Unique device brings solar eclipse experience to blind, low vision community

Lightsound Project devices will go to San Antonio area organizations

SAN ANTONIO – The University of Texas at San Antonio is collaborating with Harvard University and building devices for the blind and low vision community to experience the solar eclipse with sound.

“It has a high dynamic range of light sensors, so in bright lights it kind of has a flute sound, and as we go into eclipse, as the moon eclipses the sun, it gets dimer. So we go into a clarinet range. So the sound goes down when the light goes down. So from flute to clarinet, to a low clicking sound when you are in totality,” said Allyson Bieryla, an astronomer at Harvard University.

The Lightsound Project has done a workshop at several universities including The University of Texas at Austin, Harvard University and the University of Arizona.

“For blind or visually impaired folks it’s been really wonderful to just be included in an event and thought about beforehand and not after,” Bieryla said.

On Thursday morning, UTSA students and staff participated in a workshop at the MakerSpace in the Science and Engineering building to put together the LightSound devices.

“Once we realized we we’re going to have these two eclipses in San Antonio, then we wanted to host a workshop here,” Lindsay Fuller, Eclipse Project Manager at UTSA said.

UTSA student Tiffany Jensen has been connecting with the blind and low vision community and introducing the LightSound device.

“They’ve heard of eclipses before, but that’s not really for me. I can’t see it or I can’t see it clearly enough and when they heard about these boxes and I demoed these boxes for them, they immediately got really excited. They were like, how can I get one,” Jensen said.

The devices made here will go to local organizations.

San Antonio and the Hill Country have the rare luck of seeing two solar eclipses within six months.

The first is an annular solar eclipse on October 14, 2023 and the second is a total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024.

“This is pretty once in a lifetime opportunity for folks, so the more people we can engage in this and educate about the eclipse, it’s great,” Bieryla said.

About the Authors:

Tiffany Huertas is a reporter for KSAT 12 known for her in-depth storytelling and her involvement with the community.