Forbes Library Disability Advisory Board

23 January 2020

10:00 AM

Present: Dorothy Baker, Joel Dansky, Benjamin Kalish (Forbes Library, librarian), Molly Moss (Forbes Library, assistant director), Mary Jo Stanley.

  1. Staff Accessibility Committee update.
    Ben spoke about the staff accessibility committee, which last met on October 24th 2019 and will meet again on February 13th 2020. Seven members of the library staff were present. Discussion topics included preparing for the ADA anniversary celebration, looking for a library liaison to the city’s disability commission, making programs more accessible, food sensitivities and allergies, dementia and mental health, and how to improve our outreach to schools from an accessibility perspective. 
  2. Report on staff trip to UMass Assistive Technology Center to meet with Joshua Pearson.
    Ben and Molly described their visit, together with three other Forbes librarians, to the UMass Assistive Technology Lab to meet with Joshua Pearson. Discussion include cultural challenges to the adoption and acceptance of assistive technology, various assistive technologies, and possible library programs. Joshua, a Northampton resident, expressed interest in helping with assistive technology classes at Forbes. 
  3. “Service to Patrons with Disabilities” document for staff handbook.
    Lisa Downing, the library director, has proposed a new document about disability to be included in the staff handbook. This would be among the first things library staff would see in their training at Forbes. Ben asked the committee think about what they would most like staff to know about disability. Contributions can be emailed to Ben at bkalish@forbeslibrary.org 
  4. ADA 30th Anniversary – July 26 2020.
    The library will put up a display for the ADA Anniversary. Other ideas discussed include: a screening of the film Lives Worth Living, a film series about the portrayal of disability in cinema, a panel discussion, and an experiential event similar to the disability simulations sometimes used as sensitivity training for staff. This could include the use of wheelchairs, blindfolds, simulation glasses, and canes. We spoke at length about whether or not it was possible to simulate various disabilities, in particular chemical sensitivities and dementia. 
  5. Supporting neurodiversity
    Although the library has made some efforts to support neurodiversity including video tours of the library, children’s department, and Coolidge museum and sensory storytimes and toys, there is currently no information on this topic on our accessibility page. Recently Ben and Julie attended a webinar on Neurodiversity in museums, and they have begun working on a document “Preparing for a Trip to the Library – Things to Know”. Suggested additions to this list can be sent to bkalish@fobreslibrary.org. Other projects that could help include “social stories” (some of which could be adapted from our video tours) and simplifying the process of finding things in the library. 
  6. Other topics
    1. Meeting time. In the future we will be sure to schedule meetings no earlier than 15 minutes after the library opens. 
    2. Bathroom ventilation. Improving ventilation in the restrooms is a priority project for facilities, but must be coordinated with the city. The timeline is unknown. In the meantime facilities will investigate the possibility of using air purifiers to improve air quality in the restrooms.The old air freshener holders in the fragrance free restrooms do not contain air fresheners. The holders cannot be removed at this time, but the library plans to add signs to reassure patrons that no air fresheners are in use. Suggestions for language to be used are welcome. 
    3. The Western Mass Bay State Council of the Blind now meets in the library’s community room on the first Saturday every other month at 10:00 am to noon. The next meeting is on Saturday, March 7, 2020. 
    4. Aldrich fund. Accessibility programming, accommodations, and in some cases collections, are paid out of the Michelle Aldrich Accessibility Fund.