ADA & Accessibility
ADA & Accessibility Overview
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.
Report Unshoveled Sidewalks
To report unshoveled sidewalks, please complete the form linked here. Please get as much information on the location as possible. Pictures of the issue are appreciated and the form allows you to upload them. All of the City's Snow & Ice information, including procedures can be found here: http://northamptonma.gov/306/Snow-Ice
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.
Obtaining Your Disabled Parking Placard/Plate
Massachusetts allows residents with qualifying medical conditions to apply for and receive a free Disability Parking Placard / Plate that will allow the holder to park in an accessible parking space. Permanent placards are issued for up to five years. For a list of qualifying medical conditions and a thorough explanation of the application process: https://www.mass.gov/how-to/apply-for-a-disability-placard-or-license-plate. A copy of the Application for Disabled Parking Placard / Plate can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/application-for-disabled-parking/download
Note: Massachusetts uses the term 'disabled parking' and 'disabled parking placard/plate', while the City of Northampton and many advocates for people with disabilities prefer the term 'accessible parking'.
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.
City Accessibility Grants
On January 12, 2021 Mayor David J. Narkewicz announced that the City of Northampton received two grants to improve accessibility in the city, $95,710 from the Massachusetts Office of Disabilities and $15,000 from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Massachusetts Association of Health Boards.
“We are committed to improving accessibility to all populations in Northampton,” said Mayor Narkewicz. “The COVID-19 pandemic has brought into tragic focus the unequal health outcomes of our residents with disabilities, our aging residents, and our traditionally underserved residents. We know these folks are all at greater risk of COVID-19, heart disease, strokes, diabetes, and other health challenges, so now more than ever we need to address their needs.”
The $95,710 grant will fund assisted listening systems at the City Hall Hearing Room, City Council Chambers, and the Great Room at the Senior Center. Assisted listening systems will provide enhanced sound for all, and accommodations for those with hearing loss and impairments. A $2,000 match from the city’s disability revolving fund, funded by fines from parking in handicap-accessible parking spaces without proper tags, helped leverage this grant.
The $15,000 grant will fund a study of how to improve accessibility to the city’s Connecticut River Greenway, especially to the new beach there that formed just a few years ago. The city saw a dramatic increase in public use of river swimming areas, including at the Connecticut River Greenway. This project will help the city manage the use to serve all populations. The project is in conjunction with a larger Community Preservation Act funded project to examine five river swimming areas, four on the Mill River and one on the Connecticut River.
Both projects were recommended during the City’s Americans with Disabilities Transition planning and were recommended by the City’s Disability Commission.
City Accessibility Improvement Projects
In the summer of 2020, the City had begun work creating much needed wheelchair curb cuts and installing tactile warnings that were identified in the 2018 study from Alta Planning + Design. The 2020 curb cuts were installed at the the Northampton Bikeway at the Keyes & Chestnut Street crossings in Florence, the intersection of South Main Street and Pine Street in Florence, the crossing at Northampton High School and Woodlawn Avenue, and at two sections of Center Street.
In October 2020, Mayor David J. Narkewicz accepted the update to the City's ADA & Self-Evaluation Plan and Section 504 Plan. This plan looked at the polices and infrastructure regarding disability access in the City, making 10 priority recommendations. A glossary of ADA terms may be helpful for people to familiarize themselves with accessibility and the ADA.
The City has also committed to accessible recreation areas and transportation going beyond ADA standards:
- Recreation facilities (see Parks and Recreation Department)
- Shared use paths (over 11 miles of trails that are accessible) - full map is forthcoming
- Universal accessible trails in conservation areas (Connecticut River Greenway access to the river, Broad Broad-Fitzgerald Lake Greenway access to the lake, Barrett Street Marsh access to a boardwalk in the marsh, Mill River Greenway-Leeds with an extension of the bike path into the conservation area, and Burts Bog Greenway with a paved trail into a previously inaccessible greenway).
Tax Incentives for Employers and Businesses to Create Accessibility
There are tax credits and deductions available to businesses that employ persons with disabilities or to make accessibility improvements to their buildings. Americans with disabilities are contributing members of the workforce and valuable customers to any business. These tax credits and deductions offer additional incentives for meeting ADA obligations.
The Work Opportunity Credit is a tax credit through the IRS of up to 40% of the first $6,000 of first year wages of a new employee who is part of a targeted group, such as being a person with a disability.
The Disabled Access Credit is a non-refundable credit for small businesses that incur expenditures for the purpose of providing access to persons with disabilities.
The Barrier Removal Tax Deduction is a deduction of up to $15,000 per year for the removal of architectural and transportation barriers for individuals with disabilities and elders with mobility limitations.