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Opening Arguments

There go the doorknobs

It's bye, bye doorknobs in Vancouver:

In Vancouver, the doorknob is heading into a setting sun. Its future has been date-marked, legislated out of existence in all future construction, a tip to society’s quest for universal design and the easier-to-use lever handle.

And as it goes in Vancouver, so will it go in B.C., Canada, and perhaps even the world…..

And, as doorknobs go, so too will go those other ubiquitous knobs, the ones that turn on and off water faucets. For they too are being legislatively upgraded to levers more conducive to the arthritic, gnarled or weakened hands we earn with age.

In September, Vancouver council adopted new amendments to its building code, effective next March, that, among other things, will require lever handles on all doors and lever faucets in all new housing construction.

Popular Science columnist Colin Lecher couldn't be happier about the ban:

In Vancouver, the humble doorknob is being phased out. Kind of. Effective in March, new housing will be required to install levers on doors and faucets, instead of the good-ol’ round knobs of our forefathers.

Cue: libertarian cries of government overreach and nanny-state-ism and evil G-men in suits entering homes and stealing all of our doorknobs despite our constitutional right to them. Fine. But anyone against the idea might feel differently when they’re pushing 80.

The idea behind Vancouver’s decision is that, despite being of a more vintage grade than levers, doorknobs kind of suck. Ergonomics studies investigating different types of water-dispersing mechanisms have shown that lever-style faucets are far preferable to their knob counterparts. (Yes, there are studies for everything.) Knobs, you see, involve pronating and supinating your wrist, (stretching it, basically) which is less fun for everyone, but probably won’t make you run out and immediately and switch to levers. Maybe you like your nice art deco knobs.

Unless, that is, you’re elderly. You get older, maybe you get arthritis, and this doorknob-to-lever issue stops being academic.

Legal Insurrection blogger William A. Jacobson, however, seems a little miffed:

You'll have to take my doorknob from my cold, dead hand.

The news article talks about the "little known but important and developing concept" of universal design. Instead of "adapted design," in which you take a space and adapt it for a person with a disability, universal design calls for just building "everything so it is as usable by the largest segments of the population as possible."

OK, fine. I can live with the idea of making new public buildings as accessible and user-friendly to all as possible. But when it comes to private dwellings, I'm with Jacobson. Keep your grubby mitts off my toilets, my lightbulbs and my doorknobs.