In Search of Equitable Learning Environments: The Acoustics of Classrooms Used in Mainstreaming Hearing-Disadvantaged Students
Responding to complaints from students and their parents, the administration of a school system with an ongoing policy of "mainstreaming" sensory-challenged students, hired the services of an acoustical consultant to test designated classrooms to determine whether a problem existed, and if so what could be done about it. The consultant conducted tests and issued a report that concluded that there was no problem and no corrective action was warranted. A parent of one of the school children with a known hearing impairment and who had reported having considerable difficulty in one the classrooms tested by the consultant asked this investigator to review the acoustical consultant's report, with the objectives being to help him understand the substance of the consultant's report and to verify that his conclusions were valid.
Using the acoustical consultant's own test data, and employing respected and long-accepted documentation from the fields of acoustics, human factors engineering/ergonomics, and special education, this investigator clarified selected sections of the acoustical consultants report and issued his own findings. These findings differed appreciably from those of the acoustical consultant, particularly as to the acceptability of the classrooms' current ambient noise levels and reverberation times. Acoustical design criteria for remodeling these classrooms was recommended as well as specific approaches for correcting the situation so that the rooms would be equitable for normal and mainstreamed hearing-impaired students alike.