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Inclusive Astronomy and Inspiring Stars


Erika Labbé, outreach coordinator of the Astronomy Nucleus of UDP,  is leading a series of activities dedicated to children and adults with visual disabilities.  Because of this, she was invited to the exhibition of “Inspiring Stars” held in the IAU meeting in Vienna this July 2018.  She collaborates with other members in Chile and Latin America with the goal to show that visual problems should not be an obstacle for exploring the Universe.

Talks without images
Everything started 3 years ago, when the journalist David Azocar suggested Labbé to do a talk for a non-standard public for the Astronomy Day in Santiago.  Labbé thought of replacing images by things that can be touch. She looked for advices in several institutions, including “Bibliociegos”, a library for blind people in Santiago. The first talk was called: Star and planet formation, where the articles were tested by a blind lady in the Library who helped to improve them.

“We chose that subject for the talk because the things could be reproduced in form of nebulas or planets orbits, and because we were speaking about Earth and the Sun, which are elements that can be perceived by other senses more than visual” says Labbé.

It is encouraging to see the reaction of the students either in the talks at the Bilbiociegos Library or in schools or other institutions. One could see the happiness in people’s faces, as they touch and understood the subject. Everybody had heard about the different sizes of planets, but feeling their sizes is a completely new experience.

“It is possible to realise the potential of people with visual disabilities in understanding Astronomy”, comments Labbe, “Now my motivation is not only a communication challenge but to change the image that disable people might have in Chile.”  Labbé brings her materials also to general public, making them close their eyes and “feel” the astronomical objects.

In order to reach more people with visual problems, Labbé is training astronomy students of different universities in Chile for them to make talks with own innovations. Some of these students joined Labbé in the exhibition of Vienna.

More information about these activities can be found in accessible astronomy UDP