Wednesday, April 19, 2017

ADA Compliance and Reasonable Accommodation in the Active Learning Classroom

The Americans with Disabilities Act, enacted in 1990, defined the needs for building accessibility and accommodation particularly for students. Over time there has been a trend to include the same accessibility and reasonable accommodation standards for instructors.

By Robert Kensinger
Vice President of Sales
Spectrum Industries Inc.

The leaders of America’s colleges and universities want to comply with the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), not only because it has been the law since 1990, but because they recognize it’s the right thing to do for their students who face physical and mental challenges to succeeding in the world of higher education. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the evolution of furniture requirements for both students and instructors in the classroom.

The requirements for ADA compliance are defined by the United States Government’s agency Access Board.

In the nearly 27 years since the ADA was enacted, there have been a number of lawsuits filed against colleges for the alleged failure to comply with the ADA’s many regulations and standards. These cases and outcomes are documented by the University of Minnesota.

At Spectrum Industries we have sold classroom tables and lecterns to more than 40 percent of all the colleges and universities in the United States.  In this article, I would like to review some of the more notable trends we have seen in active learning environments.

Colleges and universities are moving to active learning classrooms.

In active learning, the table design moves from traditional, individual tables that are in forward-facing, straight, stationary rows to flexible layouts and furnishings. Tables and chairs are mobile. Students and instructors move during instruction. Students face each other in groups to collaborate. There is often no front to the classroom and there may be multiple monitors on the wall or attached to desks for students to share information. Computers and mobile devices are used constantly and convenient access to power is needed to keep these devices charged.

Tables for students in the active learning classroom must have wheelchair accessible seating positions. The depth, width and height of these seating positions is defined in the Access Board guidelines. In addition, there are strict standards for the width of aisles and turnaround spaces for a wheelchair bound person. Typically, five percent of all seating positions in the classroom should be wheelchair accessible.

Active learning classrooms need power outlets at convenient locations. Students use both computers and mobile devices so both 120VAC and USB power outlets should be close to, or mounted on, the table to support instruction. There are specific standards in the Access Board guidelines for reach by a wheelchair bound student to have equal access to charging.

Active learning tables seating two persons or less should be on casters promoting easy movement allowing larger groups to face each other. This is less important if the table already provides seating for the entire group.

Tables that are mobile can have sharing monitors mounted on them for students. However, if the monitor is mounted on the wall adjacent to the table, and the table is mobile on wheels, there is potentially another problem. There is a standard that requires obstruction like a monitor on the wall to not protrude more than four inches as it becomes a risk for eyesight impaired persons who may walk into it.

There are a number of manufacturers who make matching active learning tables featuring electric height adjustability. These flexible tables allow an individual to adjust from a sit to stand position in seconds. Placing at least one height adjustable table mixed with fixed height tables in a classroom is both unobtrusive and provides reasonable accommodation for those who have a back impairment. Indeed, many students like working in a standing position.

There are similar opportunities for consideration in regards to the instructor in the active learning classroom.

In active learning there is no fixed front of the classroom. The instructor typically is engaged, moves about the room and frequently faces different directions.

The lecterns for these classrooms are often mobile (on casters) and electrically tethered allowing the instructor to face the direction of the student. This mobility also helps if there is a wheelchair bound instructor. As classroom density has increased, lecterns have been moved closer to the front of the classroom and reduced in size. Mobility allows the lecterns to be relocated allowing wheelchair bound instructors to gain the increased space for the required turn radius.

There is no single ideal height for a lectern. Most fixed height lecterns have a work surface for instructors between 36 and 42 inches. Pullout keyboard trays are typically 4 inches lower than the work surface. Document camera drawers are typically more than 7 inches below the work surface. More than 50 percent of instructors will report that either their lectern is too high, too low or some features of the lectern are not reasonably useable.

Reasonable accommodation in business and industry has driven corporations to provide sit to stand workstations for employees who are in need. There are solutions for lecterns in classrooms to accommodate both a wide range of height adjustability and access for a wheelchair bound person. A number of states and higher education institutions have already established this as a standard in new classrooms.

Today most of our new lectern deployments are height adjustable. The cost premium for a designer approved and instructor preferred lectern is so little that it is becoming campus standards for all classrooms.

A reasonable range of motion begins at 30 inches for adult seating height and extends to 42 inches for standing height. A wheelchair bound person must be able to sit under the table with the same standards as a desk. Controls for the lectern and the instructional tools, such as document cameras, have reach specifications. Simply adding a flip-up shelf to a lectern does not fully meet the needs of all instructors.

Height adjustable lecterns do have a higher safety requirement than traditional lecterns. There should be no pinch points and the lecterns should be tip tested to ANSI/BIFMA or UL60950-1 standards. The design should not allow the lectern to be raised off the floor and inadvertently be lowered on the wheelchair bound person’s feet.

Lastly, some institutions have disconnected the adjustable lectern from the rack mounted equipment, and allow the height adjustable, ADA compliant, mobile, sit to stand lectern to move all around the classroom. The instructor controls the projected content with a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. We offer a battery powered lectern that provides the ADA compliance that does just that.

The active learning classroom and the need for mobility, collaboration and accessibility is changing the landscape of student tables and chairs. Instructors have the same right for reasonable accommodation.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Meet Our Territory Managers! November Edition

One Wednesday each month we are featuring one of our Territory Managers. This month we're introducing you to Brian Myhre, Territory Manager of Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. A native of Eau Claire, WI, Brian Myhre is at home working with customers throughout his Midwest territory.

Brian began working for Spectrum in 1996 cleaning the dust collector in the rough mill, over the years he has moved through many different positions, including manufacturing, tech service, prototype shop, inside sales, and installation services, before becoming a territory manager. He truly knows the ins and outs of the company. 

“My favorite things about Spectrum are our quality products, our team and our customers,” said Myhre. “They all combine to create a fun and challenging environment with so much variety that no two days are the same.”

Myhre believes that customers are drawn to Spectrum for the same reason. They know that when they come to Spectrum they are going to get a quality product, and we will stand behind that quality promise.

“I currently enjoy working with schools and matching them up with our great mobile computing carts,” said Myhre.

Myrhe states that in lieu of traditional schooling, he has learned everything he knows through the teams he has worked with at Spectrum, including his coworkers and managers. One of his most interesting memories with the company was the time he and Scott Dorn, currently Spectrum’s vice president of sales and marketing, spent in a Missouri prison together. He insists it’s not as bad as it sounds, they spent a week doing an installation of computer desks there.

While on the road, Brian likes to relax when possible and enjoys watching sporting events and working out. Having recently moved back to Eau Claire, WI, he keeps busy with house projects and his family. He and his wife, who he met while they were both working at Spectrum, have a total of four children.

Find the Territory Manager and Inside Sales Representative in your state on our website.

Friday, January 6, 2017

What is a Modern Classroom?

EdSurge took the opportunity to ask educational professionals the question, “What does a 'Modern Classroom' look like and what should Educators leave behind?”

The answers were not unified, nor simple, but give a good look into the future of classrooms, including the attributes of collaboration, communication, reversed roles – teachers facilitate learning, messy, loud and fun.

You can learn more about EdSurge's article at

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Product Update! Flex Flip Tables now in Expressions Line

Take a room from classroom/training style learning to collaboration in minutes with the Flex Flip Table. From active learning environments to meeting rooms, the Flex Flip Table can meet the needs of any collaboration layout, while ADA accessible options allow you to engage any user in any environment.

  • Now available in Expressions Line of 17 popular laminate choices and four metal colors to compliment existing or new furniture and spaces
  • Worksurfaces available in 48”, 60”, and 72” wide versions
  • Tables available in 24” or 30” depths to fit in any space
  • Adjustable height legs with heights available from 25.63" - 34.63" in 1" increments
  • The flip motion of the top allows the tables to nest for compact storage in a third of the space as normal tables
  • New optional Cove Power Module and Wire Management Kit to manage power and portable devices

Take a look at all of the features of the Flex Flip Tables and request a quote or demo today!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Flex Training Table Q&A with Sue Emerson

Have you heard of our Flex Training Table system? This adaptable system allows you to effortlessly reconfigure a room from straight and round training tables to race-track, horseshoe, and d-shaped collaborative environments. Sue Emerson, Territory Manager for Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming, has found this system of tables instrumental in creating active learning and training environments for her customers.

Q: What markets do you typically sell Flex Training Tables to? 
A: Most of mine have been for Higher Ed and/or general classroom use.

Q: What kinds of spaces are they being used in? 
A: Generally these are for classrooms. One project was a small K-12 library where they put them around the perimeter of the room to use with desktop computers. Any new requests I’ve received have been for collaboration.   They like the idea of being able to move the desks around, like 2 rectangular with a ½ round which can be used to break apart in small groups or put together as a d-shape collaborative space.

Q: What are your customers saying about the Flex Training Tables?
A: They like that they are very durable and mobile. The tables can be ordered with 2 or 4 casters so that rooms can be rearranged easily and quickly. They like the flexibility of being able to move them around the room. The cost is also attractive.

Q: What features do they have that customers are attracted to?
A: Cost (as stated above), but also the different sizes available. There are different widths and lengths along with round table options to meet the configuration they need.

Q: Why would customers choose this style table over another option?
A: Loyal customers know they are durable products. They also can add on different sizes and options as needed.

Discover more features of the Flex Training Table system and request a quote today! 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Meet Our Territory Managers! September Edition

One Wednesday each month we are featuring one of our Territory Managers. This month we're introducing you to Nathan Erwin, Spectrum’s Territory Manager in the deep south of the United States, covering Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee.

“I am right in the heart of SEC country,” said Erwin. “In SEC country everybody involved with the universities loves to talk about their football team for as long as you will listen. It’s a great way to connect with my customers.” 

Having graduated from Clemson University, he enjoys the banter between the different schools. He also enjoys demonstrating the InVision Access Table to the schools and businesses in his territory state. It is the perfect product for collaboration because it allows that type of learning while still being a functional, good-looking table. His customers are attracted to both the quality of the products and the ability to see it before they buy it.

“They like that we have outside reps that come onsite to perform demos, allowing them to see how a unit looks like and performs in their environment before having to buy,” said Erwin. “They know the furniture is going to be durable, reliable, and will perform like we said it would, so that prevents a lot of anxiety for them.”

All of these factors play into many customers having a bias towards Spectrum products Erwin stated.

“They really like that we ask for and take their feedback seriously,” he said. “When I tell them that is actually where a lot of our improvements come from, they are impressed with this business strategy and they start becoming Spectrum champions.”

While the customers are an essential part of the work he does, he said that the people at Spectrum really make it a great company to be with.

“The support I have received from both the outside and inside sales teams has been invaluable,” said Erwin. “Anytime I need a piece of advice or am in a bind, I know I have someone I can reach out to.”

When not traveling with work, Erwin enjoys hanging out with his girlfriend Emory and his dog Larry, playing golf with his friends, watching college football, and hanging out with his family.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

All-In-One Desk for Any Space!

One of the most common problems to overcome in planning a new space or redesigning an old space is how to fit everything needed into the limited space available. Often times training rooms and classrooms need to be used for multiple purposes including having computers available for projects and courses as well as desk space for projects, writing, and tests.

In response to this need, Spectrum developed an easy, all-in-one solution, the Flex InSight Desk. This desk allows for a seamless transition from an ordinary desk to a computer desk just by flipping open the top, providing quick and easy access to the monitor, keyboard, and mouse.
  • Desks available in 36”, 60”, and 72” wide versions and 24” or 30” depths to fit in any space
  • Optional CPU sling when all-in-one computers are not used
  • Exclusive VESA monitor mount allows pan and tilt for optimal viewing angles
  • Monitor lid friction dampener provides support and slows the closing lid to keep hands and fingers safe
  • Large monitor compartment allows monitor to be safely raised and lowered without damage
  • Available in Expressions Line including 15 popular laminate choices and four metal colors to match any design

Recreate your space with the Flex Insight Desk – request a quote today! Don’t forget to work with your Territory Manager for product demonstrations and room layouts!