700 Boylston Street
Boston MA 02116
Thursday, Kevin, Kellie and I traveled to the Boston Public Library to do a wheelchair accessibility review. We were very pleased to see that the Boston Public Library is fully wheelchair accessible and especially pleased to see that this library offers many Access Services, which allows persons with disabilities to use all of the library resources. I highly recommend all persons with physical, visual or hearing disabilities to check out this library for the Access Services will open up the whole world to you.
There are six handicap parking spaces, located right in front of the library, but all six handicap parking spaces were taken. We parked at a parking meter on Newbury Street, one block from the library. It is FREE for vehicles with a handicap placard to park at meters in Boston.
Upon our arrival, a very nice employee of the library immediately came to assist me and open the front side entry door. There are revolving doors that wouldn’t fit my wheelchair and a front side entry door that is not automatic. I was really surprised that the front entry door is not automatic because most of the smaller Town and City libraries I’ve been to all have automatic entry doors.
We did notice that there is a door bell, located by the front side entry door at a wheelchair accessible height. My friend Kevin asked the employee of the library about the door bell. We were told that it is for individuals who need assistance. He also told us also that there will always be someone to assist persons with disabilities. We suggest that they place a wheelchair accessible symbol above this door bell so that persons with disabilities will know it is for those who need assistance with opening the door.
The Boston Public Library is huge and very spacious. It is a FREE public library for all Massachusetts residents, Massachusetts property owners, Massachusetts employees, students attending school in Massachusetts and residents of temporary housing.
It is paired into two historical buildings, McKim and Johnson building, established in the late 1800′s. The Johnson building is the headquarters for the Boston Public Library’s 26 branch libraries while the McKim building holds the Boston Public Library’s vast research collection. Even though this library is an old historical building, they have made many changes to make every area accessible to persons with physical disabilities; such wheelchair lifts, wheelchair accessible ramps and spacious elevators.
My friends and I entered the building through the Johnson lobby entrance on the 1st floor. Once we went through the metal detectors, we saw two book checkout counters; a book return counter to the left; and a Information Service Counter, set further back at the center of the building; all of which are too high for persons in a wheelchair. However, the very courteous and friendly library employees, at every service counter were more than willing to assist me.
We first approached the Information Service Counter. The very nice man at the Information Service Counter informed us of the Access Services, available for the disabled which are located on the lower level.
There are two wheelchair accessible computers located on the left hand side. There’s a children’s section, a new fiction, non-fiction and travel section. The aisles are all wide enough for my wheelchair to fit with ease. There are tables located at the rear which are all accessible and of a perfect wheelchair accessible height.
Two spacious elevators are located in the rear behind the stairs. Signs are posted near and on the elevator that clearly show the locations of all the areas in the library. We got on the elevator and went to the lower level to the Access Service Center.
I was especially interested in visiting the Access Service Center. My friend, Carl Richardson, State House ADA Coordinator recently told me that this library has recently installed a power door in the Special Collections room so that those in wheelchairs and those with mobility issues can enter the room unassisted. He also told me that he is helping with the installation of brand new assistive listening devices for the hard of hearing and working with the library to do Braille production for the blind, and many other great new things.
We arrived at the Access Service Center and were warmly greeted by Lloyd Harris, a very helpful and nice library employee. Lloyd kindly provided us with in-depth information regarding the special computers and the all the adaptive hardware/software programs for persons with disabilities. It includes Internet access; JAWS (Jobs Awareness Working Software); the Zoom Text (magnifies up 16 times); and a Braille printer; all of which are easily accessed with very nice library staff available to assist you. If you’re visually impaired the computers read the text and speak everything to you. There are also many books available in Braille.
I really enjoyed trying out some of these access programs. Kevin and I placed our ‘The Traveling Wheelchair’ card in the Zoom Text device and it enlarged it a great deal and made it easier for me to see. I also enjoyed listening to the words printed in books spoken for me to hear for I am visually impaired and often find it difficult to read small print.
All the service counters, desks and tables on this floor are all wheelchair accessible. Different desks are of diffierent heights in order to accomodate wheelchairs of all sizes. The large print book collection is located on the first floor in the General Library. For more detailed information on all available Access Services, click on http://www.bpl.org/central/access.htm .
I was really impressed with all the Access Services and how knowledgeable and helpful Lloyd was to my friends and me. You really don’t find people like Lloyd too often and I really appreciate the time he spent explaining everything to my friends and me. Thank-You Lloyd!!
We then went to check out the restrooms. There is a handicap accessible Men’s and Women’s restrooms located next to the elevators at this floor. These restrooms are both fully ADA compliant. Kellie checked out the Women’s restroom, while Kevin and I checked out the Men’s. Both have a large handicap accessible stall; the ADA required safety grab bars are located at a perfect height; two accessible sinks of a perfect height; protective covering around the pipes underneath the sink; an automatic, touch less faucet; an automatic soap dispenser and an automatic hand dryer. The only problem I found is that the soap dispenser is too high for me to reach from my wheelchair.
We then went up to the 2nd floor to the General Reference and Adult Services Desk. The librarian was very kind and helpful and gave us a map of the library buildings; which really helped us get around for it is a huge library to explore. This floor has more computers with wheelchair accessible tables, reading tables and more books with wide aisles. There is a staircase in this room that leads to the Mezzanine level. If you are visually impaired, be careful because this staircase is very open. But all the staff are really helpful and will assist you and take you where you want to go if you need help.
From this floor we crossed over to the 2nd floor of the McKim Building. This floor has a book delivery desk which is too high for persons in a wheelchair and a computer room. At the end of the computer room I came upon stairs that lead to a raised area of this floor. Next to the stairs there is a wheelchair lift so I was able to access the other areas on this floor There is also a spacious elevator in this building that we utilized to go to 3rd floor.
The 3rd floor has a small interesting Rare Books Collection and a Special Collections room, which is accessible but tight for my wheelchair because the rooms are so small. There is also Fine Arts and Music room, the Wiggin Gallery and Sergeant Gallery. These rooms are very accessible with enough space to maneuver my large Power Chair.
We then took the elevator to the 1st floor of this McKim Building. Exiting the elevator, we came across a Newspaper room and the Micro Text room. The automatic door is straight ahead which leads to the courtyard. This door has a push button to open the automatic door and a ramp outside to bring me to ground level. I was in my Power Chair today and had no problem with pushing this button to open the automatic door for the button is in an open area and easy for all to reach.
The wheelchair accessible ramp leading to the courtyards is very wide; with railings on both sides for added safety; and it is of a nice and gradual slope. I independently was able to enter the courtyard, with no problems or obstacles.
The courtyard is a really nice spot to have lunch or a cup of coffee in the spring, summer or early fall. There is a beautiful statue in the middle of the courtyard, which is a nice and peaceful place to read. There are several small Bistro tables here that are wheelchair accessible.
Leaving the courtyard, we used another accessible ramp and automatic door to enter the other part of the same building which is located across from the other ramp. I had a slight problem pushing the button to open this automatic door for the railing is blocking my wheelchair and I couldn’t reach the button. This issue may not apply to everyone for it depends on your arm length and reaching range. Others may be able to reach further than me and reach the button easier.
Once inside again, we saw there are two restaurants; Novel and Sebastian’s Cafe operated by Sebastian’s Cafe and Catering. Though I did not get to fully explore these two restaurants; the Novel Café has accessible tables of a good wheelchair accessible height with plenty of space to maneuver your chair between tables; Sebastian’s Cafe has accessible tables too but most of the tables are too close together to get my chair by and I could only access a few selected tables.
We then traveled down the hall to the Popular Reading Exhibits. Ahead is an entrance/exit for this building, which is on Dartmouth Street. There is a Customer Information Center located here. This entrance/exit from Dartmouth Street to go in by the McKim Building is not wheelchair accessible for there are steps outside in front. There are other entrance/exits that are fully wheelchair accessible.
Also located on the 1st floor of the McKim Building is a Changing Exhibit Room, McKim Conference room, an Orientation Room and a Men’s and Women’s restroom. The restrooms were not available for us to see due to maintenance at the moment we were here.
The only area we did not have time to see was the Mezzanine Level, which is located in the Johnson building between its 1st and 2nd floor. There is wheelchair access to this area via elevator. Located on the Mezzanine Level is the World Languages room, Mezzanine Conference room and a Young Adults section. All the tables in all other rooms of the library are the wheelchair accessible so we assume the tables in these rooms are accessible as well.
I give Boston Public Library FOUR STARS for wheelchair accessibility. In order to earn the Fifth Star, they would simply need to install automatic entry doors, so a person can access the library independently and lower the soap dispenser in the restroom. I would highly recommend that they place a wheelchair accessible sign above the doorbell by the front side entry door so disabled persons who need assistance will know it is available; and that they lower some sections of the higher Customer Service Counters to a wheelchair accessible height so all persons can independently access all Customer Service Counters. Yet I am quite sure that you won’t encounter a problem or obstacle at this library for all the employees at this library are very kind and willing to assist persons with disabilities.
I give Lloyd Harris and all the Library employees we met FIVE PLUS STARS for they were all very kind, sensitive, and courteous. They all went above and beyond to help assist me. It’s people like you that really do make a difference! Keep up the good work, helping to make the world more sensitive, respectful and accessible to all :>)Thanks Again!!