How Do People with Low Vision . . . Open a Locker?

At my middle school, all of the lockers were equipped with combination locks built directly into the locker doors. While this was a great security feature, I was unable to see the numbers on the combination lock due to my print disability, so we were left wondering how I was going to store my backpack during the school day. Fortunately, my parents and the school were able to work together and develop a solution that we implemented in high school as well. Here is how we were able to get an alternative lock for my locker.

Include accommodation in SAP, 504, or IEP

I had a Student Assistance Plan (SAP) at the beginning of middle school, which eventually was converted to an IEP for low vision. One of the accommodations written in was that I would be able to use an alternative locking mechanism to secure my locker, that would be provided by my family. The school reserved the right to search my locker at any given time and have access to it if needed, just like all of the other lockers in the school.

The lock itself

I used a padlock and had several copies of keys made that I gave to different staff members. This ensured that they would be able to access my locker if I got locked out or if it needed to be searched. Staff members that had my key included my homeroom teacher, a second trusted teacher, principal, assistant principal, and secretary.

Setting it up

The custodial staff would disengage the combination lock at the beginning of the year. I then would hook the padlock through the hole in the locker handle. It took me about five seconds to open or close my locker at any given time.

Locker location

I always requested a lower level locker so I would not have to worry about objects falling on me. This also meant students were less likely to mess with my locker while walking through the halls.  It was located with the rest of the lockers for my class and grade, and did not have any special features other than the modified lock.

Finding the locker

Even though it had a very distinctive padlock, it still was sometimes difficult to spot my locker. Luckily, the print numbers on the top were engraved so they could easily be felt. If this wasn't the case, I would have requested clear tactile dots be placed on the locker door.

Alert staff of locker accommodation

One day in eighth grade, while I was grabbing my binder, a teacher noticed that my locker looked different than the rest of the others. Because of this, the teacher was convinced I was hiding drugs in my locker and sent me to the office, ordering a search on my locker. I found this slightly amusing, given that it would be silly to hide something in the locker that looks different than the rest, but it still happened anyway, and I was twenty minutes late for class. Make sure that other staff are aware of this accommodation so a similar situation does not occur.

If the lock is cut off

In high school, the padlock to my locker was cut off at least twice, because school security thought I was hiding drugs (again). To cover this up, they replaced my padlock with a different one. They did not alert me to what had happened, so my key didn't work and I had no idea why. If this happens, report it to school administration as soon as possible and get copies of the new key.

Padlock alternative

One of my friends used a speed dial lock, which involves the user moving a button with their thumb, in a pattern of their choice. This was much easier for them than using a key. An example combination would be up up, down, left, right, down, up, and the school had copies of their combination on file.  A similar lock can be purchased on Amazon here.

Have an explanation prepared

If a student or staff member asks why your locker is different, have a short explanation prepared. I would say "I can't see the numbers on the combination lock, so I use this lock instead." If it was a staff member, I would add that school administration has copies of the keys if there are any issues.

A note on teasing

While I did receive a few comments from other students about how my locker looked different than the rest, I didn't have to deal with much teasing, likely because it was pretty well camouflaged. If teasing does become a problem, report it to the homeroom teacher as well as a guidance counselor or other school administration.

Thankfully, I never had to deal with stolen items or any students breaking into my locker when I used the padlock. This is definitely an accommodation that my family and I didn't think about at first, but it was necessary, not to mention extremely helpful to have.



Posted by Diane BraunerAug 14, 2017

These are great tips for making lockers accessible.  As an Orientation and Mobility Specialist, I often hand-pick lockers for my students with visual impairments.  An end locker is easy to locate and often provides the student with a little extra space.  For a high school student in a large school, I also consider the student's routes and pick an appropriate locker section that is convenient.  Most of my students prefer the top locker, so that they do not have to bend over; however, a few shorter students have preferred bottom lockers.

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