Understanding ADA Compliance
THE ASSISTIVE LISTENING COMMUNITY
HEARING LOSS: THE INVISIBLE DISABILITY
Almost anyone can easily explain the purpose of a wheelchair ramp, wheelchair signage on doors, or signs translated into Braille. Less well known are the effects of the “invisible disability,” also known as hearing loss.
Hearing loss develops for a variety of reasons, including congenital, illness, injury, or progressive loss due to excessive or prolonged exposure to loud noise.
Many people with hearing loss isolate themselves from social activities, including attending the theater, concerts, and attending worship services, because listening and understanding sound in these environments is frustrating and difficult, even with hearing aids.
THE AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT (ADA)
UPDATES TO THE AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT (ADA)*
In 2010, new standards for the ADA became law (these standards took full effect on March 15, 2012, mandatory for all new construction or renovations). The following are highlights of the changes, specifically for assistive listening systems and include new technologies to meet the guidelines:
An assistive listening system shall exist in assembly areas where audible communication is integral to the space. This means that any space where people gather (a boardroom, a banquet hall, a classroom, or a movie theater) is required to have an assistive listening system. Assistive listening must cover the entire space of the venue, not just one area.
· Assistive Listening is required where there is amplified sound. A system needs to be present if there is a microphone and/or speakers. Courtrooms must have assistive listening systems, even without amplified sound.
· In the original standards, the number of assistive listening devices was 4 percent of seating capacity. With the new standards, the number of receivers scales to match the total occupancy of the venue.
· Receiver Hearing-Aid Compatibility: A percentage of receivers are required to be hearing-aid compatible and interface with telecoils in hearing aids. This accommodates via neck loop technology with RF or IR assistive listening systems.
*There are certain states that use building codes that outline different standards for assistive listening than the ADA. For example, California uses the California Building Code (CBC) to define the standards for assistive listening requirements throughout the state.
ASSISTIVE LISTENING COMPLIANCE
Under the ADA, an assembly area defines as a building or facility, or a portion thereof that utilizes for the purpose of entertainment, education, civic gatherings, or similar purposes. Specific assembly areas include, but are not limited to: classrooms, lecture halls, courtrooms, public meeting rooms, public hearing rooms, legislative chambers, motion picture houses, auditoria, theaters, playhouses, dinner theaters, concert halls, centers for the performing arts, amphitheaters, arenas, stadiums, grandstands, or convention centers.
Required Number of Receivers—the chart below shows the specific number of receivers required based on seating capacity. If an area has an induction loop, hearing aid compatible receivers are not required, but they are required to provide the minimum as outlined in the chart.
Hearing Aid Compatible Receivers—a receiver is hearing aid compatible when it works with a telecoil installed in a hearing aid or cochlear implant. Improvements in technology increase options for hearing aid compatible receivers, including neck loop in lanyard technology, allowing the sound to transmit from the lanyard directly to the cochlear or telecoil implant. Seventy percent of hearing aids and cochlear implants are equipped with telecoils.
Signage—a critical component of compliance is signage pinpointing the availability of ALD's. Sites are required to post signs including the international symbol of access to an assistive listening system.
Assistive Listening Technology
TYPES OF ASSISTIVE LISTENING
Three types of Assistive Listening technology exist: radio frequency (RF), infrared (IR) and induction loop (IL). Each uses varying technology to transmit sound wirelessly to a personal receiver or directly to a compatible hearing aid. This removes ambient noise and reverberation, so the source directly transports to the user’s ear.
Radio Frequency Systems—RF works through signals that transmit over radio frequencies (specifically the FCC mandated 72 and 216 MHz bands) to a personal receiver. The system comprises a transmitter, antenna, and receiver.
Infrared Systems—an IR assistive listening system uses infrared light to transmit audio, similar to a Bluetooth device. An IR system includes a radiator, receiver and transmitter.
· IR is line-of-sight technology, and is therefore secure for confidential transmission of the audio signal within a room.
· To achieve maximum range for an IR system, emitter/radiators need to cover the listening area. This may require multiple emitter/radiators. The height of the emitters/radiators is a critical consideration as well.
· For users with a hearing aid that have telecoil capabilities, a personal neck loop may function in partnership with the personal IR receivers.
Induction Loop Systems—(or Hearing Loop) assistive listening system, is a vital cable connected to a loop driver that installs around the venue room in a assortment of ways; creating an induction field that hearing aids ‘pick up’ with a telecoil. An induction loop includes a loop driver, copper wire, and the receiver being a user’s hearing aid or cochlear implant. If loops are used they accommodate the requirement to be hearing aid compatible, however loop receivers need to be included for decisive compliance.
· Many venues and users alike enjoy this type of an assistive listening system because the users’ disability is discrete, as they simply use their hearing aids or cochlear implants to receive the audio signal.
· There is no need to ask for a receiver or to wear something that draws attention to their hearing disability.
· Loop receivers may be inclusive of an induction loop system to accommodate those that do not have a telecoil-equipped hearing aid or for those that do not wear a hearing aid.
YOUR LEGAL OBLIGATION
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), signed into law in 1991 and revised in 2010, mandate providing access to the deaf and hard of hearing. This law addresses when assembly areas are required to have assistive listening devices (ALDs).
In 2013, Todd Rich, a real estate agent in San Mateo County, California led suit against Intercontinental Hotels of San Francisco and Success Strategies Institute, Inc. for $30,000 in compensation and other punitive damages. Read more about this lawsuit here:
· In California, more than 14,000 ADA/accessibility lawsuits have been filed in just the past few years by a small number of lawyers. Many firms have closed, dismissed employees or sought bankruptcy protection as a result. For a detailed list of some of these lawsuits, please visit this website dedicated to ADA abuses in California: http://www.adaabuse.com/
· See how California outpaces other states in this in-depth article from NBC:
ADVANTAGES OF COMPLIANCE—People with disabilities make up a significant percentage of the population. By providing stress-free access in and around your business, you reach a varied audience and create opportunity for further revenue.
THE RIGHT THING TO DO—In the US alone, 54 million people live with disabilities, of those, 36 million are deaf or hard of hearing, making them the largest single disability group. Providing access to assistive listening devices to these millions of Americans with hearing loss is simply the right thing to do. In addition, with the amount of tourism to the San Francisco Bay area, it just makes sense that many of those that are hearing-impaired will visit your business at some point. Will you be ready?
Some Final Facts
· It helps them feel connected to their communities and live fuller, richer lives.
· According to government accounting, businesses that made accessibility improvements experienced a 12% increase in business.
· In 2003, disabled Americans spent $3.6 billion on a combination of work and leisure travel.
· Disabled Americans have $175 billion in discretionary spending power!
· Within 27 years, the population age of 65+ years will increase over 60% and 1 in 5 adults will be age 65 or older.
· Some may be able to receive a tax benefit for providing assistive listening to people with hearing loss--tax form 8826.
“You should always obtain legal advice that is specific to you and your situation. The aforementioned is general information only, and is NOT to be a substitute for legal advice or legal opinions that you should obtain from your own attorney. Among other things, this information may not reflect current legal developments or other issues that may apply to your specific circumstances and situation.”
Questions? Contact us at 800-988-6511 or simply fill out the form below! ACD Telecom offers free initial consultations and in-house demonstrations on Assistive Listening Device (ADL) Technology!