ADA & Accessibility
The City of Northampton is committed to ensuring that every program, service, benefit, activity, and facility operated or funded by the City is fully accessible and usable by people with disabilities. The ADA/Section 504 Coordinator for the City is responsible for overseeing the implementation and local enforcement of the City's obligations under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as well Section 504 of Rehabilitation Act of 1973 regarding discrimination in housing. The Disability Commission is an important advisory board to the City regarding all aspects of accessibility and disability. They make recommendations to the City Council, Mayor, and the ADA/Section 504 Coordinator on policies and accessibility projects. The Disability Commission meets once a month on a Tuesday, typically on the second Tuesday. All residents are welcome to attend and participate.
Any citizen needing a reasonable accommodation or modification to be able to participate and fully access a City program, event, or building should make a request in writing or verbally to the ADA/Section 504 Coordinator as soon as they are made aware of the need. The ADA/Section 504 Coordinator will ensure that all requests are responded to in a timely fashion.
State Agencies Working for People with Disabilities
The Massachusetts Office on Disability (MOD) works to ensure that people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of life in Massachusetts. They have many great resources such as disability rights laws and regulations, architectural access information, vocational rehabilitation programs, and training available on their website. Their annual Disability Summit is usually held in October. This event is free and all advocates, leaders, and members of the community with a disability are encouraged to attend. MOD also offers grants to city's and towns to make their municipalities more accessible to people with disabilities. In 2017, the City received a $10,000 planning grant to conduct interviews and accessibility surveys of City buildings, policies, and programs as part of the it's ADA Self-Evaluation and Transition Plan.
Massachusetts's initiative to Maximize Assistive Technology (AT) in Consumer's Hands (MassMATCH) "mission is to promote the use of assistive technology and assistive technology services to enhance the independence of people with disabilities, enabling equal participation in all of life's activities."
The following programs are assisted by MassMATCH:
- MassMATCH runs regional Assistive Technology (AT) Regional Centers in Pittsfield and Worcester where people with disabilities can learn about, try out or borrow AT devices free of charge for up to 4 weeks at a time.
- The Massachusetts Alternative Finance Program improves the independence and quality of life of residents with disabilities through loan opportunities for acquiring assistive technology devices and services. Individuals with disabilities and family members are encouraged to apply.
- REquipment is a durable medical equipment (DME) re-use program offering free refurbished wheelchairs, scooters, shower chairs and more to adults, children and elders living in Massachusetts.
- Get AT Stuff allows visitors to shop for used equipment or advertise what they are no longer using.
- And many more programs!
The Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) helps individuals with disabilities to live and work independently. The MRC is responsible for Vocational Rehabilitation, Community Living, and Disability Determination for federal benefit programs. The MRC promotes equality, empowerment and independence of individuals with disabilities. These goals are achieved through enhancing and encouraging personal choice and the right to succeed or fail in the pursuit of independence and employment in the community.
Other Organizations Working for People with Disabilities
The New England ADA Center is one of 10 regional ADA Centers comprising the ADA National Network. Since 1991, the ADA National Network has provided information, guidance and training on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), tailored to meet the needs of business, government and individuals at local, regional and national levels. They are not enforcement or regulatory agency, but a helpful resource supporting the ADA’s mission to “make it possible for everyone with a disability to live a life of freedom and equality.” Call them free to get your ADA questions answered 1-800-949-4232.
Stavros is a Western Mass. based organization with a mission to help persons with disabilities and Deaf people develop the tools and skills they need to take charge of their own lives. They accomplish this through programs and services designed to meet the needs of persons of any age or disability as they work to achieve the life goals that are important to them. They also work as advocates throughout the Pioneer Valley, across the state, and nationally to bring an end to discrimination--whether it's rooted in a set of stairs, prejudice about employment, limited access to health care, or anywhere else. Stavros has also been a partner with the City of Northampton, participating in the CDBG planning process and ADA accessibility.
The Perkins Library circulates by mail more than a half million accessible books, newspapers and publications in braille, large print and digital audio formats annually to thousands of registered patrons in Massachusetts. You can access the registration information here or check on your eligibility. For more information, you can also contact them at 617-972-7240. Institutions including schools, libraries, nursing homes, hospitals and organizations that provide services to people with visual or physical disabilities are also eligible to receive Library services.
The Pioneer Valley Transit Authority (PVTA) is the largest regional transit authority in Massachusetts. They offer regular bus schedules in Western Massachusetts and accessible Paratransit Services upon request.
The Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) is an office at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Their mission eliminate housing discrimination, promote economic opportunity, and achieve diverse, inclusive communities by leading the nation in the enforcement, administration, development, and public understanding of federal fair housing policies and laws. They have resources available on Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the ADA, and the Fair Housing Act. Their page on non-discrimination in housing and community development programs is a very helpful overview.
Accessibility at Private Businesses and Residences
All buildings and facilities in Massachusetts that are open to the public including but not limited to, retail, hotels and motels, multiple dwellings, educational facilities, medical facilities, detention facilities, places of worship, restaurants, and transportation facilities must comply the Architectural Access Board requirements for accessibility under 521 Code of Massachusetts Regulations (CMR). Many existing buildings in Northampton pre-date the adoption of 521 CMR in 1975 and are therefore exempt from the requirements to be accessible - unless triggered by certain conditions at the issuance of a building permit. See 521 CMR 3.3 Jurisdiction on Existing Buildings for further guidelines on why a building may not be currently accessible.