Standard Compliant Hearing Loop Installations to Become Law in America

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I am very happy to say that we have recently made our contribution to what will become a big change for loop technology in the USA. Following a programme of advocacy, including written submissions from Ampetronic and Listen Technologies, an important national (ANSI) accessibility standard has been changed. The revised standard means that loop systems must meet clearly defined performance standards, making good performance legally enforceable.

ANSI-LAWHearing loop technology can suffer from being ‘invisible’ and at the mercy of those who do not have the knowledge or the desire to make it work well. That is where having an international standard (called IEC 60118-4) for loop system performance can really help – a standard makes it very clear how to set up and certify that a system is good and is going to provide a real benefit.

However, too often our challenge is making sure that the industry sticks to these requirements, and in many countries there is a lack of legal enforcement to ensure the investments being made into hearing access actually provide a benefit.

But this is where the USA has taken a big step recently. The American National Standards Institute, ANSI, has revised an important standard for accessible buildings. This ANSI standard is adopted in most states as legally enforceable, defining what needs to be done to provide accessibility. The standard, ANSI A117.1, now states that any hearing loop system must meet the requirements of the performance standard IEC 60118-4.

The result is that it is now a legal requirement to ensure that loop systems in new buildings (or substantial refurbishments) perform at a level that really makes a difference for the end user. It will be illegal to install a sub-standard hearing loop and those responsible may be subject to criminal or civil penalties, and furthermore claimed ignorance of the law shall not excuse noncompliance.

With this change, hearing impaired users with telecoil enabled hearing aids or suitable receivers will be guaranteed a good quality experience from a system that complies with standards for frequency response, field strength, background noise and area coverage.

System installers and system designers will be required to train and become qualified to fit systems of the required quality. The motivation to specify and install sub-standard systems to reduce costs and win tenders will be minimised. In the long run this will protect and support those who have made the investment in training, and in-turn will strengthen the reputation of the technology for all.

This milestone is the result of a long running programme of advocacy in the USA, which we have supported and worked alongside for the last 14 years. The likes of Prof David Myers, Dr Juliette Sterkens and Dr Linda Remensnyder of the Hearing Loss Association of America have had ever increasing success getting broad acceptance of the benefits induction loop technology brings to people with hearing loss. Through their efforts, the change made to the ANSI standard has been made possible.

Powerful legal support for good accessibility provision is too often lacking, but the USA has taken a step forward with this move that should be noted in many other parts of the world.

 

For more specific information visit:

Current ADA guidelines for assistive listening: http://www.ada.gov/regs2010/2010ADAStandards/2010ADAstandards.htm#pgfId-1010597

Information about the IEC 60118-4: 2006 standard: http://www.ampetronic.com/Standards-and-legislations

International Code Council: http://www.iccsafe.org/safety/Pages/accessibility-2.aspx

 

By Julian Pieters

Managing Director - Ampetronic

Comments

Sharon Toji   15/08/2013 at 13:59

Julian, I want to personally thank you for the support you provided to me, as representative of HLAA, at the last ANSi meeting in July. I don't want to burst any bubbles, but we are by no means yet at the point you mention in this article. We are only in the midst of a lengthy process. The vote in July was the second vote on revising the 2009 ANSi Standard. Nothing is yet finalized. Fortunately, after failing in the first round of voting, people like you came forward with needed technical information, and we got a resounding vote for including this standard. Currently, we are officially balloting those results, and I do expect this standard to pass, but nothing is ever sure until the votes are all in. Even after that vote, any of the standards could still be challenged in a veto, although I don't expect that for this standard. Now that people understand the technical implications, I think it will hold up. After the final vote, hopefully some time in 2014, the Institute itself will ratify the results, and the new standard will be published. After it is published, code bodies across the country can then refer to it. Although some states that use ANSI automatically upgrade to the latest standard, others do not, and are using very outdated standards. Besides ANSI, there is the overwhelming importance of the ADA standards themselves. Some states, like California, have adopted the ADA directly, not ANSI. Actually, I am trying right now to get California to go ahead and adopt this standard without waiting for any national action, so it would be great to have industry support for that. I'll let you know how you can help with that, if you would like. California is obviously a huge market area. This may seem like a bleak picture in contrast with the announcement above. I have learned the hard way over the last 20 years that patience is a necessary part of this business! However, once we get this finally passed, just being able to state that it will be part of the new ANSI standard will give it a certain clout. But no, it is not by any stretch part of United States law at this point. Sharon Toji

Julian Pieters   06/09/2013 at 14:52

Sharon, thanks a lot for your contribution to balance my own post. Of course you are right that there are many roadblocks and diversions to get this to where we all want it, but we would still like to recognise the significant positive move that has been made. As you imply, we have a much increased probability that this will now become legally enforceable in at least some of the USA, and that should be something to remark upon even if there’s still a way to go to cross the finish line. I am also keen that the steps being taken here should be noted in other countries – more active participation in legislative development would help the hard of hearing community greatly in many other countries, including our own. We look forward to supporting any future steps with the relevant standards and legislation.

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