U-46 Planetarium Offers Virtual Tour, Increasing Accessibility for All
More than 1 million people have passed through the U-46 Planetarium’s doors since it opened in September of 1963. Now, guests from across the globe can visit this historic building, thanks to a new virtual tour.
Planetarium Director Peggy Hernandez recently embedded a virtual walk-through tour of the Observatory/Planetarium on the school district’s website. By using the arrows on the computer screen, a visitor can see 360-degree images of the building’s first and second floors.
This type of virtual tour can be quite helpful - particularly for someone with a physical disability or a sensory issue, who might be anxious about visiting a building, Hernandez explained during a recent telephone interview.
“Sometimes neurodivergent students are very anxious about visiting a new place - or someone in a wheelchair might have a concern about bathrooms,” she said. “You can see the whole building with this tour. It’s an accessibility tool.”
Simply seeing the size of a room might be something that someone needs to know in advance, Hernandez said.
“Specifically for (some) autistic students - it’s a challenge to walk in some rooms.The doorway (of the Planetarium’s chamber) is smallish. And the room is a bit dark, compared to outside; it’s a closed feeling. A lot of people don’t like that feeling. This way (with the virtual tour), you know exactly what it looks like,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez worked with the Able Eyes company to initiate the project. A specialized photographer spent two hours at the Observatory/Planetarium, using a small, swiveling tripod to take 360-degree rotating images. He then “stitched” those images together to create the full view of all of the rooms, Hernandez said.