While the stair lift can be an essential tool for seniors and others who have difficulty walking up the stairs, they are not as practical for wheelchair users. Instead, the vertical platform lift or the incline platform lift is a much better solution for making a home wheelchair accessible.
Since, one of the biggest problems faced by wheelchair users is how to easily access the front steps of their home, using a stair lift is simply not an option. Of course, some people do use them and simply switch wheelchairs, keeping one at both ends of the staircase, this is not very practical and in the case of an outside staircase probably won’t work. Instead, the vertical platform lift offers a much easier way of making a staircase wheelchair friendly.
Vertical platform lifts, which are also called wheelchair lifts, are in many regards similar to an elevator in the way they operate. However, unlike an elevator, there is no complicated installation or major renovation required to set up a wheelchair lift. Instead, once they are assembled, wheelchair lifts serve as a completely self contained elevator.
A wheelchair lift must be placed next the landing of a staircase, raising a metal platform up to the landing and back down again. Since wheelchair lifts are best suited for the front steps of a home, they are often called porch lifts. However, they can be used on some types of indoor staircases as well, but usually this is reserved to commercial settings, such as a school or church.
Vertical platform lifts are very powerful and can usually support well over 500 pounds, although this often varies depending on how high the porch lift must rise. Depending on the type of wheelchair lift, some are capable of lifting up to 12 feet, although the standard lifting height of most wheelchair lifts is usually closer to 4 or 5 feet.
Wheelchair lifts provide a metal platform for the user to drive onto and can often be used by more than one person or to move goods into the home. Most feature a number of safety features, such as a locking gate for the top of the porch, which is important because a section of the hand rail must typically be removed. Also, the platform itself often contains a door or at least an automatic partition that rises when the porch lift is activated, preventing someone from driving off of the wheelchair lifts platform.
Vertical platform lifts can make using an outdoor staircase very easy for those who use wheelchairs or mobility scooters, yet they do not take up a lot of space, nor do wheelchair lifts stand out conspicuously on the front of the home.
While for the front steps of a home, a vertical platform lift is a very useful tool, they are not often well suited for most indoor residential staircases. This is because vertical platform lifts must be placed next to the staircase landing and rises vertically up to this area. As a result, the walls of most homes prevent them from being installed inside.
Instead, for indoor staircase access, it is possible to install an incline platform lift, which functions very similar to a stair lift. Inclined platform lifts are installed along the length of a staircase and move along a metal track. A square platform is provided that allows the wheelchair user to drive their mobility vehicle directly onto the incline platform lift, which then carries them up the staircase.
Inclined platform lifts take up a good deal of space on the stairs when in use, so they may not work on narrower staircases. However, when not in use, the platform can be folded out of the way and these devices can also be used on curved staircases.
The main advantage of an inclined platform lift over other lifting tools, like a residential elevator, is the cost. An incline platform lift costs much less than a residential elevator and also does not require any major modification to the homes structure. This differs from an elevator, which requires a sturdy shaft be built in the home, in addition to the actual cost of the elevator, which can be very high.