FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
HEARING AID COMPATIBILITY AND VOLUME CONTROL
What does HAC/VC stand for?
"Hearing Aid Compatibility/Volume Control"
What makes a telephone "hearing aid compatible?"
A telephone is hearing aid compatible if it provides internal means (i.e., without the use of external devices) for effective use with hearing aids that are designed to be compatible with telephones that meet the FCC's technical standard for hearing aid compatibility (the technical standard is codified at 47 C.F.R. § 68.316). This is usually accomplished by inserting a telecoil in telephones that detects, or is compatible with, a similar telecoil in the hearing aid, and thus allows the hearing aid to "couple" with the telephone through an electromagnetic field.
Are all coin-operated and credit-card operated telephones required to be hearing aid compatible?
Yes. See 47 C.F.R. §§ 68.112(a), 68.112(b)(4).
Are telephones set up for emergency use required to be hearing aid compatible?
Yes. Also, telephones in areas where people with hearing disabilities may be isolated in the event of an emergency (i.e., elevators, tunnels, highways, and workplace common areas) must be hearing aid compatible.
Why would I need to purchase HAC/VC phones if I don't have a hearing disability?
Places of employment and places of public accommodation are frequented by many persons, including employees and visitors, and the likelihood of a person with a hearing disability being isolated in an emergency and needing access to a telephone in such settings is greater. The FCC has a number of rules requiring establishment owners in various settings, including the workplace, hospitals, nursing homes and hotels, to install HAC/VC phones under various timelines, and to ensure that new and replacement telephones are HAC/VC. See 47 C.F.R. § 68.112 for the FCC's HAC/VC installation rules.
Is HAC/VC part of the Americans with Disabilities ADA (ADA) or the Telecommunications Act of 1996?
No. Regulations for HAC/VC are promulgated under the authority of the Hearing Aid Compatibility Act of 1988 (HAC Act), codified at 47 U.S.C. § 610. The intent of the HAC Act is to ensure reasonable access to telephone service by persons with hearing disabilities.
Will a HAC/VC phone make it possible for people who are deaf to use the telephone?
It depends upon the individual's degree and nature of hearing loss, and factors such as whether a person uses a hearing aid or can hear with volume amplification. Some individuals with hearing disabilities do not use hearing aids or cannot benefit from amplification, and may access the telephone network primarily through text telephones (TTYs) and telecommunications relay services (TRS).
What is "volume control" under the FCC rules?
Volume control allows the telephone user to adjust the volume of the sound emanating from the handset. An analog or digital telephone complies with the Commission's volume control requirements if the telephone is equipped with a receive volume control that provides, through the receiver in the handset or headset of the telephone, 12 dB of gain minimum and up to 18 dB of gain maximum, when measured in terms of Receive Objective Loudness Rating (ROLR).
Are all telephones sold in the U.S. required to be hearing aid compatible?
Yes. As of August 16, 1989, all telephones manufactured or imported for use in the U.S. have been required to be hearing aid compatible. Cordless telephones manufactured or imported for use in the U.S. have also been required to be hearing aid compatible since August 16, 1991. Secure telephones are exempt, as are telephones used with public mobile services or private radio services.
Do all HAC phones sold in the U.S. also have volume control?
Not at present. The definition of hearing aid compatibility was recently expanded to include the volume control feature. Manufacturers and importers will be required to ensure that wireline telephones manufactured imported for use in the U.S. after January 1, 2000 contain a volume control feature.
Are telephones required to have labels indicating they are HAC?
Yes. All hearing aid compatible telephones, including cordless telephones registered under Part 68 of the FCC rules that are manufactured or imported for use in the U.S. after April 1, 1997, must have the letters "HAC" permanently affixed to the telephone. The "HAC" labelling is usually found on the base of the telephone along with other Part 68-required information. Telephones are not required to have "VC" labelling, however, because whether or not the telephone has VC will be evident upon inspection of the telephone.
As an employer, when do I need to replace my phone with a hearing aid compatible phone?
At present, all telephones in workplace common areas must be hearing aid compatible. Examples of workplace common areas include libraries, reception areas, and other areas where employees are reasonably expected to congregate.
All non-common-area workplace telephones must be hearing aid compatible by January 1, 2000, except that employers that purchased telephones between January 1, 1985, through December 31, 1989 will have a few more years, until January 1, 20005, to replace these phones with hearing aid compatible telephones. Non-common-areas include, for example, private offices, work stations and mail rooms.
At present, any time a new telephone is purchased or an old telephone is replaced, the employer must ensure that the new telephone is hearing aid compatible.
After January 1, 2000, or January 1, 20005 (whichever is applicable), there will be a "rebuttable presumption" that all telephones in the workplace are hearing aid compatible. A person may rebut this presumption by making an identification of a telephone as non-HAC and making a bona fide request that it be replaced. The employer will then have 15 working days to replace the non-compliant telephone.
What is a "bona fide request" to replace a telephone in a workplace non-common area?
The person making the request must be an individual present in the normal course of the establishment's business, legitimately on the premises as an employee or invitee of the establishment. The FCC's "rebuttable presumption" does not give someone a right of entry onto the premises of an employer solely for the purpose of investigating and identifying whether an establishment's telephones are HAC.
As an employer, do I have to replace all of my telephones with volume control telephones by January 1, 2000?
No. After January 1, 2000, the employer must simply ensure that any new and replacement telephones acquired after this date also have volume control. Thus, the FCC's rules envision replacement of telephones with volume control telephones on a telephone-by-telephone basis, during natural replacement cycles. Please keep in mind that the HAC and VC requirements are two separate requirements.
I have several deaf employees who need hearing aid compatible telephones. Am I obligated to provide them with these telephones in their office even though the January 1, 2000 deadlines have not arrived?
Yes. Employers must ensure that telephones, including headsets, made available to employees with hearing disabilities for the performance of their duties are hearing aid compatible. (Please note that a HAC phone may not be the accommodation a deaf person needs to use the phone - some may need text telephones, for example, and may be entitled to other accommodations under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act).
I operate a telephone "reservation line" and all my employees use headset equipment. Do I have to replace all my headsets with HAC or VC headsets now?
No. Headset equipment is generally exempt from these requirements, except that, if an employee with a hearing disability needs a hearing aid compatible headset to perform his or her job, one must be provided to that specific employee.
I am a small business owner. Must I comply with all these HAC rules for my workplaces?
Employers with fewer than fifteen employees would be generally exempt from coverage of the workplace non-common area rules and will only have to provide hearing aid compatible telephones in workplace common areas, and on an as-needed basis for employees with hearing disabilities. In calculating the number of "employees" for purposes of compliance, the total employment force of an establishment, and not the number of employees an employer may have at a particular work site, should be the determining factor.
Does my bed and breakfast fall under the definition of a hotel/motel?
Yes. Any establishment open to the general public for the purpose of overnight accommodations for a fee is considered as such. For establishments with fewer than eighty guest rooms, the telephones are not required to be hearing aid compatible until November 1, 1999.
As a hotel owner, am I in compliance with the FCC's HAC rules if I keep a certain number of HAC/VC phones at the front desk, and set them up in a room if a person with a hearing disability checks into that room?
No. Twenty percent of all guest rooms must have been hearing aid compatible by April 1, 1997. Hotels and motels with eighty or more guest rooms must ensure that all room telephones are hearing aid compatible before November 1, 1998, and those with fewer than eighty guest rooms will have until November 1, 1999 to ensure that all room telephones are hearing aid compatible.
For those hotels that bought their telephones during the period January 1, 1985, through December 31, 1989, the rules are modified as follows: (1) twenty percent of your guest rooms must have hearing aid compatible phones available by April 1, 1997; (2) twenty-five percent of all guest rooms by November 1, 1999; and (3) one hundred percent of all guest rooms by January 1, 2001 (for establishments with eighty or more guest rooms) or by January 1, 2004 (for establishments with fewer than eighty guest rooms).
As a hotel owner, must I replace all of my telephones with VC telephones by a certain date?
No. As with workplace non-common areas, volume control telephones must be installed after January 1, 2000 when the first natural opportunity to replace the telephone occurs. Under the Commission's rules, these "natural opportunities" include: (1) any time the hotel or motel room is renovated or newly constructed; and (2) any time the telephone in a hotel or motel room is replaced, or substantially, internally repaired.
If new telephones are purchased or if telephones are replaced after January 1, 2000, hotel and motel owners must ensure that these telephones are HAC/VC.
Are hospitals covered by these rules?
Yes, these rules apply to telephones in "confined settings" such as hospital rooms and nursing home rooms, where a patient or resident may need to signal personnel in the event of an emergency.
Are universities covered by these rules?
To the extent that a university operates an establishment that falls within these rules, such as a hospital or a hotel, that specific facility must comply with these HAC rules. Also, university workplaces must comply with the rules. These rules do not apply to telephones in individual residence halls, because those residence halls offer lodging beyond an "overnight" basis. All coin-operated telephones, telephones designated for emergency use, and telephones in places where a person may be isolated in the event of an emergency (e.g., elevators and bus stops) must be hearing aid compatible.
When must all room telephones in confined settings, such as hospitals and nursing homes, be HAC?
All confined settings, such as hospitals or nursing homes, with over 50 beds must have HAC telephones in all patient rooms at present. Those establishments with less than 50 beds must have HAC telephones in all patient rooms by November 1, 1998.
Also, any time a telephone is replaced or newly purchased, the confined setting owner must ensure that the new telephone is HAC. Any time a telephone is replaced or newly purchased after January 1, 2000, the confined setting owner must also ensure that the telephone has volume control.
Our hospital/nursing home provides signalling devices in the rooms or by the beds so patients can summon personnel in the event of an emergency. Can we rely on this rather than installing a HAC telephone?
Yes, on the condition that the signalling apparatus is available, working, and monitored.
Do the HAC/VC rules apply to prison telephones?
These rules apply only to telephones in the workplaces of prison employees and staff, which are subject to the same workplace requirements as any other employer. Telephones inside prison cells or inmate areas are not covered by these HAC/VC rules. Please note, however, that telephones provided to prison inmates may be subject to the accessibility requirements of other federal laws, such as Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Does my wireless phone have to be HAC/VC?
No. At present, the Commission's HAC requirements only apply to wireline and cordless telephones, not to telephones used with mobile services, such as cellular and PCS telephones.
Can the VC mechanism be on the phone, or does it have to be in the handset?
Either one. The Commission's rules do not specify where on the telephone the VC mechanism must be.
How do I file a complaint if HAC rules are being violated?
Complaint procedures are outlined in the Commission's rules at Sections 68.400-414.
A complaint shall be in writing and shall contain:
(a) The name and address of the complainant,
(b) The name (and address, if known) of the defendant against whom the complaint is made,
(c) A complete statement of the facts, including supporting data, where available, showing that such defendant did or omitted to do anything in violation of Part 68 of the Commission's rules, and
(d) A statement of the relief sought.
An original and two copies of all complaints shall be filed with the state, usually the state public utilities commission. If a state has not adopted the same requirements as the FCC has in rule Sections 68.4 and 68.112, or if the state fails to act within 6 months from the filing of a complaint with the state public utility commission, the Commission will accept the complaint. The complaint may then be mailed to: Federal Communications Commission, Common Carrier Bureau, HAC (Part 68) Complaints, 2000 M Street, Washington, DC 20554. If the state sends written notification to the complainant that the state believes action is unwarranted, the state's notification is not a failure to act.
Where can I get a copy of the HAC rules?
The Commission's HAC rules are available on the FCC's World Wide Web page at http://www.fcc.gov/dtf/hearing.html.