Visiting the Science Centre and Planetarium
Download this social story for autistic school visitors, which includes images of the exhibition and planetarium that may also be of interest to public visitors (although please be aware public visitors use a different entrance to schools and are not individually welcomed - please ask if you need clarification). You can also explore inside the Science Centre using Google, although note these images are from June 2014 and so some updates to the exhibition are not shown. There will also be an entirely remodelled cafe area from October 2016.
Assistance dogs are welcome in the venue where these are required for access. There is space for dogs to sit comfortably next to their owners at the back of the planetarium, offering a good view of the screen (for owner if not dog!).
Parking / Arrival
Nine disabled bays large enough for minibuses are located near the main visitor entrance, with a short flight of steps or ramped tarmac route to the entrance. Coaches can drop off in this same area.
An intercom is available in this parking area, to contact Science Centre staff for assistance if required.
The front doors to the Science Centre are fitted with automatic openers to facilitate access to the building.
The foyer area is large and spacious, although this can become busy in holiday periods when there is a snake queue for the tills. If you are unable to queue for the required time then please let the staff know.
Disabled visitors pay normal rates, but if you require a carer to enable access then the carer can accompany you free of charge in both the Science Centre and the Planetarium.
Turnstiles into the exhibition area are activated by barcodes on the tickets. Wide gates are available for those unable to use the narrow turnstiles. To exit the exhibition via the wide gate, hold your palm over the blue sensor as indicated.
Science Centre & Exhibition
Wheelchairs are available for visitors' use. Call 01962 891902 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve one for your visit.
The venue is open-plan. The only internal doors in the public areas are those to access the toilets. There are also doors to the classroom area, as used by schools and for occasional special events and meetings.
Each floor has level flooring with plenty of room for wheelchair users to freely explore the exhibits. There are no stepped areas other than to access the stage during holiday-period science demonstrations (a ramp is planned for future use).
There are various seats dotted about the exhibits, four sofas near the bottom of the lift, and benches in the picnic areas (inside and outside).
Roll-on roll-off lift between the two floors of the exhibition. Lift dimensions: width of door 80cm, length door to door 1.5m.
Accessible lavatories are available on each floor. These are wheelchair accessible, with transfer from the right hand side (from the viewpoint of the user).
These are situated past the turnstiles into the exhibition area, but please ask our staff if this is an issue. The downstairs toilet is found through the double red doors leading to the Learning Resources Area.
We regret that we do not have hoists or changing tables at this time, however this is something that we hope to fundraise for in future as we are aware of the importance of these for many visitors.
Cafe / Picnic Areas
The indoor picnic area is within the downstairs exhibition. Tables and benches are easily moved if required to provide additional space.
The outdoor picnic area is outside the cafe. There are a number of (unfixed) tables on the exit-level, with a short flight of steps up to heavy traditional style picnic tables on a sloping grassy area.
The cafe is accessible for wheelchair users. Please only eat food here that has been bought from the cafe.
If you may need access to a quiet space during your visit, please let us know in advance and where possible this will be arranged.
There are six spaces for wheelchair users at the back of the dome with excellent views of the screen. Mobility scooters can be driven straight in through the main entrance. Adjacent seats are available for family and friends, or for anyone else preferring same-level access.
There is space behind the seats to store wheelchairs if you prefer to transfer to a seat.
The seating is raked, with wide and broad steps down to the front. Seats at the back of the planetarium sit almost upright, while those at the front lean back. They are all padded with head-rests and flip-up seats and are generally considered very comfortable. Some seats (not level access) have space for a single leg to be extended at an angle, please let us know when booking if you would like us to reserve one of these for you.
Planetarium seats are 51cm wide, constricted to 46.5cm by the arm-rests. Padded office-style chairs (40cm wide, no arm-rests) can be provided in the wheelchair spaces on request.
Access to the stage
The planetarium stage is at the bottom of the planetarium. This area can be accessed avoiding steps via an external door which opens onto the path to the main visitor entrance. There is a single step up onto to the stage itself. If a ramp is required, please advise the staff member handling your booking in advance of date.
The stage is large enough to safely manoeuvre wheelchairs. Fixed microphones can be sited appropriately for use by wheelchair users, else hand-held or lapel mics are available as required.
Regular Chatterbox shows allow access to those who are likely to vocalise or otherwise make sounds during the show. See the What's On for dates and times; Chatterbox shows are marked with a pink circle containing a letter C.
In other showings, the audience are expected to listen quietly, and those disturbing other visitors may be asked to leave (this includes those with special needs, although a little extra leeway may be allowed).
Groups with members who will vocalise can request Chatterbox shows or book private* shows. Please call Laura Hobin on 01962 891900 or email email@example.com to discuss. (*Minimum fee applies).
The planetarium has a hearing loop, requiring the T setting.
This is a high quality loop system that works as designed. However, please be aware there are small 'cold spots' due to unavoidable interference caused by the metal frame structure that supports the domed screen. Please ask staff to speak into the microphone if you would like to test the loop before the show.
It is unfortunately not possible to provide a map of cold spots as upon testing it was found that these are so small that even the height of the loop user could affect their experience. In future it is hoped to find funding to install an infra-red system. Anyone able to assist with funding this is encouraged to contact the Science Centre!
We regret written scripts cannot be provided for public shows; it would be too dark to read them inside the planetarium and torches would be very distracting for other audience members. If you are a group booking a private show, please ask and we will explain the level of disruption, how best to mitigate this and whether scripts are available for your chosen show.
Subtitled/BSL shows are available on demand to groups and schools as follows:
Astronaut can be screened with summarised subtitles projected over the show (prior arrangement required).
Flight Through the Universe can be run as an adapted version with subtitles and/or BSL
Sign-language interpreters can be arranged/accommodated on request. Please ask when booking.
Download this social story for autistic school visitors, which includes images of the exhibition and planetarium that may also be of interest to public visitors (although please be aware public visitors use a different entrance to schools and are not individually welcomed - please ask if you need clarification). You can also explore inside the Science Centre using Google, although note the images are from June 2014 and so some updates to the exhibition are not shown.
Groups can request public/private special showings with bespoke lighting and sound levels as appropriate to the audience's needs. Please call Laura Hobin on 01962 891900 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss.
Epilepsy / Balance Disorders
The shows Astronaut, We are Astronomers and Cell! Cell! Cell! all have brief scenes containing flashing lights which may affect those with light-sensitive epilepsy. Please ask if you would like us to warn you when these will occur.
If you have a balance/neurological condition (eg vertigo, MS), please be warned that motion on the giant screen may make you feel disorientated and uncomfortable. If you suffer from extreme motion sickness then the planetarium may not be for you, please ask for advice.