Attending a committee or meeting - guidance for visitors with autism
There are many places where you can have a meeting in Parliament. If the meeting is taking place in the Palace of Westminster, the Visitor Assistants in Westminster Hall will direct you to Central Lobby. From there the Attendants can help you find the correct Committee room.
This picture is an example of a Committee Room. The wallpaper is heavily patterned.
The carpet is heavily patterned too.
Attending a Select Committee evidence session
Committee meetings open to the public are held either in the Palace of Westminster or in Portcullis House. Staff at the entry points will direct you to the corridor or waiting area outside the room where the meeting is taking place.
If you arrive before the meeting is open to the public, you will be asked to wait outside the room until a member of staff tells you that you can go in. This is because committees usually have a private meeting before the public meeting starts, and the meeting may start at a slightly different time to the advertised time.
It is possible that a queuing system may be in operation for the meeting if a lot of people want to go into the same public evidence session.
If you arrive when the public meeting has already started, you can go straight in.
You will see rows of chairs straight ahead of you as you go through the door. You can sit in any of these chairs. You can’t sit in any of the chairs that are next to the tables in the room. If you aren’t sure where to sit, security staff or doorkeepers in the room should be able to help you.
The other staff in the room won’t be able to talk to you or answer questions while the meeting is underway as the staff will be concentrating on the evidence being heard. When a meeting is finished, you are very welcome to speak to staff in the room with any questions.
You should be quiet while watching the meeting. People watching must not try to join in with the discussions or ask questions.
You can leave the room at any point in the meeting. If you leave before the meeting has ended, you should try to leave quietly.
All public evidence sessions are recorded and can be viewed online subsequently by visiting parliamentlive.tv.
This room is where you can listen to stops 5, 14 and 19 on the audio tour, and forms part of the guided tour (see story 4 Going on a tour)
This is sometimes busy and crowded.
There is a reception desk with people who can help with directions and information. All Visitor Assistants and Attendants wear navy blue and gold uniforms. The staff in Central Lobby are aware of most meetings that are occurring. There is also a board with information about where meetings are taking place.
There are also more toilets nearby in Lower Waiting Hall, which is just off Central Lobby. You can look out for signs to these, or ask at reception for directions. Many of the main toilet areas have ‘air blade’ hand driers in them.
There is also an accessible toilet that you can use, which has a choice of dryers and hand towel dispensers.
There may be a lot of noise during your meeting including from the heating vents. You may also hear bells ringing repeatedly: these are alerts for the Members of Parliament and Peers about votes happening in the Chambers. This is called the Division Bell and below is a sound clip of what it sounds like:
You should be aware that there are microphones on some tables that produce static noise if mobile phones and tablets are too close to them.
There are many TV screens that are showing changing information about what is happening in the Chambers at all times, they are called annunciators.
Water fountains are located near the toilets. There are aerosol air fresheners in the toilets located on the corridor and they also have fluorescent lighting.
If you use the lift to go to the Committee Corridor, they have fluorescent lighting. A pass-holder will be required to access the lift. For assistance, you could ask at reception or a security officer who can make sure you get the assistance you require.
If you need a quiet space during your visit, you should speak to a Visitor Assistant or reception staff, or request this before a visit. We will always endeavour to provide break out areas or quiet rooms if requested.
Some meetings may take place in Portcullis House. This is a separate building on the other side of Bridge Street. The entrance is next to the river.
Portcullis House has a security check zone which works the same way as the one for the main visitor entrance, Cromwell Green entrance, explained in Story 2 Going through security.
The same rules apply here and you can let the Security Officers know if you need the process explained again or if you would like to be searched in a more private space.
Inside Portcullis House there is a very large Atrium which can be a busy and noisy space. It has tables and chairs for meetings. It is decorated with trees, water features, a glass roof and a café area for staff. The meeting rooms are on the first floor, accessible by lift and stairs. There are accessible toilets on the first floor, with air blade and towel dryers. There are also baby change facilities.