Patricia A. Maurer
Director of Community Relations
National Federation of the Blind
[email protected]
(410) 659-9314, ext. 272

Betsy Zaborowski
Director of Special Projects
[email protected]
410-659-9314, ext. 357









BALTIMORE, MD (11/19/02) --- The National Federation of the Blind is pleased to host the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) public release of the print/Braille tactile-image book Touch the Universe: A NASA Braille Book of Astronomy. The book release will be held at the Federation's national headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland, on Thursday, November 21 at 1:00 p.m.

Marc Maurer and Amy Herstein (age 15) explore the universe together.

Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, stated that he was eager for the release of the Braille book because blind and visually impaired school children will now be able to enjoy the Hubble Space Telescope images so familiar to their sighted peers.

The sixty-four-page book presents color images of planets, nebulae, stars, and galaxies. Each image is embossed with lines, bumps, and other textures. The raised patterns translate colors, shapes, and other intricate details of the cosmic objects. Braille and large print descriptions accompany each of the book's fourteen photographs.

"This event is a wonderful way to highlight the importance of making science materials—especially tactile pictures—more accessible to blind children. Science is for blind children too!" declared Barbara Cheadle, President of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children. This book, by giving shape and dimension to the universe, will help blind children understand astronomy in ways not possible with traditional word explanations. Pictures often spark the desire for more learning, and this book will provide those pictures for the blind child, she said.

More than thirty blind school children—some from as far away as Washington State, Colorado, Michigan, and New York—will be on hand to celebrate the release of this extraordinary book. Other participating students will include Baltimore City public school children, Loyola High School students, and students from the Maryland School for the Blind.

Paul Clarke, Ben Wentworth, III, and Terry Garrett

Benning (Ben) L. Wentworth III, Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind science teacher, and winner of Disney's American Teacher Awards 2001 Outstanding Teacher of the Year, will also take part in the program. Wentworth, who served as the NASA consultant for the book, will be joined by two of his students, Terry Garrett and Paul Clarke. Both students assisted Wentworth in the prototype development.

Professor Bernard Beck-Winchatz, DePaul University astronomer and faculty member and the book's inventor, will participate in a similar event to be held at DePaul University's NASA Space Science Center for Education and Outreach in Chicago. Students from the Wisconsin Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired along with Center Director, Mark Riccobono, will take part in the DePaul event.

Noreen Grice, operations coordinator for the Charles Hayden Planetarium at the Boston Museum of Science, whose original idea inspired the book, will join members of the National Federation of the Blind at the NASA book release in Baltimore, Maryland.

Touch the Universe is published by the Joseph Henry Press, trade imprint of the National Academies Press (publisher for the National Academy of Sciences) with help from NASA.

The National Federation of the Blind, with more than 50,000 members and 700 local and state affiliates and chapters, is the largest and most influential membership organization of blind people in the United States. As a consumer and advocacy organization, NFB is the leading force in the blindness field today and the voice of the nation's blind.

Posted: November 26, 2002
E-mail: [email protected]