It can be challenging for college students to learn if it's hard for them to see and hear. The right acoustic planning, mics, loudspeakers, DSPs, and displays can go a long way toward mitigating physical challenges—including when students aren’t even in the classroom.
But not every solution is obvious. For example, bigger displays aren’t necessarily better for viewing information.
“As displays get bigger, it is difficult to maintain crisp text and graphics due to the diluted pixel density,” says Jennifer Davis, Planar Systems vice president of marketing. “The same 1920x1080 pixels appear smaller on a 42-inch display than they do on an 80-inch, for instance, especially if the scaling is done poorly.
In some situations, a 4K display might be the best option for ensuring readability of even the smallest fonts. Another important set of specs is mounted depth, especially for applications such as digital signage in common areas. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) says that signage, videowalls, and other displays can’t protrude from the surrounding wall by more than 4 inches (100 mm) except when their bottom is more than 80 inches above the ground or finished floor. Don’t overlook the specs for the mounts, too.
If the displays use touch for interaction, there are two options: Install them at a height that’s not a stretch for someone in a wheelchair, or install a touchpanel nearby to enable interactivity. If the system uses cameras to enable interactivity, make sure that their location and angles can accommodate every user scenario.
“Often accessibility comes down to project specific objectives and design considerations,” Davis says. “For instance, not all touch technology works with gloved hands, so Planar Systems offers projected capacitive [and] IR-based systems.”
On the audio side, directional speakers are one way to increase intelligibility around, say, digital signage and without having it spill into adjacent areas, where it becomes noise. A great audio experience also is key for students who are severely visually impaired. (For a more detailed discussion of audio technologies and design strategies, check out “How Tech Managers Can Accommodate Students of All Ages.”)
Finally, the increase in distance learning creates a new set of considerations. An obvious one is that faculty might have to wear headset mics, which avoid problems such as not using a handheld mic correctly. Less obvious is the need for what Western Kentucky University’s Robert Wyatt and Leyla Zhuhadar call a “manymedia” strategy.
For example, students taking a class remotely would get video and/or audio in the form of a Podcast, plus a transcript and any PowerPoint slides. Software such as Tegrity enables speech transcription and thus captioning. That selection ensures that a lecture can meet just about any student’s requirements. (For more tips, check out Wyatt’s and Zhuhadar’s slide deck at http://ada-wku.pbworks.com/w/file/1367272/Accessibility_Compliance_in_Distance_Learning_ELI_07.ppt.)
Since 1998, Tim Kridel has covered the tech and telecom industries for a variety of publications and websites, including AV Technology, Carrier Ethernet News, Digital Innovation Gazette, Pro AV, and InAVate. His coverage includes carrier ethernet, mobile apps, speech recognition, digital signage, FTTx, videoconferencing, Wi-Fi, and cellular. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.