When should assistive listening devices be installed in a facility?
The document Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities provides minimum accessibility guidelines for assistive listening devices (ALDs). This document describes ALDs this way: "Assistive listening systems (ALS) are intended to augment standard public address and audio systems by providing signals which can be received directly by persons with special receivers or their own hearing aids and which eliminate or filter background noise. The type of assistive listening system appropriate for a particular application depends on the characteristics of the setting, the nature of the program, and the intended audience. Magnetic induction loops, infra-red and radio frequency systems are types of listening systems which are appropriate for various applications."
According to these Guidelines, "An assistive listening system appropriate for an assembly area for a group of persons or where the specific individuals are not known in advance, such as a playhouse, lecture hall or movie theater, may be different from the system appropriate for a particular individual provided as an auxiliary aid or as part of a reasonable accommodation. The appropriate device for an individual is the type that individual can use, whereas the appropriate system for an assembly area will necessarily be geared toward the "average" or aggregate needs of various individuals." Such areas must have permanently installed ALDs if:
- audible communications are integral to the use of space (e.g., concert and lecture halls, playhouses and movie theaters, meetings rooms);
- the venue can accommodate at least 50 persons, or the venue has audio-amplification systems; and
- the venue has fixed seating.
The Guidelines provide minimum requirements, such as the number of receivers for a permanently installed system. They also specify what electrical outlets or other supplementary wiring to support portable assistive listening systems are must be provided in areas not required to have a permanently installed assistive listening system.
The Access Board's Bulletin on Assistive Listening Systems provides information about ALSs for consumers, explaining why it is hard to hear in some spaces and how ALSs work. For additional information on assistive listening systems consult the National Association of the Deaf.
Last update or review: January 27, 2010