Forbes Library Disability Advisory Board
Wed September 26 2018
3:00 PM

In attendance: Ben Kalish, Rick Ely, Anne Gancarz, Lisa Downing, Stephanie Levine, Brian Tabor, Mary Jo Stanley, Dorothy Baker, Robert Baran, Joel Dansky


  1. Ben spoke at a City Disability Commision meeting in June. Topics included the library’s assistive listening systems and possible collaborations. They also discussed pedestrian crossings including one near the library that only has a visual signal and not an auditory signal.
  2. The library will no longer use scented air fresheners in the bathrooms. We have also increased the cleaning schedule for the bathrooms. We will be trying a new unscented soap product. Dorothy requested the library use soap that does not have triclosan which is in some antibacterial products.
  3. The library has been working to improve indoor air quality through improvement to the heating and cooling ductwork. Additionally all of the library’s air handling units have been professionally cleaned and serviced.
  4. Rick Ely is a planning a series of accessibility technology classes. The classes will be similar to those he taught a few years ago with updates to include new features. Rick will include NVDA which is an open source alternative to JAWS. The classes are going to be held on the third Friday of each month at 1 PM. A schedule will be shared once it is finalized. Individuals can follow them up with one-on-one or small group instructional sessions.
  5. NVDA is now installed on all the library’s public use computers. It will soon be added to the catalog computers and instructional laptops.
  6. Anyone can sign up for an appointment for technology help. The library is happy to help whenever it can and does not limit help to just computers and e-books, so folks can ask for help with assistive technology.
  7. Anne told us that the Chicopee Library has an open lab for folks to learn assistive technology on the first Tuesday of the month from 3-5 PM. The next one will be October 2 and is open to all.
  8. Mary Jo said that there is a group of people with hearing loss that could also use technology classes.
  9. The library’s Outreach Delivery Service serves homebound people and others who have difficulty getting to the library for short or long term reasons. We currently serve 100 people in Northampton, Florence and Leeds. The program recently acquired magnifying lenses and CD players for long term loan through the program.

Discussion, brainstorming, etc.

  1. Stephanie asked if the library was planning to acquire smart pens. A smart pen or e-pen may have features such as scanning and storing text, scanning and reading text, looking up scanned words in a dictionary, or an audio recorder.] Bob said that Holyoke Community College makes them available so that students can try them out, but they are expected to get their own if they like them. The library will look into doing something similar.
  2. Stephanie asked what the library is doing for people with cognitive and learning disabilities. Ben said that the library uses universal design as much as possible and that the library is very open to suggestions for ways to specifically serve those with cognitive disabilities.
  3. Rick discussed BookShare which is a web based service that includes 650,000 books that have been scanned and are available to use for free for students. Gutenberg Project has 54,000 titles and is free for all to use. Bob said that he found it easier for individual use and does not work well for institutional accounts.
  4. Voice Dream Reader is a great app for people with vision and learning disabilities. Rick mentioned a “pac man” feature to help readers who are distracted by blocks of text.
  5. Ben said that there have been patron requests for Adobe Acrobat to create accessible PDFs. Ben will consult with Alene to see if it is possible for us to offer this.
  6. Rick mentioned increased use of virtual assistants like Amazon Alexa for their accessibility features. Folks can create reminders and lists and lookup words without requiring computer skills. Ben wondered if it would be a good program to be offered in cooperation with Northampton Senior Services or Northampton Neighbors. Rick did say that such device can be difficult to set up and require an Internet connection.
  7. Chicopee is offering a Sensory Storytime on a regular basis. They also have a “Read to Rover” program. They have also had Braille Storytime where there is side by side sighted picture book and Braille books. Ben suggested that we might want to offer a children’s program based on our Braille children’s book collection. Rick mentioned special cards that include Braille along with tactile elements.
  8. Ben likes the idea of keeping the library’s second Friday slot as an accessibility themed program that could include movies.
    • Rick heard good things about a 2010 feature-length documentary called Going Blind. Chicopee bought a copy and it comes with screening rights and is available to borrow.
    • Rick liked a Walt Disney Television film called Love Leads the Way (1984) about seeing-eye guide dogs that might be nice to show along with a visit by people and their guide dogs.
    • Stephanie suggested using films in Kanopy which come with screening rights.
    • Rick said that there is a series of short films about seniors and vision loss from the Commission for the Blind.

Next meeting (Ben)

Ben will send out a list of possible dates in January.