Posted on 8/6/2019 7:00:00 PM by Legrand AV Team
In today’s AV landscape, achieving ADA compliance is no small feat. The task will likely become even more challenging in the future, as classroom designs and methods evolve and advance with distance learning, e-learning, hands-on learning and more.
Collaborative learning is increasingly taking center stage as the dominant mode of teaching in higher education. The AV environments are changing to encourage exchanges among instructors and students. Keeping these new environments ADA compliant takes planning.
- 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. For AV professionals working with educational clients, this goes way beyond simple BYOD support: The AV systems of the future may well have to collaborate with the devices owned by students, and even defer to them as their software becomes ever-more capable.
- 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.
The simplest way for the AV industry to address the challenge of the evolving classroom is to stop making distinctions between people with disabilities and those without, and instead serve people as a whole. This means every facility should be designed with ADA compliance as a given. Just as we cannot imagine a public washroom today without a wheelchair stall, we should not imagine designing spaces that are not equipped for all of mankind.
The time for people with disabilities to be afforded the same access and opportunities has long since arrived in North America. AV professionals who comply with the ADA standards not only obey the law, they ensure that this vast pool of talented people have an equal chance at “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
There are a number of good reasons for documenting and logging your ADA-compliant AV technology purchases.
- 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 help in budget fights with administrators who prefer to ignore the law in order to save money,” said Mike Tomei, CTSD/I, owner of Tomei AV Consulting LLC.
Here are 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 noncompliant equipment. This data will help you plan for future ADA-compliant purchases and ensure you meet any deadlines set by the Department of Justice.
- “You can document and log compliant equipment with a VPAT (Voluntary Product Accessibility Template) process,” said Janet Peters, Project Coordinator at the Great Lakes ADA Center/University of Illinois, Chicago. “A VPAT is a vendor-generated statement that provides information on how a product or service conforms to the Section 508 Accessibility Standards (www.section508.gov) for Electronic and Information Technology in a consistent fashion and format. Some states, like Minnesota, also require a WCAG 2.0 VPAT for state agency purchases.”
- A word to the wise: Be sure to check with your Regional ADA Center to see which specific VPAT applies to your project.
Clearly, proper documentation and management is necessary to eliminate any ADA compliance checks and updates. It can feel tough to log every piece of equipment in use, but trust us, your future self will thank your past self for the work. Don’t let your future self down!
Planning for future ADA compliance changes is just one part of the ADA that can affect AV design. Get a fuller picture of designing for ADA compliance with the Legrand | AV ebook.