Forbes Library Disability Advisory Board

Friday May 25 2018, 3:30 PM


Ben Kalish, Barbara Black, Brian Tabor, Lisa Downing, Rick Ely, Joel Dansky, MaryJo Stanley, Dorothy Baker, Marie Westburg (ADA coordinator and Senior Center Director for Northampton)


Aldrich Accessibility Fund

Lisa told the board that the Aldrich Accessibility Fund was established with a $25,000 donation to the library in memory of Michelle Aldrich. It provides funding to fulfill accommodation requests and offer programs, services and collections.

New magnifiers

Ben told the board that the library has two new high quality table-top magnifiers in the new book room. The library already had a large CCTV desktop magnifier in the Reference room and many handheld magnifiers.

Outreach Delivery Service

Lisa told the board that the library’s Outreach Delivery Service (ODS), the program that delivers materials to residents of Northampton, Florence and Leeds who have difficulty visiting to the library due to a short or or long term disability, is growing. The program is an established Forbes service that underwent a change last year—it is now run by a coordinator who matches volunteers with patrons. The volunteers select, deliver and return library items.

Marie suggested that the Senior Center promote ODS to new members. She is willing to feature ODS and accessible formats in the Conz Street Chronicle.

Descriptive video

Rick reminded the group that Descriptive Video can be found in the library’s collection, in theatres, and on streaming services. Rick could lead a workshop on descriptive video at the library

Accessibility improvements to the grounds

Lisa told the board that the library is planning to add curb cuts to the sidewalk by the back parking lot and west lawn and will look at improving sidewalk continuity around the building. Lisa asked the board for other ideas about improving the library grounds. Members of the board proposed responded with the following concerns:

  • The sidewalk leading to the handicapped parking spots gets very icy in the winter.
  • Small cracks are beginning to form in the pavement by the front door.
  • Wifi could be a problem for people with electromagnetic hypersensitivity.
  • The entrance to the library is a fair distance from the parking lot.

Mobile hotspots

Some libraries loan mobile hotspots. The board briefly discussed the possibility of the library loaning mobile hotspots to patrons.

Screen readers: considering switching the library from JAWS to NVDA

Ben told the board that the library purchased JAWS Screen Reader software five years ago with a grant and we will need to get a new license soon if we want to continue providing it. Rick had previously proposed NonVisual Desktop Access (NVDA) as an alternative. NVDA is open source software with a large and growing user community. Rick has been working with it exclusively for about 18 months. It has many comparable features to JAWS.

Ben asked the board to consider whether the library keep JAWS after installing NVDA. The library could still have JAWS on some computers and save money by switching from a network licence to a limited number of single user licenses. Barbara suggested the library could make do with only one computer running JAWS or even none at all.

Barbara stressed the importance of training for new users.

West Street crossing — how to make it safer?

The crossing signal is on a timer that does not have a button or an auditory signal. It is also not very close to the library. Brian suggested that we contact Smith College since it impacts their students as well. Ben has heard from a visually impaired patron who reported feeling unsafe at this crossing. 



The board discussed how to raise awareness of existing services. Suggestions included:

  1. the Conz Street Chronicle
  2. Northampton Neighbors (a nonprofit pairing volunteers with seniors in their neighborhoods)
  3. the Senior Center email list
  4. flyers at the Senior Center
  5. public service announcements on local radio
  6. utilizing NCTV interns to make TV spots (about ODS and other accessibility related services)
  7. other organizations can help us spread the word
  8. social media

Program ideas

The board discussed the following program ideas:

  • Barbara said the library could do more instruction with regards to the National Library Services Talking Book Players
  • Screen Going Blind, a documentary film that increases public awareness of sight loss and low vision
  • The American Federation for the Blind has a series of short videos about vision loss
  • The Worcester Talking Book Library has many programs some of which might be good to offer at Forbes Library

Chemical Sensitivity 

The board discussed chemical sensitivity and what accommodations might be possible to help chemically sensitive patrons:

  • The soap in Children’s Room bathroom has a strong scent
  • MaryJo likes the foam unscented soap at the River Valley Coop
  • Air fresheners in the bathroom can be a problem
  • The Goodwin Library in Hadley uses “Simple Skincare” brand products which are designed for sensitive skin and may be better for people with chemical sensitivities
  • The library should consider making a public request that people not wear scents in the library
  • Dorothy can provide fliers with more information about chemical sensitivities—Ben suggested she speak with Alene Moroni, the head of the Reference Department, if she wanted them to be available in the library

Next Meeting

The board agreed to to meet quarterly with the next meeting in late September. Ben will send out a poll with potential dates.