An AP article appeared in the news across Ohio over the weekend, reporting that on Friday, the Ohio Board of Building Standards gave final approval to rules allowing classroom barricade devices to be used in Ohio schools. But a disability rights group has weighed in at the 11th hour, pointing out that the devices do not comply with the ADA.
“The Americans with Disabilities Act requires that locks be usable by people with disabilities and doesn’t hold an exception for the devices, according to the Ohio Disability Rights Law and Policy Center.
That inconsistency may prevent some school employees from being able to use the devices and ‘has the potential to create an environment where they are discriminated against because of their inability to operate this device,’ said Michael Kirkman, the center’s executive director.”
Here’s where I’m confused…the disability rights group stated (I’m paraphrasing) that if a school chooses to purchase the devices, and a teacher has a disability that would prevent their use of the device, then the school has to make accommodations for that teacher (ie – supply a different type of lock). If these were existing devices – like knobs (instead of levers) in an existing building, maybe accommodating only the teacher with the disability would be acceptable. But these are new products which don’t meet the accessibility standards – why don’t the ADA requirements apply?
It could be because the new Ohio law requires devices which are installed temporarily, and does not allow a device that is permanently installed. If the device was permanently installed, the accessibility standards mandate operable hardware that requires no tight grasping, pinching, or twisting. Components that are not a permanently-attached part of the hardware, like keys, are not subject to the same requirements. I’m guessing the new language specifically requires “temporary” locking devices for this reason.
If a school decides to buy all new doorknobs for their school, and only buy a lever handle for the one classroom with a teacher who has a disability, in my opinion that would not meet the intent of the ADA. What makes it ok to do the same thing with classroom barricade devices? Given the many other concerns about these locking methods with regard to egress, fire protection, and the potential for unauthorized use with no means of authorized entry, I’m still perplexed.
Note: The Ohio rules require the temporary locking device to be removed with one operation if the school is not equipped with a sprinkler system, or with no more than two operations if the school is fully sprinklered. There are additional requirements which must be met if the devices are to be used. There is more information here, and the final rules are available here.