Two apps icons: Eclipse Soundscapes and Light Detector app

Hear the Darkness: Experiencing a Solar Eclipse Without Sight

Felicia Van Every Article, Video

On April 8, 2024, a total solar eclipse swept across North America. This rare event occurs when the moon passes between the Earth and the sun, casting a shadow on our planet and temporarily obscuring the sun’s light. For many, this is a special event to witness firsthand. However, for those who are blind or have low vision, experiencing the eclipse poses unique challenges – traditional methods of observing eclipses through sight alone aren’t feasible.

Now, innovative technologies, like those listed below, are changing that narrative, ensuring that events such as this are more inclusive. This article explores how one device and a couple of apps can enhance how individuals with visual impairments engage with solar eclipses.

Light Sound device image
Light Sound Device

LightSound Device—The LightSound Device is a tool that uses sonification to convey changes in light levels audibly. As the level of sunlight fluctuates during an eclipse, the device produces corresponding sounds, allowing users to perceive these changes through sound. This innovative approach enables individuals with visual impairments to experience the eclipse in real-time, immersing them in the event through a different sensory channel. What’s more, certain viewing locations offer these devices for free, helping to provide accessibility for all.

Eclipse Soundscapes app icon
Eclipse Soundscapes App

Eclipse Soundscapes— Another groundbreaking initiative, Eclipse Soundscapes, offers haptic and auditory feedback to enhance eclipse experiences for the blind and visually impaired. Using a smartphone app, users can explore interactive audio descriptions, image sonification, and haptic feedback “rumbles” that convey the changing dynamics of the eclipse. Using touch and sound, Eclipse Soundscapes provides a multi-dimensional experience that transcends visual limitations, enabling users to engage with the eclipse meaningfully.

Light Detector app icon
Light Detector App

Light Detector—This app was not created for use with an eclipse, but it could be an option to experience one. It uses the camera to sense the intensity of light and emits an audible sound as the level of light increases or decreases. This gives users an idea of how intense the light source is at different locations or times.

In this video, we’ll explore the Eclipse Soundscapes and the Light Detector apps on the iPhone.

In this video, we’ll show how the Eclipse Soundscapes app worked during the total eclipse.

Learn more about our inclusive digital experiences.

About the Author

Felicia Van Every

Felicia VanEvery is a Sr. Researcher at gotomedia and focuses on enterprise-level clientele, developers and content-based studies. She balances work with oversight of two toddlers who have a habit of reorganizing the bookshelves while she is conducting remote sessions.