Things to take into consideration when choosing a stair lift or platform lift for the home

Home modifications by occupational therapist (OT) based on principles of universal design and accessibility.

Universal/accessible design of the home from an occupational therapy and a construction perspective. This blog is part of a quest for cool, convenient, functional design that makes life safer, easier, and as maintenance-free as possible. It's about the lifestyle.
First choosing the correct lift.

The main lifts for homes are stair lifts, vertical platform lifts, and incline platform lifts.

Let's start with stair lifts.

Stairlifts are the most cost-effective lifts for making stairs accessible.  There are many models with different weight loads, swiveling seats, retractable tracks, and different sizes. 

Part of the reason stairlifts are cost-effective is because they don’t require an elevator license to install in most states.  Still it is important to have a builder that is licensed and insured, and that has been trained by the manufacturer install your lift. 
Retractable rails to prevent rails blocking walkways.

Most stair lifts can fold.
Considerations for stair lifts:
o   If the person is able to walk and will keep their ability to walk, then a simple stair lift is the right choice.   If the person needs supports to walk, such as a walker, then it’s important to plan on having two walkers one at the top and on at the bottom of the stairs.  Trying to carry a walker on a stair lift can be very dangerous.
o   Is the person in a wheelchair but able to sit independently and transfer safely?  If so then a stair lift again is a good choice, a wheelchair will need to be accessible at both the top and the bottom of the stairs.  A grab bar installed near the lift is recommended to assist with safe transfers, especially at the top of the stairs.
o   Stair lifts can be installed indoors or outdoors.
o   Weight capacity needs to be taken into consideration.
o   Stair lifts use a standard electrical outlet for power.
o   All Harmar lifts have a battery back-up system so the lift can be used if the power goes out up to 40 times.
o   Straight stair lifts are usually between $2,000.00-$5,000.00, curved stair lifts are $8,000.00-$15,000.00 installed based on complexity.

Platform lifts:
Platform lifts are the best choice for someone who utilizes a wheelchair for mobility.  Platform lifts allow the person to roll their wheelchair onto the lift and ride the lift up to the next level.  In most states vertical platform lifts for rises of 6’ or less typically do not require a permit, over 6’ of rise a vertical platform lift typically require an elevator license and permits to install.

Vertical platform lifts for rises less than 6’.  Most of the vertical platform lifts for smaller rises are exterior to assist in accessing the home.  Information about vertical platform lifts for accessing the home:
o   Footprint of most lifts is 5’x 5’.
o   Requires a landing platform at the top of the lift.  Functional Homes, Inc. prefers a landing platform at the top of the lift of at least 6’x 6’ for manual wheelchairs and 7’x 7’ for scooters and power wheelchairs enough room for a wheelchair to maneuver.
o   Access space is also required at the bottom of the lift.  Typically, there is a gate that lowers/raises on the lift when entering/exiting.  The gate is about 18” long so the access space at the bottom of the lift must take into consideration the length of the gate and the wheelchair turn radius to figure out the minimum space required to access the lift. 
§  Access space at bottom of the lift for typical wheelchair is: 18”(gate length)+ 5’x 5’ (turn radius for manual wheelchair)= 6.5’x 5’.
§  Access space at bottom of the lift for power wheelchair or scooter is: 18” (gate length)+6’x 6’ (turn radius for pwc or scooter)= 7.5’x 6’.
o   Most top platforms for vertical platform lifts have pedestrian stairs.  It is important to install a gate with self-closing hinges that swings into the platform at the top of the stairs to prevent the wheelchair from accidently falling down the stairs.
o   When installing a vertical platform lift in a garage it’s important to take into consideration space required to exit an adapted vehicle, which is usually 3’ for the liftgate of the vehicle + 5’x 5’ turn radius for the wheelchair or 8’x 5’.
o   Vertical platform lifts for rises under 6’ usually cost between $8,000.00-$14,000.00 to install not including the landing platform at the top.

Garage layout for vertical platform lift

Vertical platform lift controls
·      Vertical platform lifts and elevators for rises over 6’ have a completely different set of rules we won’t address now.  These higher rise lift systems cost between $25,000-$35,000 to install.

Here is a link for more information on vertical platform lifts and elevators that have a vertical rise over 6'.

Incline platform lift

  Incline platform lifts are platform lifts for stairways that are ideal for wheelchair users on stairways.
o    Easy-to-use lifts but require the following:
§  36” wide stairway.
§  5’x 5’ for manual wheelchairs and 6’x 6’ for power wheelchairs and scooters at the top and the bottom of the stairs for access.
o   Have call buttons and remotes.
o   Lift capacity usually around 500 pounds.
o   Need to have a minimum of 6’8” space from nose steps to ceiling.
o   Harmar incline lifts have a battery back-up to allow use in case of power failure.

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