September 9, 2014
SAS, Space Telescope Science Institute Inspire Passion for Science in
Students CARY, NC-(Marketwired – September 04, 2014)
A free, multitouch iBooks Textbook for iPadR is now available to inspire
students of all abilities to pursue futures in science.
Reach for the Stars: Touch, Look, Listen, Learn (opens in new window/tab)
incorporates new, assistive technologies so children with visual
disabilities, too, can experience striking deep-space images like never
Free for download from Apple’s iBookstore(SM),
Reach for the Stars (opens in new window/tab)
was created for iPad by analytics provider SAS and the Space Telescope
Science Institute (STScI).
STScI astronomer Elena Sabbi worked with developers to translate brilliant
imagery from the Hubble Space Telescope into content any student, including
those with visual disabilities, can learn from and enjoy. The development of
the iBooks Textbook is funded by a Hubble education and public outreach
“This book allows any child to experience the wonders of space,” Sabbi
explained. “We want young students to understand that anyone can be a
Traditionally, the abundance of charts, graphs and data visualizations has
made it challenging to bring math and science to visually impaired students.
And their teachers struggle to transition from printed textbooks to digital
instructional materials. With accessibility directly embedded into Reach for
the Stars, every student in the classroom can use the same book. Educators
don’t have to convert the content to special formats for students with
Ed Summers spearheaded the development of the iBooks Textbook, leading a
team of programmers, graphic artists and accessibility specialists. The
engineer and Senior Manager of Accessibility and Applied Assistive
Technology at SAS, himself blind, emphasizes that Reach for the Stars is not
for blind children.
“This is a mainstream book to benefit every student, rather than something
limited to a small audience of students with visual impairments,” said
The iBooks Textbook consists of seven chapters. Children with learning
disabilities can touch the audio icon on each screen to hear the text read
Students with visual impairments can use the VoiceOver screen reader
available on iPad.
Images, graphics and animations, some of them interactive, highlight every
chapter. Prominent star clusters in the Tarantula Nebula, for example, are
by circles. Touch a circle and hear the name of the feature as a caption
appears on the screen.
The iBooks Textbook takes advantage of accessibility features built into iOS
including Text to Speech, captioning, a compatibility option for hearing
compatibility with refreshable Braille displays, and high-contrast colors
for students with low vision.
Another option, “sonification,” uses sound to convey data. For instance, in
a diagram plotting the brightness of stars against their surface
touch-generated pitch variations indicate the intensity of a particular
star. The brighter the star, the higher the pitch. The star’s temperature is
through either the left or right ear. Hotter stars are on the left of the
graph, cooler stars on the right.
National Braille Press has created tactile overlays for all of the
interactive images in the book. The tactile overlays contain raised lines
that are perfectly congruent with each interactive image. For example, the
tactile overlay for an image of dozens of galaxies lets a blind student feel
a shape for each galaxy and simultaneously hear a sound that represents that
The Baltimore-based National Federation of the Blind, a project partner,
will promote the book through its network of teachers and parents.
Prospective users can download the iBook Textbook from the iBookstore and
order the tactile overlays from the National Braille Press website. A short
and teacher support page will help jumpstart learning. Users can even
download a 3-D model of the Hubble Space Telescope and print it on a 3-D
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