Selecting the Right Type of Stair Lift

Published by Stephen on July 22, 2010 Under stair lifts

A stair lift is a tool used to help make it easier for someone who is mobility challenged to use the stairs. This type of home medical equipment acts sort of like an escalator, moving a person safely along a staircase. However, unlike an escalator, where you stand on the steps and are carried up the stairs, a stair lift provides a seat for the user to sit in, which is then moved up to the top or bottom of the staircase.

There are a lot of different types of stair lifts, so it is important to select a stair lift that will fit your needs. The three basic types of stair lifts, standing stair lifts, stair chairs, and incline platform lifts, are described below.

Standing Stair Lifts

Standing stair lifts, which are typically called perch lifts, provide a small platform that the user can stand on to be moved up the staircase. This platform, or perch, is typically only a few square feet, so it is large enough for a single person to stand on, but not much more. In addition to handrests, some perch lifts also include a mini-bench that the user can lean against as they move up the staircase.

One of the main advantages of a perch lift is that it does not take up a great deal of space on the staircase, so on very narrow stairways, a perch lift may be a good choice. Standing stair lifts are also sometimes used by those who have had a very serious operation, such as hip replacement, that makes it impossible for them to safely or easily get into and out of a chair.

However, since the user is standing as the stairlift moves up the stairway, there is an increased risk of injury. This is especially true of seniors with poor vision, limited balance, or who have dementia.

Sitting Stair Lifts

Sitting Stair Lifts, or stair chairs, are the most common type of stair lift. A plastic chair is provided for the user to sit in as they are carried up or down the staircase. Some chairs offer improved padding and expanded back support, while others are simply a plastic one piece chair.

Stair chairs take up more space than perch lifts do, but since the user is seated while using it, there is less risk of a fall when using a standing stairlift. To help make it easier to transfer into and out of a stair chair, the seat can be swiveled around, allowing the user to enter or exit the chair away from the stairs.

Incline Platform Lifts

Incline platform lifts are similar to perch lifts, in that they provide a platform that moves up and down the stairs. However, the platform is much larger and intended to be used by those who use wheelchairs or mobility scooters. These are sometimes called Wheelchair Lifts, however it is important to note that there is a difference between vertical platform lifts and incline platform lifts.

On a vertical platform lift, the wheelchair lift rises straight up and down, much like an elevator. This means that it can only be used on certain types of staircases and must be installed next to the staircase landing. These are often used on the front porch of a home, which is why they are called porch lifts.

However, an incline platform lift moves along the stairs length in the same way a stair lift does, attached to a metal track. In addition to providing guard rails for those in wheelchairs, many also provide a small fold out bench. One drawback of an inclined platform lift is that they take up a great deal of space on the staircase, so often work best on commercial staircases.



  1. Jerry(An Elevator Salesman) on 08 Sep 2010

    Standing stair lifts have been mostly pulled from the market based on too many injuries. Many jurisdictions do not allow them any more. Ones that exists still sell into areas that have relatively no oversight.

  2. Steve on 09 Sep 2010

    Yes, standing stair lifts can be very dangerous, especially the smaller perch lifts. Unless absolutely necessary for medical reasons, such as after a hip replacement, perch lifts should generally be avoided.

    However, there are several incline platform lifts, which are basically wheelchair lifts for the stairs, that provide a safe alternative to the standing stair lift. This is because there is a much larger base to stand on and many are fully enclosed. The main downside of these is the amount of space stair-wheelchair lift takes up, so they will not always work on smaller residential staircases.

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