In order to access the observatory telescope, a visitor must be able to climb 25 steps (9 steps, a landing, 16 steps) in a spiral formation. The stairs have a railing on either side, with the railings approximately 2 feet apart. The observatory is limited to 25 individuals at a time and observing is on a first come, first serve basis with no seating area available within the dome. For those unable to climb the stairs, the first floor of the observatory is wheelchair accessible and a monitor is located there providing you with a live view of the sky as if looking directly into the telescope. This live view is also available on monitors and on a large screen in an indoor amphitheatre located adjacent to the observatory (~10 yards), which too is wheelchair accessible. In addition, portable telescopes are available outside the observatory and indoor amphitheatre.
In order to hear and see what is happening in the dome, a webcam is set up and the observatory staff member is equipped with a microphone that enables visitors to hear what is being said through the use of a receiving headset. These receiving headsets are especially good for individuals with hearing loss or for those who cannot physically get up to the telescope.
For individuals who are blind or who have low vision, all images are described in detail. Tactile image representations are also available upon request. Understandably live images of the night sky cannot be made readily tactile, but in an effort to be as up-to-date as possible tactiles of what has been seen are available. All relative information is available in large print or in Braille upon request, in addition to being provided on the observatory website.
The William D. McDowell Observatory seeks to make all of its programs accessible to individuals with disabilities. Please contact the Director of Disability Education, Michele Daly (201-460-4623), at least one week prior to visiting to discuss disability-related accommodations.