VSBA Building Quality Standards Handbook refreshed with new May 2023 edition: Hearing Aug and Soundfield requirements adjusted

The Victorian School Building Authority has refreshed its Building Quality Standards Handbook.  The new May 2023 Handbook affirms the position of the VSBA to embrace best practice in complying with Federal regulation (including the National Construction Code and Standards).

The BQSH May 2023 reaffirms the notion that learners, teachers and visitors do and will use personal listening devices that are different and therefore technology built into Schools must be agile.

The keys points of the May 2023 BQSH regarding inclusion for hard of hearing users of Schools include:

  1. A clear definition of what hearing augmentation is: “Hearing augmentation is the process of collecting audio from amplification systems such as public address or audio-visual systems for transmission to receivers built into the personal hearing devices worn by hard of hearing or deaf learners, teachers and visitors.”
  2. How hearing augmentation is to be achieved: “hearing augmentation systems require permanent cabling between amplification systems and devoted on-wall interfaces for transmitters (to personal hearing devices or receivers) to be safely mounted and connected” and this is to be achieved direct to an on-ear receiver (or ‘native’ transmission) defined as “Native transmission means without the use of personal neck loops’.  The Uconnect solutions of Hear and Learn and purpose built in this way
  3. How hearing augmentation is NOT to be achieved: “hearing augmentation systems that require the following must not be installed in teaching spaces “ WiFi primary transmission, induction loops in ceilings or underfloor coverings, and infrared systems”
  4. Where hearing augmentation tech must be installed: “all teaching and gathering spaces with fixed amplification systems … must be equipped with an agnostic, devoted on-wall interface” and that fixed amplification systems are “public address or paging systems (excluding PA systems used exclusively for emergency warnings), voice capture technologies, ceiling or wall mounted data projectors, LCD screens, interactive whiteboards within a contained or open plan teaching space, any sound source with mounted speakers, or video conferencing systems”
  5. A clear definition of what soundfield is: “Sound field technology utilises microphone and speakers to project and protect teachers’ and speakers’ voices and assist all students to hear verbal instruction. This can be of particular benefit to students with English as a second language, auditory processing disorders as well as those who are deaf and hard of hearing. “
  6. Where soundfield is to be permanently installed: “sound field systems must be fixed, rather than portable, in gymnasiums, multipurpose areas and libraries “
  7. Where soundfield is to be portable: “each building must also be supplied with at least one sound field system
  8. Where hearing augmentation or soundfield is NOT required: “assistive hearing systems are not required in utility and small administrative spaces”
  9. New regulations included in the May 2023 rules include a recognition that a Performance Based Solution is required: “ students are provided with their own listening systems by Hearing Australia’s paediatric program, and do not need additional neck loops given system performance criteria; the NCC D4D8 does not recognise that most young people/students’ personal receiver devices do not have telecoil activated, as required for induction systems; nor does the NCC recognise the importance of transmitting a teacher’s voice, i.e. via sound field systems, which has benefits not only for hard of hearing students but those with auditory or undiagnosed hearing needs, and students with special needs” and
  10. Where a building is being upgraded, hearing aug solutions can replicate solutions in other buildings but only if they comply with 2022 Building Quality Standards Handbook regs. 2022 regs require are same as 2022 regs in requiring an on-wall interface which connects to various transmitters.