We're on a mission to make science accessible to everyone. One way we're doing this already is by continually investing in the visitor experience at our Science Centre. My Sighted Guide training with Guide Dogs UK is the most recent accessibility initiative to make the Science Centre an even more inclusive environment for people with vision impairment.

There are currently two million people in the UK living with sight loss and this number is predicted to double by 2050. Sighted guides are people with the skills and knowledge to guide a person with sight loss or low vision. The training, which took place in early November, was run by the experienced Guide Dogs UK team who are on their own mission to increase the number of people who are trained in sighted guiding across the UK.

During the training, Winchester Science Centre staff were taught how to approach and introduce themselves to someone who might need guided assistance. They were given an introduction to common eye conditions and their impact and made aware of access rights and barriers to independence. The Guide Dogs UK team gave the Science Centre staff advice on how someone who needs assistance would be guided. They were also taught basic guiding techniques such as how to navigate the Science Centre, particularly through narrower spaces between exhibits.

Helping even more people visit and engage with science

Ben Ward, Chief Executive of Winchester Science Centre, said: “Wonderseekers is on a mission to break down the barriers to science and that starts with our visitor experience at the Science Centre. We want to create an environment where everyone can join in and engage with our activities and the sighted guide training forms an integral part of this. Our staff really enjoyed learning the skills they need to become confident and empathetic sighted guides and they can’t wait to put them into practice.”

Over the past five years, Winchester Science Centre has completely transformed its visitor experience. Through initiatives such as installing a 24-hour Changing Places facility, running regular British Sign Language days and upgrades to the Planetarium to show subtitled films, it's hoped even more people will be able to visit and engage with science.

Through a collaboration with BIAZA (British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums), Guide Dogs UK developed a training and information programme on sight loss and sighted guide techniques. They have worked with various organisations across the country to help improve the experience for people living with sight loss when at visitor attractions.