Useful Questions About the Building Asked by an Autistic School Group
Details of Parking and Entry
What security has to be completed, what will we have to walk through, will there be any waiting time involved?
When coming to Parliament Buildings you can enter or exit the Stormont Estate by the Prince of Wales, Massey Avenue or Stoney Road entrances. When entering the Stormont Estate by vehicle the driver will be asked by the security guards at the barrier to show identification and you should bring your driving licence with you. You will be asked which building you are going to and may be asked to open the boot of your car.
In general visitors to Parliament Buildings park their car in the Lower East Visitors Car Park and walk through the glass Search Facility where their belongings such as bags, keys and coins are placed in a plastic container which goes through an x-ray machine. The visitor walks under a magnetometer which will beep if any metal objects are detected. If this happens a security officer will ask you to show if you have any metal item on you. Our security staff have general autism awareness training. Once you have cleared security you will be given a small card which will give you access to Parliament Buildings through the main door at the front of the building.
As you come through the front door there is a large reception desk on the left hand side and you will need to go here first to get a security pass. You will be asked for some details such as your name and who you are coming to see and if you are an adult a camera on the wall will quickly take your pass photograph. The pass must be displayed at all times and you wear it around your neck.
At both the search facility and reception there might be some waiting time involved. On most occasions throughout the day there will be very little waiting time. However if a large group of people are going through the search or reception ahead of you it could take longer.
If you would find any of the above procedures stressful please contact an autism champion in advance and they will make alternative arrangements for you. Obviously security procedures cannot be bypassed in any circumstances however an autism champion can arrange car parking nearer to the building, use of a less busy entrance and they can also show you to a quiet room if necessary.
Individuals with autism can find waiting hard to understand. Where needed is there a separate entrance that can be used to avoid queuing?
As well as the front entrance there are also side entrances at Parliament Buildings, called the ‘East Door’ and ‘West Door’. These entrances are less busy and security procedures can also be carried out at these locations. If you contact an autism champion in advance of your visit they will help arrange access for you.
Is there parking near an entrance that can be reserved?
There is restricted parking beside the east and west side entrances to Parliament Buildings. This is called the ‘Upper Car Park’. If you contact an autism champion they will do their best to arrange Upper Car Park access for you.
Are there revolving doors?
There are revolving doors at the Front and Side Entrances to Parliament Buildings.
If you feel uncomfortable going through these there are normal doors beside the revolving doors which can be opened for you. These can be also used for anyone who requires assistance, for example a person with a wheelchair. These doors can also be accessed via a ramp.
Are there narrow or unusual doors or entrances?
There are no narrow or unusual doors or entrances.
Are there narrow corridors?
The corridors in Parliament Buildings are not narrow.
Are there narrow or winding staircases?
There is a winding staircase from the Great Hall on the Ground Floor to the Basement and there is a narrow staircase in our library but you will not need to use these during your visit. There are many other wider staircases that can be used instead.
How many floors are there?
There are 6 floors in Parliament Buildings (Basement, Ground, First, Second, Third and Fourth). You will access Parliament Buildings on the Ground Floor.
Are there Lifts and Escalator, do they have to be used at any point?
There are lifts in Parliament Buildings at the North, South, East and West sides of the building. If you are uncomfortable about using lifts you can access any of the floors in the building using the stairs.
Where is the shop – so escorting staff know what to expect?
There is a gift shop in the corridor to your right hand side when you enter the main/front door of Parliament Buildings on the ground floor.
Is there entrance or exit through a shop?
Are there “Hands On” galleries or displays?
Unless there is a specific event with ‘hands on’ exhibits any of galleries or displays in Parliament Buildings should not be touched by visitors.
Are there features that individuals can climb on?
Are there balconies or galleries?
There is a balcony at the front of the building but this will not be accessed by visitors. There is a public viewing gallery in the Assembly Chamber and Senate Chamber. If you wanted to watch the Assembly Plenary Sitting or a Committee Meeting held in the Senate Chamber you could access the public gallery.
How busy will the venue be and when, are there quiet times?
The Assembly is busy throughout the working week, especially on Mondays and Tuesdays when the Assembly is sitting. Fridays are the least busy and recess periods are generally quieter. These dates are available on the Assembly website and recess takes place during the Summer, Halloween, Christmas and Easter.
Can the party bring their own snacks and drinks – cafeterias and restaurants can be hard for some individuals?
Yes this is fine. Snacks and drinks can also be bought in the Assembly shop, café and canteen.
Is there a place where snacks and drinks can be eaten?
Visitors eat in the visitors’ restaurant, canteen, café or gift shop but these areas can be busy or noisy at certain times. If you contact an Autism Champion in advance they will help organise a quieter eating location for you.
For many a quiet low arousal room where the party can assemble on arrival, settle down and sort out toileting and snacks would be a real benefit. This can be the start and end point?
There is a quiet room available behind our main reception at the front door of Parliament Buildings. There is also a first aid room on the second floor with a clean bed if anyone takes ill.
Is there an outside space where supporting staff can take individuals to calm down and where they can back off without members of the public getting involved? (Often this is intended as helpful but is equally often just the opposite in its effect). Or is the facility hard on roads and busy public spaces?
There is plenty of open space around the building or you can go for a quiet walk in the Stormont Estate grounds to calm down.