About 50 years ago if you were mobility challenged there were many obstacles that could be difficult or even impossible to overcome. There were no standardized requirements to make public areas handicapped accessible and often it was difficult, if not impossible, for mobility challenged individuals to go public places. Through the efforts of individuals like Ed Roberts, the founder of the Center for Independent Living, today most public areas can be accessed by those who are in wheelchairs, mobility scooters, or are otherwise mobility challenged visit us.
There are several pieces of equipment that can be used to help ensure that an area is accessible to everyone, no matter what their physical limitations are. For those in a wheelchair or mobility scooter, one of the biggest obstacles is the stairs. It is generally not possible, nor advisable, to drive your personal mobility vehicle up and down the stairs, but there are several safe ways to allow these individuals access to the stairs.
A vertical platform lift is one device that is used to help people who use personal mobility vehicles to use the stairs. Vertical platform lifts are like small scale elevators, but unlike elevators, vertical platform lifts can be quickly, easily, and inexpensively installed to most types of stairs. They are often called porch lifts, because they are frequently found on the front porch of a home. Basically a vertical platform lift will install next to a set of stairs and raise and lower a platform that can hold a mobility scooter or wheelchair. The mobility vehicle is driven onto the platform and then lowered or raised accordingly.
While stairs can be a big obstacle to people who use mobility vehicles, it can also be very hard for people who suffer from arthritis, poor balance, or neuromuscular diseases to use the stairs. A stair lift is one type of device that can help to carry a person up and down the stairs. Unlike a vertical platform lift, stair lifts can only carry a single person and can typically not be used to carry any sort of personal mobility vehicle. A track system is attached to the stairs and a chair is sent up and down the track.
Stair lifts also differ from vertical platform lifts in how they span the distance of the stairs. A vertical platform lift installs next to the stairs and lifts the person vertically up and down, spanning the distance of the stairs. A stair lift is installed long ways on the stairs and travels up and down the stairs in the same way you would walk up the stairs.