Since I was in Fall River today with Tony and Kevin, my friends we decided to visit the Fall River Public Library and do a wheelchair accessibility review. Many of my friends are from Fall River and have often told me how wheelchair accessible this old historical building is. I think it is wonderful that even old historical buildings are made wheelchair accessible.

The main entrance to Fall River Public Library is not wheelchair accessible for there are many steps leading up to the main entry door at this Library. There is a wheelchair accessible entry door on the side of the Library located on Elm Street.

There is a handicap parking space on Elm Street right next to the wheelchair accessible sidewalk that leads to the walkway leading to the handicap entrance. This sidewalk is in need of some minor repairs for it has two sections with deep cracks in it. My Quantum 600 Tilt and Space Power Wheelchair wouldn’t have a problem getting over the cracks but since my Quantum Wheelchair is out for repair I used a manual wheelchair today that friends need to push for me and the cracks were tough to get over.

The old and historical doors at this handicap entrance are fully automatic. I didn’t even need to push a button to open the doors for they have a sensor and as soon as I approached the doors opened!! It’s like a ghost in this old historical building opened the door for me! I love these kind of automatic doors!

Once inside we found ourselves on the lower level. This level has a children’s reading room and a restroom. The restroom is a large single room which is very spacious and wheelchair accessible. The toilet has all the required safety bars. The sink is accessible yet the exposed pipes under the sinks are not covered as is now an ADA requirement.

A nice male Library employee showed us the way to the elevator. He explained that this elevator leads to all floors of the library. It leads to the lower level, the main level, the upper level and all six levels where stacks of books are located. This elevator has a large and easy to see map with all locations clearly marked.

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The elevator is kind of small but we did mange to get my wheelchair and my friends on it at one time. We did notice that the inspection date for the elevator had expired for inspection was due in February of 2008. We mentioned this to a Library employee who said she was aware of this and it would be inspected soon.

The main level is really old and beautiful and very historical looking and you can look way up high and see the Upper Level. This level is very wheelchair accessible. There is a video room off to the left which has computers that access the Internet. There are two wheelchair accessible desks for one in a wheelchair to use a computer. There is another room you can look for books on a computer and it will tell you the exact area of what Stack Floor the book is located in. Librarians are always very willing to help locate a book and get it for you if you need help.

We asked the Librarian at the main desk what programs the Library offers for the disabled. She told us that this Fall River Library offers a magnifying machine that magnifies any page you place in it, many large print books and many books on tape. We asked if the library had special software like the Kursweil Program that the Plymouth Public Library has. She told us that she didn’t know for she is new and the head Librarian was at lunch.

The Librarian at the desk told us that this library offers free or discounted passes to many local attractions that anyone in the public can obtain. I think all our libraries in MA offers this but it is nice she told us this.

There is also a nice quiet reading room on the main level named the Fell Reading Room. This is a nice and quiet room one can sit in to read some books. This room has shelves with books, wheelchair accessible tables , racks of magazines and two nice fireplaces, one at each end. One of the fireplaces has a large portrait of President George Washington hanging above and the other Fireplace has a portrait of President Abraham Lincoln hanging above it.

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The main level of the Library has a wheelchair accessible glass case that is full of many interesting rocks and minerals found in our area. Many are beautiful and sparkle and I could easily view them while sitting in my wheelchair.

We then took the elevator to one of the Stack Floors where the books are kept on shelves. The aisles in the Stack Levels are wide enough for a wheelchair and easy to make a turn from aisle to aisle. Each Stack Floor has two study rooms located on each side. The table in the study room is a good height for a wheelchair. The windows are frosted so no glare will affect the visually impaired while reading. The neatest thing is that there are automatic lights in these study rooms so as soon as someone approaches the lights turn on. This is really nice for disabled in wheelchair and the visually impaired.

We then proceeded to the Upper Level which has a railing that overlooks the main level and main room of the Library. There are two Reference Rooms located on this level, the Davis Reference Room and the Ryan Reference Room. These rooms are both wheelchair accessible but one can not take any books out of these rooms for the books are for reference only.

The Upper Level has a few more glass displays that are very wheelchair accessible and the height is good and easy to view from my wheelchair. The first display I viewed was of history of Fall River Library and it had in it an old telephone, typewriter and a rubber stamp machine. There were old pictures of this Library and some papers with important history of library. The original Fall River Libraries were located at City Hall but both were destroyed in a fire in 1843 and again in 1886. The Fall River Library that exists today was approved to be built in 1895 and opened in 1899! It was made fully fireproofed with no woodwork except for the doors and wooden frame.

Again I think it is wonderful that this historical library that is more than 100 years old is fully wheelchair accessible!!! I wish the FALL RIVER US POST OFFICE – ZERO STARS followed their example.

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The other glass display on the Upper Level that is very wheelchair accessible and easy for me to view from my wheelchair is of Lizzie Borden, the mild mannered Sunday School Teacher who was accused of axing her mom and dad to death. There is a picture of the skulls of her dead parents in this case and a few cards with some of the story. The courts found her innocent yet it said she was haunted from the legend that she killed her parents for the rest of her life. There is also a sign that asks ‘DID SHE OR DIDN’T SHE?’ Well I guess only she knows for they didn’t have the advance forensic technology that we have today.

There is one part of the Upper Level that my friends and I found could be dangerous to us in wheelchairs or us who are visually impaired. Along the circular hallway on the Upper Level is a staircase. The reclined step at the beginning of the stairway protrudes into a portion of the circular hall. One who is visually impaired or one in a wheelchair may not see this reclined step and fall down the staircase. All the Fall River Library would need to do is to place a small railing by the reclined steps that extend into the hall.

I give the Fall River Public Library FOUR STARS for wheelchair accessibility. I really wanted to give them Five Stars for they are fully wheelchair accessible for such an old and historical building yet there are a few minor things they need to do to earn the other Star. They need to repair the two deep cracks in the sidewalk leading to the handicap entrance door, place protective covering around the exposed pipes under the accessible sink in the restroom, get the elevator inspected for it is past due and place a small railing where the stairway steps recline that protrude into the main circular hallway on the Upper Level. I think these are all minor changes and will revisit this Library in a few months to see if the Fall River Library has made the needed changes.