine and helpful people in local clubs. My hope interested people will have a go and enjoy their night sky even if they have mobility or optical challenges. To begin with, it’s important we are clear about the topic we are considering. In the public’s mind, there is some confusion between the terms Astronomy and Astrology. Astronomy is a natural science which deals with the study of celestial objects such as stars, planets, comets, nebulae, star clusters and galaxies plus phenomena that originate outside the Earth’s atmosphere such as the cosmic background radiation. It is concerned with the evolution, physics, chemistry, meteorology, and motion of celestial objects, as well as the formation and development of the universe.