It will be a case of touching the void in Portsmouth today (8 August) when blind astronomer Dr Nic Bonne will teach a severely sight impaired Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) radio presenter all about the wonders of the universe, using his pioneering tactile models.
The Royal National Institute of Blind People’s newest presenter on its flagship station Connect Radio, who has severe sight loss, will travel to the University of Portsmouth to meet Dr Bonne who is Public Engagement and Outreach Fellow/Tactile Universe Project Lead at the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation.
It’s to mark the 20th anniversary of Connect Radio, Europe’s first radio station for people with sight loss which was first established in 2003.
Dr Bonne has developed the Tactile Universe project by building 3D models of different features of distant galaxies to help people with sight loss better understand and learn about the latest astronomy research.
His 3D printable files have been made available to Key Stage 2 and 3 pupils across the UK and Dr Bonne travels widely to help engage people with sight loss in the project. RNIB also makes these resources available to children through its online Bookshare Service.
The Tactile Universe project has always been about inspiring people to think differently about how we access astronomy.
Dr Nic Bonne, Tactile Universe Project Lead at the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation
Dr Bonne said: “The Tactile Universe project has always been about inspiring people to think differently about how we access astronomy, to show that blind and vision impaired people can pursue an interest or even a career in the subject if they want to, that we might just have to approach things in a less traditional way.”
Meeting Dr Bonne will be Hubert Pawelkiewicz, who has recently been appointed as Radio Connect’s Content Producer in London.
Hubert was born prematurely and suffered from Retinopathy of Prematurity. He became totally blind in 2014. He said: “I’ve always been the type of person that likes to try something new and this is a great chance to raise awareness that engaging with the universe is possible even if you have a sight loss condition. A lot of people may not know this is possible. It’s also brilliant to highlight the work and anniversary of Connect Radio which reaches out to people with sight loss across the UK and provides a vital lifeline and support to many.”
Hubert will be joined by Paulina Kuchorew who is the co-host of Radio Connect’s The Happy Hour, with Claire Sisk, in which they focus on all things happiness and wellbeing.
Paulina has a passion for creating engaging audio including radio drama, podcasting and short features.
Dr Bonne added: “RNIB and RNIB Connect have supported and helped to promote the project for a long time now, so I'm really excited to have the chance to work directly with Hubert and Paulina, get them hands-on with our resources and share my passion for astronomy.”
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The Tactile Universe is making current astronomy research accessible to the blind and vision impaired community.