There are numerous documents worldwide stating where and how hearing loops should be installed to comply with government legislation and regulations. Standards for the United States, the European Union, and the United Kingdom are detailed below.
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The United Nations published the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities as an international document promoting the rights of disabled people worldwide. This agreement acknowledges that every individual is of equal value, has the right to make their own decisions, and should be treated fairly and in a dignified manner.
This legislation has prompted various countries to develop their own rules for the rights of disabled people. Some of these individual country legislations detail specification on inclusion and use of assistive listening systems, whilst others have more general guidelines. In some countries the legislation is listing the use of specific types of assistive listening technologies, including induction loop systems.
The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) published the IEC 60118-4 standard to set clear guidelines for the performance of hearing loop systems.
This standard has been adopted worldwide as the authoritative reference for hearing loop system performance. Compliance to the IEC 60118-4 is a stamp of approval on set up quality level and performance of a system. From the perspective of a service provider, it confirms that compliance is in line with equality laws and that installed systems are fully compliant and commissioned correctly. This standard is not a legal rule, rather a norm referenced in architectural plans or building specifications.
The IEC 60118-4 ensures hearing loop systems produce a magnetic field at an intended and designed level, meaning an even magnetic field is delivered across the whole of the listening area. The best solutions are therefore provided for telecoil hearing device users. Also included are details about the expected field strength of induction loop systems so that they produce an optimal signal to noise ratio without distortion, as well as minimum frequency response levels for delivering optimal intelligibility. Measurements techniques, distances and methods are detailed in depth in the standard.
The document known as IEC TR 63079 in Europe and BS 7594 in the UK is a code of practice which details best practices for the provision of hearing loop systems. It covers a variety of topics, including audio inputs, suitable microphone types, loop antenna specification, cable types, signage, and testing and installation methods.
Whilst the performance standards of induction loop systems are specified in the IEC 60118-4, the IEC TR 63079 / BS 7594 gives recommendations and general guidance on design, installation, testing and maintenance. This code of practice specifies that an induction loop system should always be designed and installed by a trained (specialist) designer and installer.
“The Americans with Disabilities Act champions human rights themes by declaring that people with disabilities are an integral part of society and, as such, should not be segregated, isolated, or subjected to the effects of discrimination. The ADA is also distinctively American. It embraces several archetypal American themes such as self-determination, self-reliance, and individual achievement. The ADA is about enabling people with disabilities to take charge of their lives and join the American mainstream. It seeks to do so by fostering employment opportunities, facilitating access to public transportation and public accommodations, and ensuring the use of our nation’s communications systems….In a long tradition of promoting civil rights, the ADA upholds the principle that each individual has the potential, and deserves the right to participate in, and contribute to, society….It has altered our public discourse about disability and about the role of people with disabilities in American society. Future generations will look back on the passage of the ADA as a watershed public policy.”
According to the U.S. Department of Justice:
“The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law on July 26, 1990, by President George H.W. Bush. The ADA is one of America’s most comprehensive pieces of civil rights legislation that prohibits discrimination and guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in the mainstream of American life — to enjoy employment opportunities, to purchase goods and services, and to participate in State and local government programs and services. Modeled after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin – and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 — the ADA is an equal opportunity law for people with disabilities.”
To be protected by the ADA, one must have a disability, which is defined by the ADA as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment. The ADA does not specifically name all of the impairments that are covered. (www.ada.gov)
Online Resources and Links:
Title I of the ADA covers employment by private employers with 15 or more employees and state and local government employers of the same size. Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act provides the same protections for federal employees and applicants for federal employment. Most states also have their own laws prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of disability. Some of these state laws may apply to smaller employers and provide protections in addition to those available under the ADA.
For more information, visit the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Title II regulations prohibit state and local government agencies, departments, special purpose districts, and other instrumentalities from discriminating against people with disabilities in their programs, services, and activities. Public entities must make reasonable modifications to their policies, practices, and procedures to allow equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities to participate, unless to do so would fundamentally alter the nature of the service, program, or activity. They must also provide auxiliary aids and services, integrated program access through nonstructural and architectural modifications, and meet Title I employment provisions with all employees and contractors. Public entities do not need to remove all physical barriers in existing buildings as long as programs provided in those buildings are readily accessible to users with disabilities in another facility. All new construction must be accessible.
The U.S. Department of Justice, (DOJ), has enforcement responsibility for all State and local government entities not specifically assigned to other designated agencies. Title II also seeks to ensure that individuals with disabilities have equal access to existing public transportation services. All newly purchased buses and other vehicles must be accessible. In cases of inaccessible fixed route systems, public entities must provide paratransit services comparable to the level of service provided by the fixed route system.
“Title III prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in the activities of places of public accommodations (businesses that are generally open to the public and that fall into one of 12 categories listed in the ADA, such as restaurants, movie theaters, schools, day care facilities, recreation facilities, and doctors’ offices) and requires newly constructed or altered places of public accommodation—as well as commercial facilities (privately owned, nonresidential facilities such as factories, warehouses, or office buildings)—to comply with the ADA Standards.”
The Department of Justice published revised regulations for Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 “ADA” in the Federal Register on September 15, 2010. These regulations adopted revised, enforceable accessibility standards called the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design “2010 Standards” or “Standards”. The 2010 Standards set minimum requirements – both scoping and technical — for newly designed and constructed or altered State and local government facilities, public accommodations, and commercial facilities to be readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities.
Adoption of the 2010 Standards also establishes a revised reference point for Title II entities that choose to make structural changes to existing facilities to meet their program accessibility requirements; and it establishes a similar reference for Title III entities undertaking readily achievable barrier removal.
The Department has assembled this online version of the official 2010 Standards to increase its ease of use. This version includes:
The ADA requires the Department of Justice to provide technical assistance to businesses, State and local governments, and individuals regarding the law.
Click here for a selection of technical assistance documents that provide an overview of the rights and responsibilities under the ADA.
Tabled in the House of Commons, June 20, 2018
The purpose of the Accessible Canada Act is to benefit all persons, especially persons with disabilities, through the progressive realization of a barrier-free Canada. It would require the Government of Canada and the federally-regulated public and private sectors to identify and remove barriers, and to prevent new barriers, that hinder the full and equal participation in society of persons with disabilities. It would focus on barriers in the areas of employment, the built environment, information and communication technologies, the procurement of goods and services, the delivery of programs and services, transportation, and other designated areas.
The Accessible Canada Act would grant the Governor in Council, the Canadian Transportation Agency, and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission the authority to recommend or establish accessibility standards intended to reduce barriers and to improve accessibility (“accessibility standards”). The Act would also create the Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization to develop and recommend accessibility standards for use by any person or entity, including any government in Canada or elsewhere.
Compliance with regulated accessibility standards would be enforced by a new Accessibility Commissioner within the Canadian Human Rights Commission, by the Canadian Transportation Agency, by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, and by the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board, depending on the source of the accessibility standard and the area in which it applies. Compliance with regulated accessibility standards could be enforced through inspections, compliance audits, compliance orders, administrative monetary penalties, and individual complaint adjudications, depending on the nature and activity of the regulated entity.
Bill C-81 would create new proactive requirements for regulated entities in the federally-regulated public and private sectors. These requirements include the preparation and publication of accessibility plans, the receipt of public feedback on the accessibility plans, and the preparation and publication of progress reports in relation to the accessibility plans.
Considered as a whole, the Bill would promote the aims and values of section 15 of the Charter (equality). It also potentially engages section 8 (search and seizure) and section 11 (legal rights applying to those “charged with an offence”).
The Equality Act 2010 combines a number of already established laws and states that everyone should be treated equally. Its goal is to protect people from discrimination and improve public services.
The 2010 Act replaced previous ‘anti-discrimination laws’, including the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), with a single document which empowers the law to tackle inequality situations which have an impact on disabled people. It accounts for age, sex and race.
The Act mentions provision of hearing loops, stating that “Service providers are required to make changes, where needed, to improve service for disabled customers or potential customers… and to provide auxiliary aids and services (such as information in an accessible format, an induction loop for customers with hearing aids).”
For service providers, it is important to note the reference made to “potential customers” to ensure issues are not only addressed within businesses. Environments should be provided which are inclusive and accessible for all. The Act states that service providers are legally required to provide environments of this type.
“The aim is for all people to have access to, and the use of, all the facilities provided within buildings.” – Section 4.1 of Part M
Part M is an Approved Document by the Department for Communities and Local Government which provides guidance on compliance with building regulations. It states that to obtain the full benefit of situations such as discussions or performances “a person with hearing loss must receive a signal that is amplified in both volume and signal to noise ratio,” and provision must be made for a permanent system in larger spaces.
Hearing Loops: Hearing loops, infrared and radio frequency systems are listed as commonly used solutions. Requirements of Part M are only met if “the presence of an induction [hearing] loop or infrared hearing enhancement system is indicated by the standard symbol,” demonstrating the importance of clear signage in buildings.
Entertainment, Education and Social Venues: Everyone should “be able to participate in the proceedings at lecture/conference facilities and at entertainment or leisure and social venues, not only as spectators, but also as participants and/or staff.” In buildings with entertainment or leisure and conference facilities, a solution such as a hearing loop must be provided to enable people with hearing loss to participate. This applies to hotels, schools, universities and community centers, as well as theatres and sports stadia.
Service and Reception Counters: A solution supporting people with hearing loss must be investigated for all buildings where service or reception counters are found. This includes many types of buildings, i.e. retail, worship, healthcare, transport, government and education.
Locations: It is not often sufficient to just address one area. When trying to meet the requirements laid out in Part M, it is important to consider that there may be many locations within a building where conversations or listening interactions take place. Focus on providing a good customer experience instead of simply providing the minimum required to comply with the regulations.
BS 8300 is a code of practice compiled by the British Standards Institution detailing the required design of buildings for meeting the needs of disabled people, and promotes equal access to services and buildings.
Whether you’re an architect, tender manager, store fit out provider, retailer or designer, the revised 2018 BS 8300 provides greater clarity on the appropriate level of provision and installation for hearing loops. It also heavily influences European and US standards.
A complete annex is included within the BS 8300-2 standard detailing hearing loop requirements. This annex covers hearing loop specifications, provisions, location variations, applications, best practice installation and maintenance, and staff testing and training.
BS 8300 also gives guidance on where hearing loops should be used, such as at help and refuge points, meeting rooms, halls, public sector buildings, cinemas, sporting venues, anywhere with points of sale and many more locations. It also provides instruction for microphone inputs and the various sound sources that can be selected for applications.
Specialists & Maintenance Required
There is a requirement for reactive and preventative maintenance of hearing loop systems using a provider with “specialist knowledge.” Staff training should be given to ensure staff knowledge of hearing loops, ensuring they can engage with individuals with hearing loss, and there should also be proactive staff testing using an appropriate testing meter.