Making Space for Autism

Here at Jodrell Bank, we’re committed to providing everyone with an inspirational experience and ensuring that every visitor is able to fully engage with the science and stories of this internationally significant site.

To help us provide a visitor experience that welcomes everybody, we’ve been working with Space4Autism, a local charity that provides help and support to over 4000 people living with Autism spectrum conditions.

Left: The Space4Autism Team

Our journey with Space4Autism began last spring when we invited them to deliver a series of awareness workshops to our staff. Although many of us have friends or family members with autism, we hadn’t as a group, experienced any formal training before so it was invaluable to be able to access the expertise of the Space4Autism team. Their in-depth knowledge and experience empowered us to start thinking about how we could apply our learning here at Jodrell Bank.

Our next move was to enlist the members of Space4Autism to act as ‘mystery shoppers’ for us. We invited a number of families to experience our visitor journey, from booking tickets online to exploring the Jodrell Bank site. In return, they provided us with a wealth of insight and feedback including comments on the suitability of exhibition spaces to the navigation of our website, all of which will help inform our future developments. Thank you so much to the families that volunteered to help us with this!

Meanwhile, Space4Autism welcomed us to their site in Macclesfield to present some of our interactive science shows -typical of the activity we might offer here at Jodrell Bank. We had a great time engaging them with the science of telescopes, stars, and all things space! The sessions helped us understand more clearly the requirements of an autistic audience joining our on-site shows and talks.

Right: Space4Autism members engaging with the Jodrell Bank team

Through this fantastic partnership, we now have a deeper understanding of the challenges that people living with autism face every day. We can more clearly see the unintentional barriers that can often make a day trip an intimidating venture for people with autism and their families. We’re looking forward to putting this learning into action and creating a more welcoming experience for everyone.

As a direct result of this work, we’ll be offering our first autism-friendly early-opening event on Sunday 5th December when we’ll be opening at 9am, an hour earlier than usual, to offer a dedicated autism-friendly science show and a quiet, chill out space. We’ve also provided a new familiarisation guide to help people prepare in advance of their visit. Do come along and let us know what you think!

Cheryl Simpson at Space4Autism has said, “It’s been wonderful to be able to work with Jodrell Bank over the past 12 months, they have listened and taken note of the feedback our members have given, to make their site more inclusive for people with Autism. Thank you so much for choosing Space4Autism to work on this partnership it’s been fantastic” 

We’d like to say a huge thank you to Cheryl and all the wonderful team, including Ben, Nickie, Kath and Georgia at Space4Autism for their fantastic support. This unique partnership has benefited from funding through the ASDC’s Explore Your Universe project. The training was made possible through funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund as part of our First Light Project.