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Over a million pounds to be spent on making Winchester Planetarium more accessible

Photo by: Winchester Science Centre, Harvey Mills

Winchester Science Centre has unveiled their newly upgraded Planetarium which is part of a wider development project at the facility aimed at making it more accommodating for people with disabilities.

The Planetarium, which has been a feature at the Winchester Science Centre since 2008, has undergone a full system upgrade by world-leading planetarium provider Evans & Sutherland and Skypoint Planetariums.

The new system allows for shows for people with visual and hearing impairment, through personal audio experiences, subtitles and embedded British sign language interpretation, for the first time.

Photo by: Winchester Science Centre, Harvey Mills

3D printing has also allowed for models of planets and sattelites to be made to give people with sight loss issues a more interactive experience.

Marco Cosmacini, from the Planetarium provider who carried out the work, said: "This partnership comes at a perfect time for us.

"We have been developing new solutions to improve access to planetariums for severely impaired and disabled people which we plan to launch later this year.

"Being able to showcase these latest developments in Winchester, a very important and influential planetarium in the UK, is a great privilege."

On Thursday 11th July, guests were invited to experience the newly upgraded planetarium and take a look around the Science Centre.

A grant of half a million pounds was awarded by the Enterprise M3 LEP to fund this first phase of the project.

As well as paying for the upgrade to the planetarium this first phase of funding also covers the cost of a new Changing Places toilet which is due to be installed at the Science Centre in the next few months.

Mark Watson, who's Head of Planetarium at Winchester Science Centre, said: "I'm really looking forward to making the most of the new technology to improve our visitors' experience, particularly for visitors with visual and hearing impairments.

"The new system can support the use of personal audio tracks, and subtitled and British Sign Language shows, which we will be developing as part of our planetarium programme set to launch this summer."

Dr Katherine Deane, who's a Senior Lecturer and Access Ambassador at the University of East Anglia, was invited to assist the Winchester Science Centre with making their facility more accessible.

Dr Deane told us why it's so important for these centre's to be available to everyone: "This is a place that instills the joy of science.

"Science desperately needs diversity, different perspectives, different points of view, different ways of thinking, is exactly how we get progress in science.

"This is how we discover the brand new thing, the way to solve climate change, the way to find out how gravity waves work.

"We need that diversity and to be honest everybody has a right to learn how to do science.

"These are the places where people can start to learn those things and share that joy with the next generation.

"It's for everybody."

A second stage of the development, which has also gained support from Hampshire County Council and Winchester City Council, will include a revamp of the Science Centre's upper exhibition floor in the Spring of 2020.

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