Pickering Considers Calling for Vancouver-style Doorknob Ban

By: Alex Ballingall
News, Published on Fri Jan 17 2014

The citys accessibility committee is urging Pickering council to ask Ontario for a ban on wrist-twisting door openers.

Doorknobs, whether utilitarian or ornate like these antiques, are part of Ontario’s architectural legacy, argues one seller of doors. But accessibility advocates say levers are much easier for people with arthritis and other disabilities to maneuver and ought to be the preferred option in all new construction.

Pickerings accessibility committee wants the city to follow Vancouvers example by pushing the province to outlaw doorknobs for all new construction including houses.

Seeing how our population is aging the way it is, it only makes sense to be proactive, said Terry Arvisair, a member of the Pickering Accessibility Advisory Committee
who raised the doorknob motion that was approved by the committee last week. Pickering City Council is expected to debate the recommendation in late January.

Arvisair, 53, said he was inspired by Vancouver, which voted last November to banish the twisting door openers on all new construction, starting this March.

Levers are preferred by accessibility advocates because they’re much easier to use by people who have arthritis and other disabilities that affect grasping and twisting of the wrist and arm.

I thought it was a no-brainer. I mean, I know all kinds of people, whether its arthritis or MS Its a lot easier for them to manipulate the doors without the knobs, said Arvisair.

Unlike Vancouver, Pickering and other Ontario municipalities dont have their own building codes, and therefore cant unilaterally ban doorknobs. If passed, Arvisairs motion result in the city calling on the provincial Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing to consider a Vancouver-style doorknob ban on all new buildings, by changing the Ontario Building Code.

Theres a possibility of council recommending that to the province, said Dave Marlowe, the City of Pickerings accessibility co-ordinator, who supports the committees motion.

We took a look at it. Its certainly a good move for anyone who has any sort of grasping difficulty, said Marlowe. You can work a lever much more easily than you can a doorknob.

Vancouvers doorknob ban spurred a discussion about whether the doorknob is in its waning days. Accessibility advocates such as Marlowe argue that the decline of the knob isnt something to lament, because levers or automatic doors are superior.

The Ontario Building Code already requires buildings expected to be accessible to have door openers of a design that does not require tight grasping and twisting of the wrist.

But for Leila Mirshak, who grew up helping her father, Sam, run the Door Store
on Castlefield Ave. (and now co-manages the outfit with him), knobs arent just a means of opening doors. Theyre a legacy of our architectural history, with a distinct esthetic appeal.

There are a lot of hardware romantics out there, said Mirshak, describing how clients at the Door Store often want to give their homes a vintage flavour consistent with how they would have been decorated in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Almost exclusively, that means doors with knobs, said Mirshak.

Levers arent really part of Ontario architectural history, she said. All of a sudden there would be this big part of our history that we cant use.
And I find that sad. That would bring in a look that is either more modern or European. It kind of loses a bit of our architectural heritage.

Marlowe pointed out that the Vancouver-style doorknob ban isnt retroactive, meaning old knobs on existing buildings wouldnt have to be removed. He says changing the rules would simply make opening doors easier for everyone.

Its a piece of technology, really, he said of the doorknob. Its progress for technology thats available. And certainly for people with accessibility issues, its a good move.

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