We Know: All About Stair Elevators

What is a stair elevator?

A stair elevator is frequently called a chair lift, and is used to help a person with mobility problems get up and down stairs. There are two basic types of stair elevators.

The first type looks like a chair mounted on a rail set into your wall beneath the banister. This type of stair elevator is used by people who have mobility problems, but who are not wheelchair bound.

The second type of stair elevator is a platform that moves up and down your existing stairs, and is designed to accommodate wheelchairs. If you need both kinds in your household, you can get a hybrid stair elevator that carries wheelchairs, but also has a fold-down seat with harness for anyone who does not need a wheelchair but does need the lift.

Are there safety issues?

Stair elevators are made to be as safe as possible. The best ones are designed to move slowly and smoothly along hydraulic or other mechanical tracks, and include the following safety features:

  • Safety Brake
  • Multiple call/send buttons in accessible locations on the lift and at the top and bottom of the stairs
  • Anti-slip surface
  • Safety arm
  • Safety belt on open seats
  • Audio and visual alarm
  • Fire service function

What Should I Think About Before Getting a Stair Elevator?

You should determine the following information:

  • How wide are my stairs, and will I have to reconstruct anything to put in a stair elevator?
  • What are my weight requirements? Don't forget to count the weight of your wheelchair, and figure in extra for the inevitable ride you will give your grandchild, even though you shouldn't do this.
  • Can it be folded up for easier access to the stairs for other family members and emergency personnel?
  • How will it look?

If you don't think a stair elevator is for you, you can have a traditional elevator installed instead. The drawbacks of a regular elevator are that it's not safe to use in case of a fire, and it is likely to cost more than a stair elevator.

Although a stair elevator may seem expensive, it could save you the cost of moving to a one-story house or an assisted living facility.

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