Audio Induction (Hearing) Loop technology was pioneered in Europe and is so widely accepted there that loops can be found in almost all public spaces. When hearing accessibility in the United States was made a requirement of law in 1990, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, no specific distinction was made between audio induction loop systems and FM or Infrared systems. Although the ADA did require that “assistive listening technology” provide access to “effective communication,” people with severe to profound hearing loss—for whom FM and Infrared systems often fall short—were slow to advocate for audio induction hearing loops.
According to the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), “The ADA Standard for Accessible Design was updated in 2010 and requires that for renovation and new construction that at least 25% of receivers provided are hearing aid compatible—meaning that users do not have to remove their hearing aids to use the system. This raised the interest in and availability of hearing loops because loops are the only assistive listening systems that connects directly to telecoil-enabled hearing devices.”
2010 ADA Standards for Title II and III Entities
U.S. Department of Justice: Civil Rights Division – Disability Rights Section
The following excerpts are taken from a DOJ publication regarding the “2010 Standards” of the ADA, specifically as they pertain to effective communications at title II and III entities. For the entire, 7-page document, please click here.
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.
People who have vision, hearing, or speech disabilities (“communication disabilities”) use different ways to communicate. For example, people who are blind may give and receive information audibly rather than in writing and people who are deaf may give and receive information through writing or sign language rather than through speech.
The ADA requires that title II entities (State and local governments) and title III entities (businesses and nonprofit organizations that serve the public) communicate effectively with people who have communication disabilities. The goal is to ensure that communication with people with these disabilities is equally effective as communication with people without disabilities.
* The purpose of the effective communication rules is to ensure that the person with a vision, hearing, or speech disability can communicate with, receive information from, and convey information to, the covered entity.
* Covered entities must provide auxiliary aids and services when needed to communicate effectively with people who have communication disabilities.
* The key to communicating effectively is to consider the nature, length, complexity, and context of the communication and the person’s normal method(s) of communication.
* The rules apply to communicating with the person who is receiving the covered entity’s goods or services as well as with that person’s parent, spouse, or companion in appropriate circumstances.
Auxiliary Aids & Services
The ADA uses the term “auxiliary aids and services” (“aids and services”) to refer to the ways to communicate with people who have communication disabilities.
* For people who are deaf, have hearing loss, or are deaf-blind, this includes providing a qualified notetaker; a qualified sign language interpreter, oral interpreter, cued-speech interpreter, or tactile interpreter; real-time captioning; written materials; or a printed script of a stock speech (such as given on a museum or historic house tour). A “qualified” interpreter means someone who is able to interpret effectively, accurately, and impartially, both receptively (i.e., understanding what the person with the disability is saying) and expressively (i.e., having the skill needed to convey information back to that person) using any necessary specialized vocabulary.
* In addition, aids and services include a wide variety of technologies including 1) assistive listening systems and devices; 2) open captioning, closed captioning, real-time captioning, and closed caption decoders and devices; 3) telephone handset amplifiers, hearing-aid compatible telephones, text telephones (TTYs), videophones, captioned telephones, and other voice, text, and video-based telecommunications products; 4) videotext displays; 5) screen reader software, magnification software, and optical readers; 6) video description and secondary auditory programming (SAP) devices that pick up video-described audio feeds for television programs; 7) accessibility features in electronic documents and other electronic and information technology that is accessible (either independently or through assistive technology such as screen readers) .
Choice of Aid or Service
When choosing an aid or service, title II entities are required to give primary consideration to the choice of aid or service requested by the person who has a communication disability. The state or local government must honor the person’s choice, unless it can demonstrate that another equally effective means of communication is available, or that the use of the means chosen would result in a fundamental alteration or in an undue burden. If the choice expressed by the person with a disability would result in an undue burden or a fundamental alteration, the public entity still has an obligation to provide an alternative aid or service that provides effective communication if one is available.
Title III entities are encouraged to consult with the person with a disability to discuss what aid or service is appropriate. The goal is to provide an aid or service that will be effective, given the nature of what is being communicated and the person’s method of communicating.
Barrier-Free Healthcare Initiative of 2012
On the 22nd anniversary of the ADA (passed on July 26, 1990), it was announced that U.S. Attorney’s offices across the nation would partner with the Civil Rights Division to target their enforcement efforts on a critical area for individuals with disabilities through a new Barrier-Free Health Care Initiative. Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez announced the new initiative at the anniversary celebration and explained that the new initiative will ensure that people with disabilities, especially those who are deaf or hard of hearing, have access to medical information in a manner that is understandable to them. He said, “The Barrier-Free Health Care Initiative will make sure people with disabilities are capable of physically accessing medical buildings and facilities, and are not discriminated against when it comes to receiving potentially life-saving medical information.”
For the full press release on the Initiative, please click here.
For more information about the ADA, visit http://www.ADA.gov; or, for answers to specific questions, call the ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 (Voice) or 800-514-0383 (TTY).