HB 1113, introduced by Rep. Miller, passed the House by a vote of 94-0 and is moving to the Senate. It requires a person building a Class 1 Structure with a public address system in a Class 1 or Class 2 city to consider installing an audio frequency induction loop system (AFILS). (Class 1 structure in Class 1 or 2 city basically means a public building in a city with a population of more than 35,000 people). It also requires audiologists and hearing aid dealers to provide information about telecoil and audio frequency induction systems when they are fitting or dispensing hearing aids. Telecoil and AFILS is a technology used to transmit audio directly to the hearing aid which lets the audio be heard despite the crowd.
This bill has a pretty light touch, requiring only that people building these structures consider telecoil so it’s tough to argue against it from an undue burden standpoint. Advocates of the hearing impaired might argue that it doesn’t go far enough. The one concern I have — and I’m not at all well versed in the subject matter, so I don’t know how valid it is — is that the telecoil technology might become outdated in the near future. I don’t know how hard it would be to swap out or supplement the newly built PA systems with something new when that comes along. Nick Hunn (in a blog post urging the FCC not to approve the new or modified proprietary standard Apple wanted to substitute for telecoil requirements in smartphones) says of the technology:
[T]elecoil tech is now long in the tooth, and the limitations of its 1970s-era capabilities are becoming all too apparent. Take frequency response. That’s just one area where it no longer cuts muster. Telecoil tech is still adequate for speech, sure, but it’s miserable music. And there’s the antenna problem: Telecoils need them, but try fitting these antennaes into modern phones and hearing aids. Talk about an engineering challenge.
There appears to be work afoot to develop “a new version of the Bluetooth specification that will replace telecoils. This new standard will at once provide better audio quality and be simpler and more cost effective to install in buildings.”
Because its intent is laudable (help those with difficulty hearing) and its impact is minimal (only requires “consideration” of telecoil), I imagine this will pass. Hopefully people building these structures will be able to perform their construction in a way that lets them help hearing impaired people now while allowing them to upgrade to the new standard when it comes along.