January 2016 marks a milestone for the Cape Town Science Centre (CTSC) in Observatory as they introduce instructional signage in braille on some of their key interactive exhibits in order to enhance the experience for their sight-impaired visitors.
This initiative will be marked by a visit from the Athlone School for the Blind on Thursday 21 February at 10:00, which will be facilitated by Wanda Diaz-Merced, a sight-impaired PhD Computer Scientist and Astronomer who meticulously translated the instructions of the centre’s interactive exhibits into Braille.
Diaz-Merced is currently visiting from Puerto Rico as a Fellow of the International Astronomical Union Office of Astronomy for Development (IAU OAD) stated that before this initiative, a blind person visiting the Science Centre would not experience nearly as much learning as a sighted person.
“We have worked hard to include as much material as possible in the form of braille explanations and tactile models (including 3D printed models) to enhance the learners’ experience. I walked through the centre myself, as a blind person, in order to evaluate the current experience offered and designed tools that will be especially useful to the learners. As hard as we have tried to enhance their experience though, there is still much that can be done and we hope that this is only the beginning of a process to make mathematics and science more inclusive to people with disabilities,” she adds.
The Cape Town Science Centre is Cape Town’s only ‘hands-on’ science centre established to educate and create awareness around science and technology, to excite both young and old and contribute to strengthening a culture of science in South Africa.
Busisiwe Maqubela, chief operations officer of the Cape Town Science Centre, adds: “For our centre, we believe this is very important step forward. We are grateful to Wanda, for her passion and expertise and getting us started on this journey. We would welcome the input of any local expert on making the exciting science and technology themed exhibits and experiences in our centre more accessible to those with disabilities.”
The Cape Town Science Centre also encourages all schools to gear up for 2016 by taking advantage of the various interactive and practical learning experiences specifically designed to support the science school curriculum.