comment : 2
Recently, the National Post published two columns regarding the recent Vancouver, Canada city council approval of an amendment to the city building code: to ban doorknobs in the construction of new, single-family homes in favor of lever handles, due to safety and accessibility concerns, as of March 2014. Is This reasonable? See Jesse Kline’s National Post column here. For quite some time, Vancouver has been quietly removing doorknobs in favor of levers in many of its public buildings, replacing historical hardware with plain, gold-toned levers.
No Room for personal preference?
Many people won’t have a strong opinion one way or another regarding this amendment to the building code, since at the moment, it only applies to new construction, however, as Mr. Kline points out, the preference for door knobs must be greater, otherwise a ban would be unnecessary. It seems further likely, that since this decree has caused little reaction of any kind in Vancouver, that well-meaning civil servants could extend the ban to homes under renovation. And as Vancouver does, perhaps other municipalities in the rest of Canada and the United States will do, too. Remember the plain ol’ lightbulb? Banned due to costly energy consumption and it’ll be unavailable sometime in 2014.
In an aging population, levers are certainly easier to operate, as well as for those who have physical disabilities or limitations. It makes sense to strive to make public buildings accessible to everyone, regardless of their physical abilities. But is the outright ban of door knobs for every single new, private, single family home going too far? Is it a case of political correctness in a nanny state run amok? It is worth noting, that the new rules don’t apply to renovations….yet.
There’s already a precedent…
It’s an interesting discussion, because as an interior design professional, I strive to design not only for practicality, but for my clients’ preferences, but whenever we are doing a renovation which requires a building permit, there are certain building codes to which we must adhere. This is similar in most jurisdictions across North America. And currently, in the Province of Ontario, Canada where I live and practice, there are certain building, plumbing and electrical codes in place which are intended to ensure that safe building practices are followed and to save energy and resources which affects everyone.
In a recent article in the Vancouver Sun about the new rule, Tim Stainton, a professor and director of the School of Social Work at the University of B.C., was interviewed and said the concept is based around building a society as open as possible to everyone, rather than creating exceptions to fit a few.
Survey shows levers are preferred, but choice tops preference
My personal feeling is that this particular turn of events (if you’ll pardon the pun) sets a troubling precedent that could be carried to unreasonable extremes. It seems to me that as soon as you try to mandate that all new homes are universally accessible for every possible disability, certain flooring could be disallowed because of the possibility of slipping, elevators will be mandatory for homes with more than one level, every bathroom will need grab bars on each wall, right down to windows that can not open beyond 3″ to prevent someone accidentally or purposely falling or jumping out. Currently in Ontario, all railings on landings, decks, balconies and other elevated surfaces above a certain height off the ground, must have a railing which is a minimum of 42″ high, and whose pickets must only be vertical to prevent a child from using the railing as a ladder, and the pickets can be no more than 3″ apart from center to center to prevent a child’s head from getting stuck between them.
I was interested to find out what others thought of this new imposition on private, free choice, so I asked the question across 6 different social media platforms and groups. I received 245 responses. Interestingly, while the majority of people actually preferred lever handles, citing them easier to operate, 62% of respondents were adamantly against being told they would not be permitted to use knobs if they were building a new house.
In a few cases, some people actually cited examples of levers being MORE dangerous than knobs, by being easier to operate by toddlers and animals, thereby allowing escapes from rooms in the home and in some cases from the home itself.
Can we reasonably be expected to design new homes to cover every eventuality? My personal vote is no. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
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