ADA News Forum - Updated often

Information Written or Gathered by Joseph De Buglio
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ADA Posting Feb. 1999

New ADA Laws May Close Churches--Fall 1999

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law on July 26, 1990. This Act gives full-fledged citizens legal protections that ensure them equal opportunity and access to the mainstream of American life.

The ADA covers the estimated 28 million people who suffer from hearing loss (includes over 3 million school-age children).
"Assembly areas with fixed seating where audible communications are integral to the use of the space must have a permanently installed assistive listening system if they accomodate at least 50 persons, or if they have audio-amplification systems. The minimum number of receivers to be provided shall be equal to 4 percent of the total number of seats, but in no case less than two."
Information provided courtesy of Sound Choice Assistive Listening, Inc. Doylestown, PA

The HIS System Standard vs. ADA Standards and Laws

(c) By Joseph De Buglio

For many of those in the church sound community, they know that this web site has been trying to educate the various church communities about church sound, church acoustics and in that context, teaching that churches can comply to a sound and acoustics standard they should write for themselves. We have been suggesting that churches and Denominations adopt the HIS System Standard or write their own standards - as it was over 100 years ago for acoustics.

Recently, it has be brought to my attention that a standard for church sound may be forced onto the church community in 1999. The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) has already required for new churches to provide assistive hearing system for a few years now. To their astonishment, they have been receiving many complaints from both users and sellers of assistive hearing system (AHS). Most of the complaints come from either poor quality equipment in front of AHS, really poor acoustical conditions or poorly designed systems where speakers are placed where it interferes with the AHS a person wears. To address this problem, board members who created the ADA laws are meeting to discuss revision of a new version of the bill that will be pass by congress later in 1999.

If this bill is passed, depending on how it is worded, it could mean the closure of churches until they meet the ADA standard. What is not being said is if the ADA will accommodate churches needs for longer reverberation times. At this time, the board is looking at low noise standards, speech to noise ratios and speech to reverberation ratios. What is also not clear is if these standards will be retroactive and if it is, how much time will churches be given to comply.

Churches are unique in their sound needs. The ADA standards are believed to apply from school classrooms, lecture halls, concert halls, school gyms and to all public gathering places. This standard could also apply to Bars and Clubs. If this is the case, those standards may be such that it will restrict how churches can conduct their worship services. Even OSHA is looking at sound levels in some churches, suggesting limiting the loudness of the sound system. This is a first step in big brother moving into churches from the back door.

The HIS System Standard already exceed the ADA current standard and I am confident that it will meet the 1999 standard. However, when it come to Reverberation time, a Sound Inspector could deem the HIS System Standard void by the interpretation of the inspector of the ADA regulations.

There are two ways to measure the Speech to Reverberation ratio. A simple method just looks at the RT60 and if it exceeds a certain time interval, it could be viewed as a room that fails to meet the ADA standard. However, if the signal to noise ratio is greater than 25dB, an RT60 over the ADA standard is possible and meets all of the other requirements for ideal listening conditions while giving a church a broader flexibility in acoustical conditions for the various styles of worship churches practice.

It is our belief that if the church community can come up with their own standard to comply with the ADA standard, the ADA board may allow churches certain leeway. If the church community does not make an effort to address this issue then we shouldn't be surprised if Sound Police start shutting down churches in the year 2000. While Sound Police may seem far fetched, a new church that will have to meet the ADA standard can double the cost. A $500,000 church today can cost over 1 million and a 2 million dollar church becomes a 4 million dollar church.

The ADA is actually a good law when it passes. Passing it without input from the church community can set churches back 50 years and every church seating over 1500 people could be closed over night. Don't let this happen.

Please pass this message on the others.
Joe De Buglio R. E.

Audio and Acoustical Practitioner

Update May 1999

Americans With Disabilities Act Can We Call It Code?

Comments form NSCA May 1999

Contractors have long sought relief from post-installation litigation involving ADA compliance, but have been thwarted by the fact that there has been little opportunity to obtain ADA approval for a particular design before going ahead with building and installation. This dilemma stems from the fact that the ADA is essentially civil rights legislation, not building code.

The Access Board has been working to certify local codes for ADA compliance and thereby preclude a lot of post facto litigation. However, the nine-step certification process that the Access Board has undertaken is painfully slow.

At this time, Washington, Texas, Florida, and now Maine, state codes are certified. Pending certification are codes for New York City, Utah, New Mexico, Minnesota, New Jersey, Maryland, California, the Village of Oak Park, IL, and the County of Hawaii. Of particular interest is that New York is the only state with written standards for large area FM assistive listening systems-the New York codes address operation of both the transmitter and the receiver.

The Access Board is also working on writing "Model Codes" that spell out the standards more clearly and from a more practical perspective. The goal is to have as much technical consistency as possible among federal and private sector standards. However, when it comes to code setting, it seems to be a race of slow versus slower to see who can take the longest to forge ADA regulations into usable code.

ADA Tax Incentives

May 1999

Systems contractors have the opportunity to be the first to tell their clients about a little known tax break for adding or upgrading assistive listening equipment to their venue. The IRS offers two tax incentives to help cover the cost of making access improvements.

A tax credit of up to $5,000 is available to small businesses for the cost of adapting existing facilities to ADA standards. The tax credit is 50 percent of expenses up to $10,250. A tax deduction of up to $15,000 is also available for any size business for bringing its building into ADA compliance. (A tax credit is subtracted from your tax liability after you calculate your taxes, while a tax deduction is subtracted from your total income before taxes).

Both the tax credit and deduction are available annually. For more information, call 800.514.0301. Request the Tax Incentives Packet on the ADA.

We hope you will visit us often as this site grows. This web site is for you - people wanting guidance and real help with their church sound problems. All recommendation presented here have been tested in churches. We will be posting general audio and acoustical information that is "common knowledge" but hard to find - especially for people in small towns and communities.

Thank you. Joe The Soundman.

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Copyright (c) 1996 JdB Sound, Acoustic Lab.
Last updated, Wednesday, May 12, 1999

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