Requirements for Assistive Listening Systems in
Does the ADA require that conferences and meetings have assistive
listening systems? Here's the reply from the ADA Center, as received by
the folks at NVRC. Please be sure to credit NVRC if you share this
Have you ever wondered whether an assistive listening system must be
available at conferences and meetings because of legal requirements? A
while back, NVRC asked this question of our regional Americans with
Disabilities Act technical assistance center.
Q: Are conference facilities required to provide assistive listening
A: From the ADA Center:
There are several factors which may be relevant to your question.
Many entities who own and/or operate these types of facilities, as well
as many entities which rent space in them to hold meetings, will be
covered by the ADA. In some cases one or the other may be covered, in some
cases both will be covered (and could therefore be equally liable under
the law), and in some cases neither will be covered and will have no
obligations under the ADA, although they may be covered by other laws or
requirements that may be relevant to an issue like this, also depending on
Many convention centers and hotels that offer conference or meeting
facilities will fall within the category of the type of places that will
be required to either install a permanent ALS or wiring to support
portable ALS when they do new construction and alterations. Whether
permanently installed systems are required in new construction depends on
specific factors outlined in the ADA Accessibility Guidelines in paragraph
19(b) at http://www.access-board.gov/adaag/html/adaag.htm#4.1.3).
NVRC followed the link, and here's what it says:
(b) This paragraph applies to assembly areas where audible
communications are integral to the use of the space (e.g., concert and
lecture halls, playhouses and movie theaters, meeting rooms, etc.). Such
assembly areas, if (1) they accommodate at least 50 persons, or if they
have audio-amplification systems, and (2) they have fixed seating, shall
have a permanently installed assistive listening system complying with
4.33. For other assembly areas, a permanently installed assistive
listening system, or an adequate number of electrical outlets or other
supplementary wiring necessary to support a portable assistive listening
system shall be provided. 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. Signage complying with applicable provisions of 4.30 shall
be installed to notify patrons of the availability of a listening system.
In the case of older facilities, there are other factors to consider.
Private business must remove barriers (which could include things like
installing ALS) when it is "readily achievable". State or local
governments, many of which own and operate convention facilities, must
ensure "program access".
Both types of entities are also required to ensure "effective
communication", which is an obligation which extends to measures beyond
"structural" requirements. "Auxiliary aids and services" must be provided
to ensure effective communication, when the aids and services do not pose
an "undue burden" or a "fundamental alteration" of the program. Because
ALS can fall within the "structural" realm, as well as the "aids and
services" realm (just like interpreters, notetakers, etc.), people can
sometimes get confused about just what they are supposed to do and who is
supposed to do it!
There could be many scenarios that might result in the obligation to
provide ALS falling on an organization holding a meeting in a conference
facility rather than on the owners/operators of the facility. For example,
a meeting facility might be owned, operated, and controlled by a religious
entity which allows other organizations to use it or rent space in it. A
religious entity is entirely exempt from title III of the ADA, so if there
is no ALS available and the religious organization does not want to make
it available, they have no obligation whatsoever under the ADA to do so.
If the meeting host organization is covered by the ADA, they would have an
obligation to ensure effective communication (absent undue burdens and
fundamental alterations to their program). Even if the owner/operator of
the facility is covered by the ADA, whether the facility is new or old,
and factors of "readily achievable", "undue burden", etc. may come into
So, the answer to your question would be very situation-specific, and
could vary depending on many factors.
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Hearing Persons (NVRC), 3951 Pender Drive, Suite 130, Fairfax, VA 22030;
www.nvrc.org; 703-352-9055 V, 703-352-9056 TTY, 703-352-9058 Fax. You do
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