ear symbol with radiating sound wavesAcoustical performance is an important consideration in the design of classrooms.  Research indicates that levels of background noise and reverberation, little noticed by adults, adversely affect learning environments for young children, who require optimal conditions for hearing and comprehension.  Poor classroom acoustics are an additional educational barrier for children who have hearing loss and those who use cochlear implants, since assistive technologies amplify both wanted and unwanted sound.  Children who have temporary hearing loss, who may comprise up to 15% of the school age population according to the Centers for Disease Control, are also significantly affected, as are children who have speech impairments or learning disabilities.  Kids whose home language is different than the teaching language are also at additional risk of educational delay and failure.

The Board is undertaking rulemaking to supplement the ADA and ABA Accessibility Guidelines to address acoustics in classrooms.  Specifically, the Board's effort will focus on applying a voluntary consensus standard developed by the Acoustical Society of America (ASA) with support from the Board.  The “ANSI/ASA S12.60-2010 American National Standard Acoustical Performance Criteria, Design Requirements, and Guidelines for Schools (Parts 1 and 2)” sets specific criteria for maximum background noise and reverberation time in classrooms. Consistent with long-standing recommendations for good practice in educational settings, the standard set specific criteria for maximum background noise (35 decibels) and reverberation time (0.6 to 0.7 seconds) for unoccupied classrooms. Once these guidelines are adopted by the Department of Justice, they will become enforceable standards under the ADA.