Student writing in classFor more than 140 years, sight- and hearing-impaired children from birth to age 21 have attended the Colorado School for The Deaf and The Blind (CSDB), a state-funded facility serving communities throughout Colorado. Some time ago, CSDB came to us with the concern that they needed a way to reach every single student and staff member instantly — particularly in times of crisis. Different needs and challenges mean you need different ways to give every person equal access to information.

In short, CSDB’s challenges were three-fold:

  • To communicate instantly with every blind/low-vision and deaf/hard-of-hearing staff and student in emergencies.
  • To communicate routine information to all staff and students at the same time.
  • To facilitate learning and communication via disparate systems (e.g. fire alarm, building automation, etc.)

The solution was to combine visual and voice systems gradually, as budget allowed, including:

  • LED signage and visual PA with speakers and flasher-lighting systems.
  • PC alert pop-up messaging across campus.
  • Interface with cell phones for verbal and text communication.
  • LCD panels for both visual and audio communication in common areas.
  • Interface between existing fire alarm, building access and automation systems, automatic messaging and flashing-light system.
  • Signage with voice and visual synchronization.

Outcomes included:

  • Equal access to information for all staff and students, no matter their needs or limitations.
  • Staff and students receive emergency alerts instantly and simultaneously via visual and voice notifications.
  • Everyone receives daily announcements, class and schedule updates at the same time.
  • More importantly, CSDB has reduced risks to all students and staff, who feel more confident to act and become independent citizens.

Keep in mind big changes to school security, mass and emergency communications don’t require a massive, upfront investment. Rather, organizations can repurpose what they already have and add layers of communication and functionality as resources allow, as CSDB has done.

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