Vancouver bans doorknobs in new buildings

SlateDecember 6, 2013 

In a move to make housing more universally accessible, the city of Vancouver, British Columbia, has banned doorknobs in private homes and apartment buildings.

Starting in March, the doors of new buildings must be equipped instead with more ergonomically friendly, easier-to-use lever handles, the Vancouver Sun reported. The bylaw passed in September but is not retroactive,

City Hall has set an example by replacing its art deco brass doorknobs, which date from 1936.

University of British Columbia professor Tim Stainton told the Sun that the doorknob ban is in the spirit of a concept known as "universal design," which holds that environments should be built to be usable by a majority of people regardless of age or capacity, rather than adapted to meet the needs of the elderly or disabled.

Design that makes everyday things easy to use even for those with physical challenges is the same principle that IDEO designers used when redesigning an OXO Good Grips potato peeler to be easier to use for arthritics. The designers noted that the human-centered design exercise "solved a specific problem for a specific group: Namely, helping people with reduced grip strength to peel things easier. Turned out, it offered a benefit to everyone."

Popular Science pointed out that turning doorknobs can be challenging for arthritic hands, citing a statistic from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimating that 67 million adult Americans will have arthritis by 2030.

Vancouver's doorknob ban is part of a larger effort that will also include installing levers on water faucets. It outlines other new requirements including wider doors, stairs and hallways; lower light switches; higher power outlets; and barrier-free or adaptable showers.

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