Special Needs & Concerns

We are always striving to provide the best accommodation possible for our visitors with special needs. Please check in at the Information Desk when you arrive, and let us know how we can help you get the most out of your visit. The Information Desk is located in the lobby of the Frank N. Bash Visitors Center. The counter at the Information Desk is wheelchair accessible. If you are participating in a Special Viewing Night program, or other special event, please notify us ahead of time of any special accommodation you may require.

Below is a summary of the accommodations that are routinely available. If you have questions or if your concerns are not addressed by the information provided, please contact the Information Desk at (432) 426-3640.

Altitude Sentitivity
Assistive Listening
Dietary Needs
Elevators
Emergency Response
Entrances
Lighting
Parking at the Frank N. Bash Visitors Center
Parking at Mt. Fowlkes (Hobby-Eberly Telescope)
Parking at Mt. Locke (107" and 82" Telescopes)
Respiratory Issues
Restrooms
Scripts
Service Animals
Shuttle Service
Special Viewing Night Programs
Star Party Telescope Access
Strollers
Water
Wheelchair Seating
Wheelchairs/Transport Chairs
 

Altitude Sensitivity

The Visitors Center is located at 6,235 ft. above sea level, and some portions of our public programs take place at elevations around 6,800 ft. Most folks handle the elevation with little or no adverse effects, however some people experience varying symptoms related to “altitude sickness.” These symptoms may include fatigue, headache, nausea, and dizziness. To prevent discomfort, limit physical activity until you are fully acclimated to the altitude, and drink plenty of water. If you experience discomfort during a public program, let your presenter know, and he/she can assist you.

Assistive Listening

Assistive listening devices are available free of charge for all public programs offered by the Visitors Center.  These devices consist of a small wearable receiver and earpiece.  Neck loops are available for those using Cochlear implants or T-coil compatible hearing aids.  If you would like an assistive listening device, please notify the Information Desk attendant prior to the start of your program.  Our staff will instruct you on how to operate the device before the program begins.  Please return assistive listening devices to the Information Desk at the conclusion of your program.  If you are participating in a Special Viewing Night program and require an assistive listening device, please notify our staff well in advance of your program.  

Dietary Needs

The StarDate Café at the Visitors Center provides a variety of dining options.  All visitors are also welcome to bring food from home and dine in our outside Café Courtyard.  This may be the best option for those with severe dietary restrictions.  While the Café staff will make every effort to accommodate you, please be aware that limited resources at our very small kitchen facility may prevent us from meeting your specific dietary needs. The StarDate Café has vegetarian menu choices, and staff can advise you about options to meet your specific requirements. If you have special dietary needs, please plan ahead by checking the Café menu and/or contacting the Café ahead of your visit to discuss your needs.  Please notify the Café staff of any food allergies when placing your order.  Note that the Café does sell packaged snacks that contain peanuts.

If you will be staying at the Astronomers Lodge during your visit, please contact the Lodge staff at (432) 426-4139 to discuss your dietary needs.

Elevators

Elevator access to the dome floor of the 107” Harlan J. Smith Telescope is available for those participating in the Guided Tour or Special Viewing Night programs. The Frank N. Bash Visitors Center and the George T. Abell Gallery at the Hobby-Eberly Telescope are fully accessible, single-story venues. The 82” and 36” Telescopes are not wheelchair accessible.

Emergency Response

Some Observatory staff are trained EMT’s and can respond quickly to on-site medical emergencies upon activation of the 911 system. In addition, many Observatory staff members are trained in CPR. Portable defibrillators are located at all facilities regularly accessed by the public. Program presenters are trained in emergency procedures and will assist you in the event of a building evacuation.

Entrances

All public entrances at the Frank N. Bash Visitors Center, the Hobby-Eberly Telescope and the 107” Harlan J. Smith Telescope are wheelchair accessible.

Lighting

Lighting levels are kept low at all evening programs to ensure all visitors get the best possible views of the night sky. Please allow your eyes time to adjust to the low light levels, and refrain from using white flashlights in the Telescope Park. Red lighting is provided throughout the Telescope Park, and all telescope operators carry red flashlights. If you are unable to safely navigate the Telescope Park in low light conditions, please ask for assistance.

Parking at the Frank N. Bash Visitors Center

Ample accessible parking is provided in the main parking lot at the Frank N. Bash Visitors Center. Please note the distances to various areas around the Visitors Center.

Parking on Mt. Fowlkes (Hobby-Eberly Telescope)

Limited accessible parking is available at the Hobby-Eberly Telescope on Mt. Fowlkes.

Parking on Mt. Locke (107” & 82” Telescopes)

Accessing the summit of Mt. Locke, the 82” Otto Struve Telescope and/or the 107” Harlan J. Smith Telescope from the Visitor Parking area on Mt. Locke requires a somewhat steep walk. We do not recommend visitors with mobility or respiratory issues attempt this walk. Instead, we recommend visiting Mt. Locke as part of the Guided Tour or visiting the fully accessible Hobby-Eberly Telescope on Mt. Fowlkes. Limited accessible parking is available at the 107” Harlan J. Smith Telescope with an Observatory-issued parking pass. If you require accessible parking at the 107” Telescope, please stop by the Information Desk for a parking pass and directions.

Respiratory Issues

The high altitude at our location can aggravate some respiratory conditions. Visitors with respiratory issues are encouraged to take advantage of our shuttle service when available and avoid taking the stairs to the 107” dome floor. If you require supplementary oxygen, an asthma inhaler, or other such device, be sure to bring these items with you on any programs you attend, especially those that travel to the mountain summits. Portable oxygen units are permitted on all programs and the shuttle bus.

Restrooms

Wheelchair accessible restrooms are available at the Frank N. Bash Visitors Center and the George T. Abell Gallery at the Hobby-Eberly Telescope.

Scripts

Program scripts are available for the Solar Viewing program. We also offer a document that can allow deaf visitors to follow along on the Guided Tour. Inquire at the Information Desk upon arrival if you need access to these documents.

Service Animals

Service animals are permitted on all of our public programs.

Shuttle Service

Visitors with limited mobility or respiratory issues participating in the Guided Tour are encouraged to take advantage of our shuttle service. The shuttle provides “door-to-door” access to all points on the tour. Shuttle seating is limited to 14 persons, with priority given to those with limited mobility and those driving large RV’s. Notify the Information Desk attendant of your desire to ride the shuttle when you obtain your tickets. Please note that the shuttle bus is not wheelchair accessible, and entry requires the ability to climb a few steps. Drivers will assist passengers who need help getting up the steps. Shuttle service is provided only on the Guided Tour and some Special Viewing Night programs.

Special Viewing Night Programs

The Special Viewing Night on the 107” Telescope is fully accessible. We are able to deploy a ramp for wheelchair access to the eyepiece. Please notify us ahead of time if you will require this service; we are unable to deploy the ramp on short notice. The 36” Special Viewing Night and the 82” Special Viewing Night are NOT wheelchair-accessible. Both require the ability to climb one or more steps to access the telescope’s eyepiece with the 82” dome floor accessed via two full flights of steps. Assisted listening devices can be used on all Special Viewing Night programs, but we do need advance notice so the staff can have the system ready upon your arrival. If you are considering attending one of these programs and have accessibility concerns, please contact the Information Desk at (432) 426-3640.

Star Party Telescope Access

Generally, the Star Party is a fully accessible program. Some visitors with mobility issues may have difficulty reaching the eyepieces of some telescopes, depending on the telescope design and the position of the target in the sky. In most cases, however, visitors find that accessing the eyepieces of most telescopes we use at the Star Party requires only moderate assistance. The Wren-Marcario Accessible Telescope (WMAT) is specifically designed for wheelchair access. This telescope employs a fixed eyepiece to allow those in wheelchairs or with limited mobility to comfortably view most Star Party targets on any given night. WMAT operators can slew to a variety of otherwise inaccessible targets in a short period of time, giving all visitors an equal opportunity to enjoy the wonders of the night sky. A limited number of our other telescopes can be adjusted to accommodate wheelchairs, as well. Accessing some of the larger Star Party telescopes may require the ability to climb one or more steps on a stepladder.

Strollers

Strollers are permitted on all public programs. However, due to space and safety concerns, we cannot allow strollers on the shuttle bus.

Water

We encourage all visitors to bring bottled water along on any of our programs. Water fountains are available at the Visitors Center and the George T. Abell Gallery at the Hobby-Eberly Telescope whenever these buildings are open to the public.

Wheelchair Seating

The theater at the Frank N. Bash Visitors Center is equipped with movable seating in the first row to accommodate wheelchairs of any size. Ask your program presenter or the Information Desk attendant for assistance.

Wheelchairs/Transport Chairs

One wheelchair and several transport chairs are available for use at the Visitors Center free of charge. Notify the attendant at the Information Desk if you need access to a chair.

Know Before You Go

Dress warmly (especially for evening programs) and bring your reservation confirmation with you. The Visitors Center is open 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Central Time (and additional hours on Star Party nights) every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day. The phone number is 432-426-3640.

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