by Thilina Heenatigala

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Beautiful views of the Universe. Image credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), and R. Gendler.

The beauty of the Universe never fails to amaze us. From poets, artists to astronomers and public, we all have been fascinated by its beauty.

But, take a step back and think! What about people with vision impairments?

Many people around the world have some type of vision impairments that prevent them from enjoying the wonders in the night sky, specially in developing countries where there is a lack of educational tactile tools specifically designed for them.

According to the World Health Organisation, about 285 million people have some degree of visual impairment. About 39 million are blind, and 246 million are visually impaired. About 90% of them live in developing countries of Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Pacific Regions, and they are 10 times more likely to go blind than those in developed countries.


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Looking at the moon, "it's one of the most beautiful things I have seen from my one eye" said a man who joined a sidewalk astronomy event in Philippines during GAM2013.

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During GAM 2013, Brazil turned the tables by blindfolding the guests and guiding them in a tactile astronomy tour by people with visually impairments.


To address this much neglected area, under the framework of Universal Design of Learning (UDL), we have created “A Touch of The Universe” project. It aims to build 30 sets of tactile astronomy KITS for children with vision impairments.

The project is supported by the International Astronomical Union Office of Astronomy for Development, Astronomical Observatory of the University of Valencia, Universe Awareness (UNAWE), Astronomers Without Borders (AWB), Galileo Teachers Training Program (GTTP), Galileo Mobile, NASA-CXO, and Osservatorio Astronomico di Padova / INAF.

Now you can help a vision impaired child in a developing country to see and learn about the wonders of the Universe! “A Touch of The Universe” project aims to build 30 sets of tactile astronomy kits addressed to children with both normal or vision impairments. The kits will be distributed among educators and teachers in underdeveloped countries in Americas, Asia and Africa.

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We need to raise some funding to be able to build the 30 sets of tactile astronomy kits. Please consider making a donation by visiting the project’s website:




GAM2013 blog Thilina imageThilina Heenatigala is an informal astronomy educator with a passion to communicate. He founded the Astro BookDrive (IYA2009 Special Project) in 2009 as an effort to improve the astronomy education in developing countries. He coordinated the Global Astronomy Month in 2010, 2011 and 2012 and currently works as the Communications Manager for Astronomers Without Borders and Galileo Teacher Training Program. Apart from astronomy, he enjoys fashion, photography, social media and traveling. Follow him on Twitter @ThilinaH / Facebook / Google+ or his blog Universe Café to keep updated on his latest astronomy adventures.


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