Flying at Zero-G, the brief periods of weightlessness that cognitive neuroscience researcher Lindsay Yazzolino experienced during the flight were a “fascinating experience.”

For Yazzolino, it was an opportunity where her love of flying intersected with her passion for science.

“It’s a very different way of just experiencing the way things move and how you are in space within the airplane. But it was super fun because most of the plane is just a giant space for people to float around and do research,” said Yazzolino, who has been blind since birth.

A graduate of Brown University, Yazzolino is a leading figure in tactile graphics and accessibility and one of 12 people selected for NASA’s Astro Access program. Her research for the program focuses on incorporating tactile information, digital mapping and other innovations to make space missions more inclusive for all.

During the flight, the Astro Access blind crew tested a set of tactile graphics to be added to cabin walls that would allow both blind and sighted crew members to stay oriented during emergencies and find emergency gear in zero gravity if the lights go off.

On Wednesday, Yazzolini addressed students at the Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind in Salt Lake City, describing her work as an ambassador of NASA’s Astro Access program, which integrates people with disabilities into the astronaut program.

Yazzolini shared her experiences with the hope of inspiring them to consider fields of study or careers they might not have considered before.

Many students need blind adult mentors, she said.

“It’s just even ‘what kind of work blind people are doing’ or ‘what kind of lives people live’ and just to broaden their horizons,” she said.

Yazzolini grew up in Issaquah, Washington, and attended public school.

“I had a lot of great teachers that really believed in me,” she said.

They figured out how to adapt math and science instruction so that Yazzolini could learn along with her classmates.

“It was just kind of assumed that I could do what I wanted to do. I feel really fortunate that I had that experience,” she said.

A researcher, consultant and educator, Yazzolini collaborates with other professionals to design museum exhibits, public art installations and educational materials which make use of the latest technologies such as 3D printing and touch-responsive sensors and tablets.

The students who took part in Wednesday’s event also had the opportunity to try out Monarch, a multipurpose, multiline, tactile Braille device that can download digital textbooks and access tactile graphics from American Printing House for the Blind library.

The device, which weighs about five pounds and is about the size of a 15-inch gaming laptop, has not yet been released to the public.

Monarch is a collaboration among American Printing House for the Blind, the National Federation of the Blind and hardware manufacturer HumanWare.

Brandon Watts, outreach director for the Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind, said the Monarch is “revolutionary technology” that will far better serve people who are blind.

“Because of rather just having one line of Braille at a time, which is what they’ve had up to this point, they have now 10 lines. It’s going to continue to get bigger and better, more accurate, more clear,” he said.

Watts said he hopes the takeaway for students is that “technology just keeps getting better and better for the blind, especially in the way of Braille.”

Watts said Yazzolini’s visit helped inform students “that there are people that exist in their communities, in the nation, that are doing what they love to do.”

Yazzolini is “doing what she loves to do, and the students can do what they love and want to do,” Watts said.

As technology evolves and attitudes shift, “people are becoming a lot more open to the possibility of somebody doing the same work but with blindness, where before they would say ‘There’s no way that they could.’ Now with the technology we have, they absolutely can,” Watts said