Winchester Science Centre will begin a £1.1m transformation to create a more inclusive and accessible experience for its visitors, on June 3.
A grant of £500,000 from Enterprise M3 LEP will fund the first major milestone in the project – a full upgrade to the planetarium in June 2019, and the installation of a registered Changing Places toilet a few months later. A second stage of the development, which has also gained support from Hampshire County Council and Winchester City Council, will be the reimagining of the Science Centre’s upper exhibition floor in spring 2020.
“One in five people in the UK have a disability, impairment or illness that significantly impacts their lives, and the lives of their families.” said Ben Ward, CEO of Winchester Science Centre. “By rethinking our spaces and how we deliver STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) activities, we will inspire and excite a wider audience – with a real commitment to getting it right for people with a disability in particular, so that they can engage as never before.”
Kathy Slack, Chief Executive of Enterprise M3 LEP said “Enterprise M3 is delighted to support this transformational project at the Winchester Science Centre. Supporting our region to address the skills gap is a high priority for us and the increased accessibility to STEM opportunities that this project provides will be of great benefit to the local area and beyond.”
Evans & Sutherland and Skypoint Planetariums, world-leaders in digital planetariums, share the charity’s ambition to create an accessible and inclusive planetarium and have been chosen by Winchester Science Centre to deliver the planetarium upgrade.
Marco Cosmacini, Evans & Sutherland and Skypoint Planetariums 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.”
Mark Watson, 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.”
Since opening in 2008, over 1 million people, mostly children, have visited the planetarium for its immersive 360° experience and virtual tour through space.
The planetarium upgrade is expected to take three weeks to complete. During this time, visitors to the Science Centre will still be able to enjoy all the usual activities offered with general admission, including entry to Explorer:Space, the hands-on exhibition, and live science show and Invention Studio activities at weekends.
Image (from left to right): Emma Diserens, Head of Widening Participation; Jordan Tame, Senior Project Officer for Enterprise M3; Ben Ward, Chief Executive Officer; and Mark Watson, Head of Planetarium.