FIVE members of the education team at Armagh Observatory and Planetarium (AOP) have given up almost four months of their own time to learn sign language to ensure members of the deaf community can enjoy an-out-of-this-world experience when the centre re-opens.
Courtney Allison, Dympna McNally, Helen McLoughlin and Anna Taylor completed the intensive 16-week British Sign Language Level One course while Ria Mee completed Level One of the Irish Sign Language course.
In addition to the team members learning sign language, AOP’s digital dome theatre has been fitted with Hearing Induction Loops in order to widen the experience for those with hearing difficulties visiting the planetarium.
AOP Education Officer, Courtney Allison said: “With the planetarium closed for refurbishment and in accordance with lockdown restrictions, we were conscious we wanted to make the most of this time.
“It’s important to everyone at Armagh Observatory and Planetarium that when people visit us, they have the fullest experience possible.
“With so many staff members now trained in sign language it means we can engage with deaf people in a much better way, and we hope this adds to their experience of visiting AOP.
“The courses were labour intensive, but we all enjoyed them. It was also good that we were able to learn from each other and give support when it was needed, we even learned a few space terms in sign language.”
AOP Education & Outreach Manager, Sinead Mackle said she was delighted when the team members volunteered their own time to learn sign language.
Sinead said: “We are so proud of the girls in achieving their Level One certificates. Having staff members who can engage with those hard of hearing through sign language will no doubt enhance their experience of visiting AOP.
“The girls really lived up to our motto of ‘Stay Curious’.
“Everyone is welcome at AOP and we are always striving to find new ways to make sure everyone has the best experience possible when they visit us.
“As well as the Hearing Induction Loop which has been installed in the digital theatre, we have added a Changing Places facility and a sensory room. All this means that even more people can visit us and enjoy the new facilities when we re-open.”
AOP remains closed but to keep up-to-date with everything that is going on there visit www.armagh.space or follow Armagh Observatory and Planetarium on Facebook.