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, 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.
Hearing 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
International Code Council: http://www.iccsafe.org/safety/Pages/accessibility-2.aspx
By Julian Pieters
Managing Director - Ampetronic