The Experience of a Lifetime
The Great American Solar Eclipse has come and gone, but the memories of this amazing phenomenon will be held in the hearts of everyone who experienced it. MindsEye joined forces with Missouri Council of the Blind (MCB) on Monday, August 21st to celebrate the solar eclipse at their offices in Saint Louis during their “Watch and Listen Party.” MCB threw a fantastic event with over twenty people attending this fellowship of the sun and moon; guests shared their excitement and chowed down on a lunch of fried chicken with sides of potato salad and hot rolls.
A group of about twenty people stare up towards the sky as they stand on a black asphalt parking between two brick buildings. Many of the people wear audio description listening devices and eclipse glasses.
So how does someone who is visually-impaired or blind experience this once in a lifetime event? Audio description allows people who are visually impaired to take full advantage of theater productions, art shows, museum exhibits, and all of life’s moments. The description focused on the science of the eclipse and (of course!) the visual elements as the moon blocked the sun for 56 seconds of totality.
A woman with short auburn hair and big round black glasses leans her head back and lets the warmth of the sun envelope her body. She holds an audio description device in her right hand and a leash in her left. At her feet, a blonde guide dog rests on the black asphalt of a parking lot, its front paws crossed in front of it. Behind them a wooden fence, recycling dumpster, and parked cars.
A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between Earth and the sun, blocking our view of the sun. Standing in the moon’s shadow on Earth, you could see the sky darken and feel the temperature drop – though not as much as we had hoped! It was a bright, sunny and hot afternoon on that black asphalt parking lot. This was the first total solar eclipse in the continental U.S. in 38 years; the last one occurred February 26th, 1979, though not many people saw it because it clipped just five states in the Northwest and the weather for the most part was bleak.
Bill Wilcox, volunteer and trained Audio Describer with MindsEye, provided the live description, sharing some big science and fun facts about the eclipse alongside it.
A man stands against a red brick building wearing a headset mic and a turquoise shirt. He reads from music stand in front of him.
The eclipse event took about 90 minutes from start to totality, but the last 30 minutes had the most interesting things happening. Planets became visible in the sky; some may have been able to see Venus, Jupiter, Mars and Mercury – though we were only able to view Venus’s bright blue orb to side of the sun afterwards. The build up to full totality was not only visual; the cicadas slowed down their chirping and the birds fell quiet. As the horizon lit in a 360-degree sunset with darkness overhead, street lamps pinged on. The excitement was palpable.
An bright white sun with vertical streams of light bursting on either side of its (not visible eclipse) sets against a blue sky with fluffy white clouds to the right and lines of think cloud streaks to the left. A blurry hand and the top of a brick building are just visible at the bottom of the picture.
Immediately before and after the total eclipse, shadow bands appeared on the ground and other surfaces like the wavy lines seen at the bottom of a pool of water. How shadow bands appear vary from eclipse to eclipse and nobody’s quite sure what causes them. During totality, the diamond ring that was visible disappeared as the moon completely covered the sun. The sun looked like a dark hole in the sky; it’s the only time one can see the corona, which is the sun’s upper atmosphere. Prominences were also visible during totality; these large, bright loops of plasma extended out from the sun’s surface appearing pink.
A man (Leonard Gross) in a blue t-shirt and khaki pants sits in his wheelchair and holds an audio description device to his ear as he listens to MindsEye's AD of the solar eclipse on Monday, August 21st. His seated figure is shadowed on the black asphalt. A red brick wall behind him.
Leonard Gross was in awe afterwards, stating, “That was just fantastic. That was awesome.”
Post eclipse guests hurried into the air-conditioned building to share their thoughts and cool down with some Ted Drewes ice cream. Janet Shobe, 58, who has been blind for nine years and opted to stay inside during the eclipse, said, "The description was perfect.”
A large group of people sit at black table clothed dining tables eating Ted Drewes Inc. ice cream after listening to the audio description of the solar eclipse. The room is brightly lit by florescent bulbs.
Did you miss the eclipse?? You can still experience this amazing event through our recording of the LIVE Audio Description! Listen HERE.