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Americans with Disabilities Act and Hearing Impaired Students

Much of the current activity around school noise started with a petition from the parent of a child with a hearing loss who requested that the ADA Accessibility Guidelines be amended to include new provisions for acoustical accessibility in schools for children who are hard of hearing. Several acoustics professionals, parents of children with hearing impairments, individuals who are hard of hearing, and a consortium of organizations representing them also urged the Board to consider research and rulemaking on the acoustical performance of buildings and facilities, in particular school classrooms and related student facilities. In June of 1998 the Board published a Request for Information (RFI) to gather public input on this issue. See the responses to the board from the ASA and Classroom Acoustics Coalition.

As yet the Access Board has not initiated a rule making on the issue of accessibility and classroom acoustics and has not referenced the standard in the ADA Accessibility Guidelines. The Access Board has developed a series of five very helpful fact sheets on classroom noise and acoustics, and its website contains information on ordering other useful material, including two ASA publications, the new ANSI/ASA standard (S12.60-2002), and a 10-minute videotape.

Taken by itself, the standard is voluntary unless referenced by a code, ordinance, or regulation. However, school systems may require compliance with the standard as part of their construction documents for new schools, thus making the design team responsible for addressing the issues. Parents may also find the standard useful as a guide to classroom accommodations under IDEA (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act).

Several states (Connecticut, Washington), cities (Minneapolis, Los Angeles) and state departments of education (New York State) are using the standard to guide new school construction.

For more information, go to Lois Thibault is the Board's Coordinator of Research; phone: (202) 272-0023 (V), (202) 272-0082 (TTY).