Accessibility of Astronomical Institutions

This page contains descriptions on the accessibility of astronomical institutions. Here accessibility must be defined broadly.  In addition to building infrastructure, accessibility must also include things like the institutional culture, how straightforward it is to receive accommodations, the availability of wheelchair accessible gender neutral bathrooms, and whether or not the institutional leadership is proactive and responsive or not.  For more information on disability justice, please refer to the wiki page on making astronomy accessible.

United States


Accessibility of physical buildings:

  • Cahill: accessible, though after-hours elevator use requires Cahill access (while the stairs are usually unlocked)
    • There is a lactation room in Cahill 212. It is opened with a key that you can check out from one of the office staff on the 2nd floor. As of 3/2018, the room has an available/in use door indicator, a small sofa, electrical outlets, a coffee table, and a small refrigerator. It is located close to a communal kitchen area with sinks etc.
  • South Mudd: ramp to side entrance to building; main entrance with museum exhibit nearby requires stairs
  • Downs/Lauritsen: elevator near the center of building; no stairs access available only on north side of building
  • Bridge: elevator door not automated; would be near impossible to use from wheelchair without help.  One entrance with ramp; other entrances have small steps to enter.
  • Kellogg: doors are not automated and difficult to open with key; difficult from wheelchair.  Elevator and accessible restrooms in Sloan.

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

There exist numerous accessibility barriers at the 60 Garden Street facility of the Center for Astrophysics (CfA). Fixes for several of these barriers are readily achievable, which suggests that the CfA may be in violation of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

  • The entire A building, the fourth floor of the B building, and the areas of the C and D buildings above and below Phillips Auditorium are entirely wheelchair inaccessible. 
  • There is only one elevator in this complex, which means that long distances often must be traversed in order to reach one's destination.
  • The closest entrance to the elevator is at the loading dock in the Bond Street parking lot.  However, this entrance is not wheelchair accessible which greatly increases the distance required to reach the elevator. 
  • The classroom A-101 where most graduate courses are held and summer interns are hosted is wheelchair inaccessible. While there is a secondary entrance leading directly into this room, it is blocked by a drainage basin that requires taking several steps to get past. 
  • Most of the signage lacks Braille or raised print.
  • There are gender neutral bathrooms in the hallway down the Perkins lobby and just outside Phillips Auditorium.

Accessibility barriers associated with the CfA's online presence include:

  • Nearly all of the videos of colloquia and seminars use auto-generated closed captions which often yield nonsense phrases that render the spoken content inaccessible to anyone who relies on accurate captioning.

Introductory astronomy labs at Harvard University make use of rooftop equipment and telescopes at the Science Center. These areas are not wheelchair accessible.

University of Arizona

Steward Observatory/Astronomy Department: Main department buildings can be accessed from Cherry Street or 2nd Street via ramps. Primary accessibility issus are in the old Dome, which is a historical structure. Currently requires climbing multiple flights of stairs to access 21" telescope. Graduate student offices on 2nd floor of the Dome can be accessed by walkway from the main departmental building, but there are still some stairs to climb, so not technically wheelchair accessible.

University of Arizona Observatories: Generally, the older the telescope, the more inaccessible it is. Dorms access should also be evaluated if updating an older site.

Page last modified on Tuesday 06 of March, 2018 20:07:13 EST