Zenith Mentorship Program: A Promising Practice in Making Informal Science Accessible

The SciAccess Initiative in conjunction with Ohio State University (OSU) and the Ohio State School for the Blind, launched the fully virtual Zenith Mentorship Program to engage blind and visually impaired 8th to 12th grade students in space and astronomy sciences. The program pairs students with vision impairments from around the world with OSU graduate and undergraduate students in space science fields and invites them to attend weekly lectures, contribute to research, and participate in networking activities.

To make space and astronomy science accessible to students with visual impairments, the program uses a variety of auditory and tactical models. For example, students can use tactile 3-D printed models of space objects such as black holes, constellations, and galaxies to get a better sense of the relative sizes, structure, and scale. The project also uses Transient Zoo, a citizen science project that sonifies (i.e., offers a sound-based representation of) the lightcurve data of transient phenomena such as supernovae.  ​​

The Zenith program is a promising practice in creating a fully virtual mentoring program that engages blind and visually impaired students in informal space and astronomy science.

For more information about accessibility for blind or low-vision students, visit the National Center for Blind Youth in Science or read the articles Earth Science: A Case Study on Teaching Concepts to a Student with a Visual Impairment and Robotics Track at Youth Slam: A Promising Practice in Engaging Students with Visual Impairments.