We are intending to build our home ADA barrier-free compliant, part of which has always been making sure people with limited mobility can reach all receptacles to plug things in, and also imposes limitations on how difficult it can be to operate things like doorknobs with a single hand. Yet the new tamper resistant outlets are so challenging to plug things into that even fully mobile, healthy, intelligent, and strong able-bodied people need both hands to put the plug in and are usually cursing at it before they finally get it to go in as much as a minute later.

This seems to defeat the purpose of ADA requirements. My husband has limited hand mobility already, which is only going to get worse as his disease progresses. Furthermore, we do not have children and will live in this home until we die, and I am only at my half century mark this year. It would seem that ADA and the NEC are at odds here, and if NEC doesn't make exceptions to tamper resistance for folks with disabilities, they are going to find that disabled people put power strips into all their tamper-resistant receptacles, and then instead of only two points where kids could contact power without TR protection there will be 6 or more at each receptacle and the hazard of a cord that can be damaged, too.

  • Does the ADA apply to private homes? – Shimon Rura Jan 7 '17 at 4:41
  • We have those outlets in our kitchen; truly a PIA. I haven't investigated, but my guess is that other tamper-resistant outlets might be better-designed and less annoying. – Daniel Griscom Jan 7 '17 at 12:17
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    Are you running into this with all the TR receptacles you seen, or just cheap builder-grade units? I'd see about trying some plugs in some spec- or better yet commercial-grade TR receptacles and seeing if those work better for you. – ThreePhaseEel Jan 7 '17 at 15:09
  • You bring up a good point. I'm going to petition UL to update the standards for "power strips", to require them to be tamper resistant too (if this requirement does not already exist). – Tester101 Jan 7 '17 at 15:56

No, for several reasons.

To the extent there is a conflict, there is no conflict.

State laws adopt NEC. ADA is a Federal law. Federal law preempts state, as was decided at the Appomattox Court House in 1865.

The essence of ADA is You must do what is easy. That never goes away, but a few things are specifically exempted, including how single family homes are constructed. The core rule still applies, for instance, to a landlord renting to an ADA tenant.

NEC does not require ADA-inaccessible sockets

NEC requires listed tamper-resistant receptacles. They delegate the definition of "tamper resistant" to Underwriter's Laboratories.

It does not require they be frustrating and difficult to use; that is decided by the individual manufacturers, and to a certain extent the UL's testing rules (which may be a place to make some legal progress).

Not surprisingly, cheap ones are cheap. You can't just grab a terrible one and go "See?" You must make a reasonable effort to find a quality unit, or show that the nature of UL's certification process makes that unlikely. It's on you; you're claiming tamper-resistant receptacles are not accessible, and bold claims require bold proof.

Be prepared for compromise

The people enforcing NEC are your local electrical inspectors, which NEC calls the AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction). Be prepared for some back-n-forth with them. For instance the AHJ may borrow a page from NEC 517.18C and allow a tamper resistant cover.

As long as they can come up with a reasonable way to comply, you probably wouldn't be able to pop an ADA exemption. This is where ADA works against you: You must do what is easy.

  • The "bold claims require bold proof" argument seems really weird to me here. I would say the burden of proof is always on the answer, not on the question. – Brilliand Mar 12 '19 at 11:31
  • @Brilliand Because I'm not saying that. The context isn't question vs answer, it's (hypothetical) AHJ vs (hypothetical) non-TR receptacle installer that no TR receptacle is accessible. I am saying if non-TR installer can prove that, then ADA trumps NEC. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Mar 12 '19 at 12:32
  • "Federal law preempts state"? Not really. Only if there is an actual conflict. Here, the federal ADA does not apply in the slightest (within a private dwelling), so there is no conflict, and the state-enacted NEC would prevail. – Upnorth Dec 25 '19 at 4:26

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