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article imageOp-Ed: Vancouver applies a little leverage in opening door to new trend

By Karen Graham     Nov 18, 2013 in Odd News
Vancouver - You can't put a square peg in a round hole, and if you build it, they might come. But Vancouver has found a way of opening the door to a new trend in construction, by simply changing the building code.
Someone should pen an ode to the lowly doorknob, so passe by today's standards, yet for centuries a necessity that society could not do without. How else would we enter a building or a room, let alone open a drawer? Once we realized the need for privacy, a place to go where others would not be able to see us, the door and its requisite doorknob became a fixture in our lives.
But the wise and forward-thinking powers that govern Vancouver's citizens have again been looking to the future. They have taken the concept of "universal design" and like a heroic football player going for a touchdown, "ran with it."
In all seriousness, starting on March 14, construction of new buildings and homes in Vancouver, Canada will be required to abide by regulations in the building code that say the doorknob, the "key" to opening and closing doors, is being phased out. A new rule has been added saying all doors and faucets in any new construction will be required to have levers.
Vancouver is the only city in Canada with its own building code. It is said that Vancouver has a lot of influence, not only in British Columbia, but in Canada itself. This influence drives the construction industry as well. Who knows, but what trends Vancouver starts may end up changing the face of the construction industry world-wide.
But foresight is the key here. Universal accessibility has become an important part of our world. Handicapped individuals and the aged in our population need ease of access just as much as the rest of the world. If you think about it, levers are easier to manipulate, especially if our arms are full of packages or our fingers are gnarled with arthritis.
Tim Stainton, is a professor and director of the School of Social Work at the University of B.C., and he says the whole concept of "universal design" is built around society's interest in making access to public buildings available to everyone and not a privileged few.
Stainton points out there are examples of the concept all around us, so many, in fact, that we don't really pay any attention to them. Take for example "cut curbs" on street corners. They make it easier for the handicapped and mothers with baby strollers to get up or down from a sidewalk.
Another example is the sound an alarm makes. A deaf person would not hear it, so alarms also have a bright red flashing light. The same holds true for the visually-impaired eating in a restaurant. A solid white plate on a solid white table cover is difficult to see, so most places use plates with a design and some color in them.
Will Johnston is the former Vancouver chief building inspector who, in consultation with the building and construction industry, wrote the new changes to the code. He says the new code is not retroactive, meaning homeowners can still buy doorknobs for their homes, if they want them. Johnston has a final thought, and it makes sense:
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.”
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Doors, levers, Handicapped, building code, Vancouver
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