Forbes Library Disability Advisory Board
19 March 2021
2:00 PM – 3:20 PM

This meeting was held over Zoom


  • Benjamin Kalish, Reference Library
  • Molly Moss, Assistant Director
  • Brian Tabor, Circulation Supervisor
  • Barbara Black
  • Dorothy Baker
  • Anne Gancarz
  • Deidre Muccio
  • MaryJo Stanley

Delivery and other options during the pandemic

Brian Tabor told the board about ways folks can access library materials during the pandemic. These include:

  • Homebound Delivery Service, a long standing service delivering to folks who are homebound
  • Curbside Service, including both drive-up and walk-up options
  • Safe self-service in the library
  • Pandemic Delivery Service, a new home delivery service, open to everyone in Northampton; just request when you need a delivery or pickup

Online programs

The board discussed the benefits and drawbacks of online programs. Issues discussed included:

  • missing spending time with others
  • the convenience and increased accessibility for some, especially those with mobility issues or chemical sensitivity, of online programs and a desire for them to continue post-pandemic, especially in the winter when transportation is more difficult
  • the inaccessibility of online programs to folks on the wrong side of the digital divide
  • the possibility of hybrid programs
  • the potentially greater reach of online or televised programs
  • which programs lend themselves well to online formats (film and book discussions were mentioned)
  • how hard online programs are for folks with a hearing impairment if they aren’t captioned (captioning is becoming more common, thankfully)

Molly Moss announced that the library is looking at how to improve our online programs and how to do more hybrid programs in the future and that the library has applied for a grant to get a special camera to make it easier to do hybrid programs in the Coolidge museum.

Curbcuts, Sidewalks, Transportation

Benjamin Kalish briefly described known issues near the library and what has been planned to address them. The board then discussed other infrastructure issues near the library, including:

  • The bike path as a preferable approach to the library for some: the route from downtown to the library via the bike path, Veterans Field, and West Street is quieter and has less street crossings than the approach via Main St. This is better for some and could be promoted as such.
  • The lack of a sidewalk on the east side of the library, where the accessible parking is. Folks frequently walk in the parking lot here, and a sidewalk would be welcome.

Outdoor Furniture

The library will be purchasing outdoor tables and chairs this summer and requested feedback from the board. Ideas discussed included:

  • Convertible benches, which can be changed from a backless bench with a table to a bench with a back.
  • How important it is that the function of the furniture be clear to the user, including users with limited vision. For example, it’s great that you can approach a bench without a back from either side, but being surprised when you lean back can be alarming. Some furniture designed for left-handed users can be similarly confusing if not designed well.
  • The advantages of arms on benches—arms can help folks raise and lower themselves and can help delineate the ends of the bench.
  • The importance of stability and strength in furniture. Molly told the board that the outdoor furniture must be light enough so that patrons can move it but not so easily moved that they will be stolen.
  • Table designs with benches only part round, leaving room for folks with walkers or wheelchairs.

Safer Technology

Dorothy Baker told the board about a local group, Northampton for Safe Technology, that is focused on safety with respect to Electromagnetic Fields emitted by electronic devices, and her own concerns about their effects on people with electromagnetic hypersensitivity. Issues discussed include:

  • Concerns about the effect of the library’s recently strengthened Wi-Fi network.
  • The possibility and potential difficulties of using signage to label EMF hotspots on library property.
  • EMF on library grounds and their sources, including sources on neighboring properties.
  • Whether or not it would be possible to shield parts of the library such as the entrance from EMF.

The conversation was very speculative as no measurement of EMF at the library has been made. Dorothy Baker will look into the possibility of measuring EMF levels outside the library and will be in touch with Ben about measurements inside the library once regular library use in the building has resumed.

Other Topics

Outdoor programming is very challenging for folks who can’t hear very well. The library has a portable transmitter and receivers for use as an assistive listening system and a wearable loudspeaker, both of which the library has used for outdoor programming.


The availability of assistive listening systems in the library is not well known: how folks are supposed to find out they are available? The library includes an accessibility statement encouraging folks to contact the library about accommodations; it mentions the assistive listening system for programs with speakers or music. The events page on our website includes a similar statement. A wide variety of folks present at the library—many of whom are not library staff—and it can be difficult to make sure that they all are aware of the assistive listening systems and the importance of accessibility. The library will continue to work on this, especially when in-person programs resume.


Assistive listening systems elsewhere in the city: the city will be getting new loop systems in the City Hall Hearing Room, City Council Chambers, and the Great Room at the Senior Center. Because these systems are based on a different technology from the libraries FM transmitters, the equipment will be largely incompatible. Benjamin Kalish will contact Keith Benoit, the city’s Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator to determine what cooperation might be possible.