ADA sound consultant

mtodd2qq

Member
Joined
Aug 3, 2017
Location
Dillon Montana
Anyone have a recommendation for a audio consultant? BACK STORY: I have taken over a small theater program at a tiny university out in Montana and find that I have also become the venue manager by default. I have two venues a 1950's and a 1910's ,each over 100 seating capacity and both more of an auditorium with theatrical ability then a proper theater space, if that makes sense. They have not had a strong tech/production person here..maybe ever. Just a revolving door of personal who purchased what they needed to make it work while they were here. I have a mixed mess of sound gear ( ok all the different systems, you should see the lighting mess) from the 50's up to the early 2000's. all cobbled together kind of working. Nothing is set up for ADA hearing compliance or for actual working a play. So no mics monitoring the stage for backstage/dressing room monitions that I could buy an off the shelf system and hook into. I don't even have backstage or dressing room monitors. We are that bare bones. I have explained to the powers that be that federal requirements indicate that we should have something to be ADA compliant and they agreed. To be fair, they really didn't know that this was an issue. We have all the wheel chair and other type of ADA needs pretty much taken care of. I also know when I am in over my head and this is such a Hodge podge of pieces that I dont want to add more to the mess. So I have a little money to get a consultant to come take a look and hopeful develop a plan so I can start begging for funds to update the system. anyone know anyone who is good but also imaginative? We are not going to be able to get a full remodel for this place so I need some out of the box thinking . thanks
 

EdSavoie

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 19, 2016
Location
Windsor, ON, Canada
Perhaps I'm ignorant of the relevant rules you're talking about as I work up in the north state of canuckistan, but isn't what you're referring to specific to spaces primarily used as movie theatres?
 

BillConnerFASTC

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 30, 2010
Location
Clayton NY 13624
Right from the building code - pretty much in line with federal regulations:

1108.2.7 Assistive listening systems. Each building, room or space used for assembly purposes where audible communications are integral to the use of the space shall have
an assistive listening system.

Exception: Other than in courtrooms, an assistive listening system is not required where there is no audio amplification system.
 

mtodd2qq

Member
Joined
Aug 3, 2017
Location
Dillon Montana
In 2010, the US government modified the standards for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) with respect to public assembly spaces and the quantities of receivers and hearing aid compatible receivers. All Assembly Areas are required to comply with the ADA.

So what is an Assembly Area by definition? According to Section 219.2 of the 2010 ADA, an Assembly Area is: A building or facility, or portion thereof, used for the purpose of entertainment, educational or civic gatherings, or similar purposes. For the purposes of these requirements, assembly areas include, but are not limited to, classrooms, lecture halls, courtrooms, public meeting rooms, public hearing rooms, legislative chambers, motion picture houses, auditorium
, theaters, playhouses, dinner theaters, concert halls, centers for the performing arts, amphitheaters, arenas, stadiums, grandstands, or convention centers.
 

BillConnerFASTC

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 30, 2010
Location
Clayton NY 13624
ADA does have same exception:

219.2 Required Systems. In each assembly area where audible communication is integral to the use of the space, an assistive listening system shall be provided.
EXCEPTION: Other than in courtrooms, assistive listening systems shall not be required where audio amplification is not provided.

And generally the building code treats assembly as 50 or more occupants. Hard to know if any of the ADA list of occupancies designed for less than 50 would have to comply.
 
  • Like
Reactions: RonHebbard

AlexDonkle

Active Member
Joined
Jun 24, 2012
Location
New York, NY
For a project like this you may be better off talking to local AV Contractors that can design this, and lock-in a price to base fundraising on. Request some project references with other ADA listening systems they've designed and installed, and talk to the people working there about how the entire process went and how well the systems working now.
If there's concerns about the design you can also have a consultant do a peer-review to offer comments and make sure everything seems reasonable.

I don't have any specific recommendations in your area, but a good starting point would be AVIXA APEx certified installers, and check that they have staff holding CTS-I and CTS-D certs.
https://www.avixa.org/en/about-avixa/membership/membersearch
 
  • Like
Reactions: RonHebbard

darinlwebb

Member
Joined
Sep 24, 2009
Location
Des Moines, IA
So MT - do any people that come to your theatre ask for this? (Just stirring the pot.)
Not an unreasonable question - but forgets the people who simply don't come to the venue because they can't hear a damn thing and nobody in the past 110 years seemed to care and they're either too embarrassed or too tired of asking for support. The higher goal here is to be inclusive, not just accommodating.
 

BillConnerFASTC

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 30, 2010
Location
Clayton NY 13624
Well, it goes along with making control room accessible. I've been doing it for over 20 years and yet to hear of any one in a wheelchair being in the control room. Ditto orchestra pits. And I ask a lot when touring.

I'm only interested in the research and data, not about making political statements. Plenty of others doing that.

Preparing an article on visual displays - so deaf people can see the words of the speaker. It was made clear at recent meeting that the law requires this - like for a morning assembly in a school - so principal's words are displayed. Yes, have to have a translator there everytime someone speakes in your auditorium. Never mind the annoying display. I'm sure everyone is obeying that law. Who here has this and offers service?
 
  • Like
Reactions: RonHebbard

AlexDonkle

Active Member
Joined
Jun 24, 2012
Location
New York, NY
Preparing an article on visual displays - so deaf people can see the words of the speaker. It was made clear at recent meeting that the law requires this - like for a morning assembly in a school - so principal's words are displayed. Yes, have to have a translator there everytime someone speakes in your auditorium. Never mind the annoying display. I'm sure everyone is obeying that law. Who here has this and offers service?
Not to get too far off the OP's topic, but this is done on the scoreboard in pro sports stadiums after lawsuits were filed, but they often have a remote stenographer service that gets the PA audio feed so no one's needed at the venue.
An alternative way some places comply (depending on how the law gets interpreted locally) is supplying portable devices like ALS receivers, but with text displays built-in.
 

BillConnerFASTC

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 30, 2010
Location
Clayton NY 13624
But how many facilities provide that? Or just ask how many of the 30,000 or so public high school auditoriums in US have this.
 

MNicolai

Well-Known Member
Fight Leukemia
Joined
Mar 30, 2008
Location
Sarasota, FL
It's pretty well accepted at high schools, large presentation spaces, and such that you need to equip them with assistive listening systems. They are indeed among the more underutilized features but their cost is low and the reason they get a bad rap is because patrons have learned to cope without them because of how terribly implemented they usually are. The last few high schools I've been working on I've put the same ALS transmitter in the gym, cafeteria, football field, and theater. They can meet their minimum number of receivers for the theater, let's say that's 25, and then disburse a handful to each space (you can share receivers between spaces on a campus). That way you aren't buying 25 just to throw in a box where 3-4 times a year only 1-2 people at a time may ask to use them.

The caveat though: don't bother if you're not going to have a process in placing for handing out receivers, setting up a quality audio feed for it, and posting signage and informing your patrons that this is available to them. If they use it once and it sucks, they'll never bother again. If they don't know it's available, almost nobody will ever ask.

By the way, when I say quality feed I mean setting up an aux/matrix mix on the console that's typically vocals only. Then in the DSP using the house mic as as a primary source but ducking it and giving priority to the vocal console mix when someone is speaking. Ambiance is nice in ALS but what most people need is vocal clarity and intelligibility. Many people will wear the ALS earbud on only one ear and use their other ear which may or may not have their hearing aid to listen to the room. They don't need drum kit or a crack of thunder effect fed directly into their ears. Usually their are compressors in ALS transmitters but a little compression in the DSP also helps intelligibility by reducing the dynamic range of speech.

A full FM kit with signage and charging stations is under $5k. If you don't have a house mic or DSP, then those are costs that also need to be considered but you can use those for much more than just ALS like recording or backstage/lobby feeds. It's really not an extravagant or unjustified expense. There are just a lot of people who it treat it like necessary evil and thus venues end up with hot garbage fires for ALS.
 

Jay Ashworth

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 7, 2014
Location
St Pete FL USA
Well, I wouldn't make it *solely* vocals; you want a little music and effects, but like 6-12dB down, at least; if actors are reacting to a gunshot and the patron didn't hear it...

In our blackbox, we actually just use a centrally hung 57, and it works quite well -- I use it to follow book, too. Gotta EQ it for intelligibility...
 

tomthetechie

Member
Joined
Oct 17, 2009
Location
Salt Lake City
I can get you a package put together and a price. The most expensive part of this would honestly be installation due to travel (unless there's an integrator nearby or you are able to do this yourself). If you can give some more details as to what gear you have, how that gear is configured, and the number of seats in the venues that would be helpful.
 

teqniqal

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 26, 2009
Location
Dallas / Fort Worth, Texas
Albeit the Infrared (IR) and Frequency Modulated (FM) Assitive Listening Systems (ALS) are the most common in the US, the rest of the world has stepped ahead and installed Hearing Loop Systems so patrons with hearing aids equipped with loop receivers can use them without checking-out any equipment. This is a big deal because this save the patron the embarrassment of calling-out their disability. Yes, you can get hearing assist loop accessories for the IR and FM receivers, however, this requires that the patron check-out one, that your staff knows how to instruct the patron on it's use (with dignity and privacy), and then recover the device after the show (again, with dignity and privacy).

As a public institution, it is probably legally necessary to NOT have a contractor involved in the design and specification. This is something that should be done by an independent consultant. Since you are asking for someone to help you specify and/or design these systems, I'll throw my hat in the ring. I've specified many of these systems. Please feel free to reach-out to me. I'm happy to travel to Montana (in the warmer months)!
 
  • Like
Reactions: mtodd2qq

tomthetechie

Member
Joined
Oct 17, 2009
Location
Salt Lake City
As a public institution, it is probably legally necessary to NOT have a contractor involved in the design and specification. This is something that should be done by an independent consultant.
If you do look into hearing loops I would definitely advise getting a consultant onboard. Even when we are asked to do one, we bring in a manufacturer to spec it.

If you do go with an RF or IR package, check with the procurement policies for your school. Montana State University for example requires 3 bids for total contract price between 5k and 25k. Purchases under 5k can be made at the departments disgression anything over 25k has a whole different list of requirements (a consultant being one of them) Having a consultant spec this particular system probably won't be required by your purchasing dept (state wise it is not), but hiring one will certainly streamline the process of getting real apple's to apple's bids. The budgetary number you'll get from a consultant will also be the easiest to save towards as contractor pricing is generally only good for 30-90 days. (Always a let down when you lose a bid because you simply quoted better gear due to lack of a spec).
 

Jay Ashworth

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 7, 2014
Location
St Pete FL USA
The question was asked somewhere upthread how much this stuff actually gets used.

I have a ground-truth answer for that.

We have 2 72MHz agile systems in our mainstage and blackbox. The request we got for a receiver last week is *the first time in 10 years* anyone's asked, and yes, we have signage at all the relevant house entrances.
 

JJBerman

Active Member
Joined
Jul 10, 2014
Location
Middleton, Wisconsin
The 900 seat high school theatre I work at, averages 1-2 requests per year for ALS.

We have gotten more requests for Spanish interpreters for school presentations/ceremonies. (not part of the theatre's job but the district does provide interpretation for many of these events now).
 
  • Like
Reactions: Ben Stiegler