Guest Author - Jeanetta Polenske
In 1781, John Goodricke began keeping a journal about his observations of the night sky. His keen documentation lead to calculations that later astronomers used to determine the distance of galaxies.
John Goodricke was profoundly deaf. Leonard Euler is renowned for his contribution to astronomy despite being vision-impaired. Stephen Hawking has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Many of the disabled have made significant strides in the science that helps us understand the world that surrounds our planet.
There are many great learning opportunities and ways that any aspiring astronomist can take advantage of and more that are specifically made available for the disabled. Here are some of those resources.
If you are blind or vision-impaired:
1. NASA Lunar Science Institute has developed a radio astronomy program to monitor meteor impacts on the lunar surface for their 2013 lunar project. The project is one of many they have collaborated on with the National Federation for the blind.
2. A tactile and audio program is available for local planetariums. Called, “The Sky in Your Hands”, it can be obtained through Astronomers Without Borders.
3. Listen to podcasts from the Chandra X-Ray Observatory
4. Visit The Space Exploration Experience (SEE) Project for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Their activities do require a Braille embosser or thermal expansion machine.
For the deaf:
1. There are video podcasts from the NASA Chandra X-Ray Observatory with American Sign Language.
2. Get involved with the British Deaf Astronomical Society, a wonderful resource for amateur and experienced astronomers alike.
For the mobility-impaired:
1. There is a great blog called Practical Astronomy for the Disabled where options for exploring the universe for the physically disabled are shared.
2. Take an online course and/or get your degree from any number of colleges and universities including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, NASA, Berkeley and Yale.
There is absolutely nothing that should or could keep an inquisitive person from achieving his dreams or reaching the stars, so to speak. Whether astronomy is a hobby or a career choice, reach out and take advantage of the many resources available to everyone. The universe is a beautiful gift for all of us to explore and enjoy.