State man's invention is opening doors

By Craig McEwen

The Forum of Fargo

MOORHEAD, Minn. -- Rod Bergen can thank the Americans with Disabilities Act for inspiring him to invent the Handi-Lever.

Bergen came up with the concept in the early 1980s and sold it primarily to wholesalers, never touching the home market.

Last Christmas, Bergen bought his wife, Deanie, a ring on the QVC channel, an electronic home shopping network that broadcasts 24 hours a day.


The ring didn't fit, so Bergen sent it back to QVC. It was returned with a flier inviting anyone with a useful product to appear at one of four QVC Product Searches being held in Las Vegas, Chicago, Atlanta and West Chester, Pa.

In April, Bergen took his invention to the Rio Casino in Las Vegas.

The Handi-Lever is in. Bergen was invited to appear on the QVC Channel with his invention.

QVC looks for products that are innovative, high in quality and value, solve a common problem and are demonstrable, said Marilyn Montross, QVC director of vendor relations. Bergen's invention fits the criteria, she said.

QVC, one of the world's largest electronic retailers, did $5 billion in sales in 2003, reaching 85 million U.S. homes, said spokesman Jason Arborcheski.

In the early 1980s, Bergen was an assistant superintendent for Moorhead School District in charge of renting out buildings. The Americans with Disabilities Act insisted that government buildings have levers on doors instead of doorknobs.

Bergen said he searched all over to find such an accessory. What he eventually found had a $250 price tag, per lever.

Bergen started collecting all shapes and sizes of doorknobs and went to work inventing his own gizmo. "I had 200 of them (doorknobs) in my basement," he said.


His plan was to come up with a lever that slipped over doorknobs making it easier for people with their hands full, or having a disability, to open doors using their arms, legs, posterior, you name it.

The levers are made of aluminum and shaped by DyCast Specialties Corp., of Starbuck, Minn.

Next they land at Eastside Machine Co. Inc. in Fargo, N.D.

Eastside taps a hole in the lever that contains a set screw that can be tightened by an Allen wrench onto existing doorknobs.

"We fit every size round doorknob," Bergen said. That is done by inserting a flexible magnet strip, called a "size adjuster," inside the lever's oval opening so it will fit smaller doorknobs.

The levers are then sent to TSR Parts at Colgate, N.D., to have a slit cut in the casting, Bergen said.

Bergen has produced thousands of the levers, which sell for $35 per pair, he said.

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