Inside: ADA

NEW CONSTRUCTION TO SOLVE ACCESSIBILITY ISSUES

Williamson County, Tenn., officials have approved spending $20 million for a new Franklin High School in Franklin, Tenn.

The existing building would need significant upgrading to meet the guidelines of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Officials with the Williamson County school district say state inspectors found extensive evidence that Franklin was not in compliance with ADA guidelines, but held off taking action while the question of new construction was unresolved. Subsequently, the county commission authorized the $20 million appropration for a new Franklin High.

If the district had been unable to build a new school and did not correct ADA guidelines in the existing facility, the district could have put its federal funding at risk. The school system receives about $6 million a year in federal funds.

BOARD AFFIRMS ACOUSTICS STANDARDS

The Board of Standards Review for the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has turned aside a challenge to propose new acoustical standards for school classrooms.

The Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute had contended that the recommendations were too stringent and would force that industry to develop new and costlier equipment.

The recommendations call for unoccupied classrooms to have a maximum background noise of 35 decibels and reverberation time of 0.6 to 0.7 seconds. The standard would be voluntary unless it is incorporated into a code, ordinance or regulation.

“We will… continue with every effort to support this standard, confident in the knowledge that it is technically correct, economically reasonable, feasible to implement, and most of all it is important and beneficial for the children of the United States,” says Paul Schomer, chair of the ANSI committee hearing the appeal.

The U.S. Access Board, which is responsible for developing and maintaining accessibility standards as set forth in the Americans with Disabilities Act, became involved in the issue after the parent of a student with a hearing disability requested changes in the guidelines to address acoustical standards for classrooms.

COLLEGE BOARD TO END “FLAGGING”

In response to a challenge under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the College Board will stop “flagging” test results of students who are given extra time on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) because of a disability.

A 1999 suit had challenged the Educational Testing Service's practice of noting that scores of tests taken with disability-related accommodations were obtained “under special conditions.” The suit argued that calling attention to the extra time in effect diminished the value of the test scores.

To resolve the suit, the College Board agreed to have a blue-ribbon panel of experts in the disabilities, psychometric and admissions fields explore the issue. The panel voted 4 to 2 to stop flagging. The flags will be removed as of Oct. 1, 2003.

The board says that it will closely monitor whether requests from students seeking extra time increase significantly and will take appropriate actions to prevent abuse of the extra-time provision.

PROPOSED CLASSROOM ACOUSTIC STANDARDS

Recommended reverberation time Maximum background noise level
0.6 to 0.7 seconds 35 decibels
Source: American National Standards Institute, Acoustical Performance Criteria, Design Requirements and Guidelines for Schools
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