Vancouver Doorknob Ban: Round Handles Will Be Dead As A, Well, Doorknob After City Council Amends Building Code

Doorknobs in Vancouver will eventually  be as dead as a, well, doorknob after the city’s legislature approved a ban on knobs in newly constructed buildings as of March in a move towards accessibility.

Instead of doorknobs, Vancouverites will see levers on doors and sinks of new buildings after the Vancouver City Council voted in September to amend its building code; existing structures are grandfathered into the new regulations. Vancouver is the only one in Canada with its own building code, according to the Vancouver Sun.

The future of the doorknob may be bleak in Vancouver, but Allen Joslyn, president of the Antique Door Knob Collectors of America, thinks the round handle industry will keep on turning. But Joslyn told the Sun that he thinks Vancouver’s doorknob ban is excessive.

“I can understand if you have a public building where everybody wants to have free access and that is a problem,” he told the paper. “But to say that when I build my private home and nobody is disabled that I have to put levers on, strikes me as overreach.”

While the lever handles can’t be switched in public buildings, homeowners who buy new construction will be able to replace the levers for doorknobs. Will Johnston, a former Vancouver building inspector who helped write the new building code, doesn’t see the doorknob totally disappearing from the city. But he also won’t be disappointed if the doorknob goes away.

“We keep talking about the doorknob. Go into Home Depot and look at how many lever door handles there are. There are lots because that is the trend,” he told the Sun. ““Technology changes. Things change. We live with that. … When I look at what we are proposing, it is simply good design. It allows for homes to be built that can be used more easily for everybody.”

The doorknob ban is a move that will help the elderly, the arthritic, and the disabled, who may have difficulty turning a round handle.  Vancouver’s new building code represents a change in philosophy known as universal design, where buildings are already outfitted to be convenient for such groups instead of designs that benefit larger portions of society.

“Basically, the idea is that you try to make environments that are as universally usable by any part of the population,” Tim Stainton, a professor and director of the School of Social Work at the University of B.C., told the Sun. “The old model was adaptation, or adapted design. You took a space and you adapted for use of the person with a disability. What universal design says is let’s turn it around and let’s just build everything so it is as usable by the largest segments of the population as possible.”

There are already examples of universal design, Stainton said.

“A really simple version is the cut curbs on every corner. That helps elderly people, people with visual impairments, moms with strollers. It makes a sidewalk that could otherwise be difficult for parts of the population universally accessible,” he said.

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