Why this city banned doorknobs

All new buildings in Vancouver will be required to use door levers now, and there's a pretty good reason for it.

By MSN Money Partner Nov 21, 2013 3:11PM
Credit: © Fotosearch/Getty Images

Caption: Chrome doorknob on a white doorBy Adam Taylor, Business Insider

While the news out of Canada may be focused on Toronto at the moment, an even stranger story has come out from the West Coast: Vancouver has banned doorknobs.

The news appeared as a brief item last week in the Vancouver Sun, but had actually been decided some time ago. The city, the only one in Canada that is allowed to set its own building codes, decreed the changes in its Accessible Housing Bylaw in September. As of March 2014, all new buildings built in the city will have to include levers rather than doorknobs.

In case you are unfamiliar, this is a doorknob, and this is a door lever. If you are not in the building trade, chances are the difference between the two probably seems cosmetic. But the concept behind Vancouver's ban is simple, and makes perfect sense: Door levers are easier to open for older people, people with injuries, or people with disabilities.

"The door handle most inaccessible could be the round door knob (which requires tight grasping and twisting to operate)," the Center for Independence of Individuals with Disabilities (CID) says on its website, and suggests that doorknobs be replaced with levers.

Vancouver's ban on doorknobs is based around the city's adoption of the concept of universal design, Jeff Lee wrote in The Vancouver Sun this weekend. “The old model was adaptation, or adapted design," Tim Stainton, a professor and director of the School of Social Work at the University of B.C., told Lee. "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.”

Vancouver's ban won't mean the immediate end of doorknobs -- it isn't retroactive, for one thing, so buildings currently featuring doorknobs will keep them, and there's no law on changing knobs to levers in your own home -- but Lee notes that Vancouver tends to influence Canada's building codes.

You should also consider how many examples of universal design have subtly crept into your everyday life; curb cuts, sidewalk ramps, low-floor buses, even things like closed-captioning for television. In fact, the city's proposals go far beyond simple doorknobs, with things like wider doorways, lower light switches, and higher power outlets. Making things accessible for everyone makes sense to almost everyone. The doorknob may be doomed.

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Nov 21, 2013 3:58PM
Love those building code guys- 
Yes levers are easier for the 0.1% of our population that are disabled, but they are also easier for the 10% of our population that are toddlers who can now easily open the front door to the street , the door to the basement steps and the back door to the pool.   And your dog will be delighted, because he will soon learn that just a quick paw at that thing will set him free as a 60's hippie in San Francisco.

Sorry Molly758- posted mine before I saw you already had the same thought.
Nov 21, 2013 4:01PM
So how are they going to protect themselves from velociraptors now?
Nov 21, 2013 4:32PM

I purchased a walk up apartment in NYC.  It is on the 5th floor of a 150 year old building with no elevator and a tiny vestibule at the entrance.  During a remodel of the unit the city informed me that I had to remove a wall from the bathroom and leave it exposed to the dining area because the room was not big enough to be used by a person in a wheel chair.  This is a private residence at the top of five flights of stairs!  I "advised" the city permit office that if a person in a wheel chair ever purchased that unit from me that they could pay to have the wall removed for themselves.  Of course they politely told me to "Go <have a nice day> with yourself."  I took the wall down, had them sign off on the inspection and then built a new wall after they left.  While universal design may be a trend it does not always make sense.

Nov 21, 2013 3:53PM
Typical do-gooders.  No one bothered to mention that levers are also much easier for toddlers, cats and dogs to operate.
Nov 21, 2013 3:55PM
Does it never end?  Anymore, EVERYTHING is designed/set/done for the minority.  EVERYTHING.  It has become quite tiresome.
Nov 21, 2013 4:16PM
Its much easier to break a lever than a knob, so forced entry break-in's will likely increase.
Nov 21, 2013 3:53PM
Just another case of the will of the few outweighing that of the many. Another minority dictating changes that will cost most people that will never need these changes. The old "majority rules" is out. Now if you are the only one with a certain issue, the government will make everyone change, and pay for those changes, to suit that one person. Absolutely ridiculous!
Nov 21, 2013 4:20PM
Yeah, that idea to make all busses wheelchair accessible has worked out great hasn't it. How many now don't have any bus transportation because those busses are too expensive?
Nov 21, 2013 5:00PM
I don't care which handle I use to get in a Public Building as long as me and my cane can get in. Now in my home, don't even try to tell me which one I can have.
Nov 21, 2013 5:17PM
What they aren't thinking of is the fact you can catch your clothing on a lever more easily than a knob, take a door at the top of a stairway for instance bet that won't end well.
Nov 21, 2013 4:49PM
This is where we are headed folks unless we put a stop to it in 2014!
Nov 21, 2013 5:09PM
There is a point reached that people should not have government entities dictating to the general public.....this is a bad law....
Nov 21, 2013 5:06PM
Nov 21, 2013 5:25PM
I'm a little surprised that so many people are commenting that toddlers will now have easier access to escaping. When my daughter was little, I always had a deadbolt on the front, back and basement doors (and never left the key in it) and all the responsible parents I know do the same, so it wouldn't matter if there was a knob or a lever-toddlers can't get past dead bolts. 
Nov 21, 2013 5:07PM

The lever type device is also very easy for small children to operate, accidentally or intentionally.

So while your occupied (bathroom, laundry, making lunch, etc) your toddler can pop the door open and be out in the street without you even realizing it.


How about this novel idea...let the individual owner decide what type of device they want for themselves?

Nov 21, 2013 4:54PM
@ 1 1/2 years old my grandson can open doors with knobs.
Nov 21, 2013 4:08PM
Does this also apply to outside doors as well?
Nov 21, 2013 5:07PM

I lived with round door knobs for 43 years.  Then, I bought a new house that had door levers in it -- I absolutely HATE door levers!


1) The lever puts unnecessary torque strain on the latch assembly.  (Yeah, I'm an engineer.)


2) The lever hits the blinds installed on exterior doors with windows.  Door knobs don't hit the blinds.

Nov 21, 2013 4:59PM
Nov 21, 2013 5:22PM
Actually, it's very rare to see a door knob anywhere in the world, the US is the exception, not the norm. 
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