Jay Bosch, a director of business development for AVI-SPL, contributes with this post on ensuring ADA compliance in higher education.
Starting an “All Students” approach to ensure ADA compliance in your classroom
Students come to class with a desire to learn. However, sometimes there are challenges that need to be overcome in order for every student to have an equal opportunity to learn. Employing an “all students” approach to the classroom allows every student to engage with instructors live or via remote means. Also, classroom design is rapidly changing, and Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance should be considered in all classroom formats.
As learning environments become more interactive, ADA compliance can provide its own challenges. Working with a professional audio/visual integration company can ensure your classrooms incorporate every students’ needs. The education landscape and related technology evolves quickly. It is important to build flexibility in your investment which includes the latest classroom designs and methods including distance learning, e-learning, hands-on learning, simulation and others.
- Competition to maintain and grow student population will increase as on-line offerings become more prevalent. This includes all students.
- As the general population — including people with disabilities — relies increasingly on mobile devices, teaching will follow this migration and leverage it to better engage “smartphone-centric” students.
- The pressure to stretch education dollars will likely drive the growth of e-learning, distance education, and any other pedagogical method that is more efficient and cost-effective than traditional classroom-based learning.
- As all of these advances occur, ADA standards will adapt and expand to ensure that people with disabilities are not left behind.
- All new buildings and remodels should be designed with ADA compliance as a given, similar to all public restrooms with a wheelchair stall.
What is ADA compliance?
First enacted in 1990 and amended/updated in 2008, the Americans with Disabilities Act is aimed at preventing discrimination against people with mental or physical disabilities. The titles of the ADA that apply to schools are administered by the Department of Justice (DoJ). The DoJ provides informational, regulatory, and enforcement support for the ADA’s requirements. For the AV industry, the critically important document is the 2010 “ADA Standards for Accessible Design.” (The ADA sections cited in this Legrand eBook are drawn from that document.) Assembly halls, conference rooms, classrooms, learning spaces, and lecture halls all fall within the ADA’s compliance standards.
Seven commonly recognized components of ADA compliance
- Policy: Create a policy for electronic and information technology (EIT) accessibility
- Designate an accessibility coordinator: Appoint an accessibility coordinator
- Purchasing: Include accessibility criteria in EIT purchases
- Post your accessibility statement: Include a link to an accessibility statement and resources and provide a feedback mechanism
- Conduct an audit: Complete a prioritized audit of EIT
- Fix any issues: Remediate inaccessible EIT
- Training: Provide role-based training for faculty, staff, and administrators
Next Steps: Capital Requests
- Logging which ADA standard(s) each requested piece of AV equipment complies with will also form the basis of a searchable ADA compliance database.
- Having ADA compliance information included in a capital request helps AV designers in assessing whether the overall AV system meets the needs of people with disabilities, in all aspects.
- Thorough documentation of ADA-compliant AV equipment will be needed in budget meetings, requests for proposals, inquiries and ADA audits.
Five things to consider for lifecycle planning with ADA-compliant equipment
- Recording ADA compliance information upfront will streamline any ADA audits that may occur. The necessary data will be a few keystrokes away, saving you time in compiling this information after the fact.
- Have ADA compliancy information available during equipment upgrades and replacements, and ensure your purchases are earmarked to be ADA-compliant.
- Should new product categories become subject to ADA compliancy standards, a quick search of your database will indicate non-compliant equipment. This data will help you plan for future ADA-compliant purchases and ensure you meet any deadlines set by the Department of Justice.
- Document and log compliant equipment with a VPAT (Voluntary Product Accessibility Template) process. A VPAT is a vendor-generated statement that provides information on how a product or service conforms to the Section 508 Accessibility Standards for Electronic and Information Technology in a consistent fashion and format.
- A word to the wise: Be sure to check with your regional ADA Center to see which specific VPAT applies to your project.
ADA and AV
Many ADA requirements apply to the AV industry. The ADA’s requirements are meant to allow people with disabilities to access and use AV equipment in business and educational settings as easily as people without disabilities. ADA requirements apply whether or not a school receives federal funding. (Schools that receive federal funding also have to comply with another federal law, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.)
For example, teachers in wheelchairs should have access to lecterns set at usable heights, and with sufficient surrounding space for them to maneuver into and out of. Any AV controls and equipment associated with the lectern should be just as easy for them to access and use.
As the term suggests, “ADA compliance” applies to the sum of the combined systems—not just its individual components—and the ways in which it is installed/operated complies with the ADA’s requirements. For example, under ADA rules that govern “Protruding Objects” (ADA Sections 204 and 307), a wall-mounted flat panel display cannot protrude more than four inches from that wall. There’s a good reason for this: An object protruding more than four inches could be a serious obstacle for wheelchair users and people with visual disabilities. While a two-inch-deep mount and 2.25-inch-deep display are ADA compliant on their own, when mounted together, they exceed the depth limit.
AVI-SPL is dedicated to making sure all students have an opportunity to learn, no matter if they are traditional, non-traditional or special needs. AVI-SPL partners with nationally recognized names such as Chief, Da-Lite, Middle Atlantic, Sennheiser, Spectrum, and Vaddio, who all share our dedication to ADA compliance who provide excellent solutions for visual, auditory and mobility impairment. Solutions include: wall mounts, swing mounts, height adjustable display mounts, electric height adjust carts, height-adjustable lecterns and desks, ultra low-profile credenzas, screens, speakers and microphones. See the “Making AV Technology ADA Compliant” document for more information.