Access Guide - Big Pit: National Coal Museum
Advice for disabled visitors
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General advice for visitors
- Big Pit is on the side of a steep hill and on a number of different levels and although there are ramps provided they are quite long and the climb can be arduous.
- The walking surface both above and below ground is typical of an industrial site so sturdy shoes are recommended. The floor can be uneven or slippery in places and there are numerous steps to negotiate. Underground, there are one or two places where you will need to bend to avoid bumping your head.
- During the underground tour visitors will be required to walk a distance of 700 metres wearing a helmet and carrying a lamp weighing 5 kg. This lamp is approved for the purpose by the HSE but lighting levels are generally lower than many visitors will be used to.
- Although Big Pit no longer produces coal, it is still classed as a coal mine under the Coal Mines Act. As such it is against the law to take smoking materials or incendiary substances underground.
- These include cigarettes, tobacco, matches and lighters, mobile phones, battery-operated watches and key fobs, calculators, radios, personal music players and all photographic equipment.
- This ‘contraband’ will be collected by our Guides before the underground tour and will be kept securely locked away on the surface and returned at the end of the tour.
- Children must be at least 1metre in height for the underground tour. The safety equipment weighs around 5 kg, and each child must carry their own. However, some children who fulfill the height requirement may not be able to meet the physical demands of carrying the equipment. We judge each case individually and reserve the right to refuse entry to the underground tour.
- The simulated mining experience on the surface is available to all ages.
- Big Pit is an outdoor industrial site, so protective clothing is needed in case of bad weather and sun protection is advised during hot weather.
- There are a number of industrial machines that are suitable for children to sit in or on when supervised by an adult but this and other machinery can be dangerous if climbed on.
- We wish to remind all adults that the primary responsibility for the welfare of the children in their care rests with them at all times.
- For visitors with mobility impairments, parking is available on each of the three main levels, but to view the mining galleries it is necessary to ascend/descend a fairly steep slope.
- Although there are ramps between levels on the surface it has been found that a helper is required for every wheelchair user. Please note that some of these ramps are quite long and steep and the climb can be arduous.
- As the safety of our visitors is our first priority it is only possible for a maximum of 4 wheelchair users to be underground at any one time. This is because it may be necessary to evacuate visitors from underground by a different route if the shaft is out of commission e.g. as a result of power failure. The emergency egress route is not capable of being navigated by wheelchairs and their occupants would need to be carried out.
- If the group consists of more than 4 wheelchair users it will be necessary to split the group into at least two parties. While one party takes the underground tour the others can visit the surface of the museum and vice-versa. In this way it should be possible for a group with 4-8 wheelchairs to visit the site in the normal 2½ hours or so but if the group has 8-12 wheelchairs it is more likely to take around 3½ hours.
- As non-approved electrical equipment cannot be taken underground we must ask all users of electric wheelchairs to transfer to a manual chair — either their own or one provided by us if they wish to go underground.
- It is also the case that some manual wheelchairs, with smaller wheels or without handles, are also unsuitable for use underground but again visitors may switch to one of our chairs if they wish.
- We recognize the difficulties that some visitors experience in switching to an unfamiliar wheelchair so we will only ask visitors to do so if absolutely necessary in the interest of safety.
- Where visitors have limited mobility, but are not regular wheelchair users, we may request them to use a wheelchair for the underground tour. Again, we will only ask visitors to do so if absolutely necessary in the interest of safety.
- Most of the surface buildings are accessible by wheelchair users accompanied by a helper. The winding engine house can be accessed by an alternative entrance at the side of the building.
- Wheelchair users are advised to exit Big Pit by the same route as they entered the Museum, i.e. via Reception. This door is closed at 3.30pm, after this time, please ring the doorbell for assistance.
- It is possible for visually impaired groups and individuals with helpers to experience a guided tour of Big Pit's genuine underground workings. One of the great joys of visiting an industrial site such as Big Pit is the experience of the noises and smells of the exhibits and demonstrations. Few objects are in glass cases.
- The Mining Galleries are a surface exhibition explaining the different techniques of modern mining from forming new tunnels through to coal face production. This is done by a walk through simulated mine workings guided by an audio visual presentation. Please be aware that loud noises, flashing lights, and differing light levels and colours are a major part of the presentation.
- Museum Assistants are happy to allow visitors the opportunity to touch and handle the exhibits to give a full explanation of their role.
- Handling sessions which include museum objects are available by arrangement with the Learning Officer.
- Most exhibitions are supported by text for each exhibit and written visual interpretation of the main exhibition theme is clearly displayed. Induction loops for hearing aids are installed in several locations around the site.
Battery-powered Medical Aids
- In normal circumstances, all battery-powered equipment such as watches, cameras etc must be left on the surface as 'contraband'. This requirement does not apply to certain battery-powered medical aids such as Hearing Aids and Blood-sugar Monitors. We would ask visitors to notify the Deputy of such equipment.
- Assistance dogs are allowed on site provided they are kept on a lead.
- Guide dogs for both visually and hearing impaired visitors are welcomed but cannot be taken underground.
- Drinking water is offered at the point of entry to all dog owners visiting the site and on request in the cafeteria and coffee shop.
- All dog owners are offered pooper-scoopers when entering the museum and we appreciate your co-operation in keeping the museum clean and safe.
- There are suitably equipped toilets on all three levels of the site. The disabled facilities in the Waiting Room and Pithead Baths are unisex. However, the disabled facilities in the toilets adjacent to the Winder are single-sex. PLEASE NOTE the underground tour lasts about an hour and there are no toilets underground.
- Both the gift shop and the two catering outlets are accessible to wheelchair users.
- Baby changing facilities are provided in the toilets in the Pit Head Baths and coffee shop building.