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All About Wheelchair Lifts

A wheelchair lift is a motorized platform to carry a person in wheelchair over a barrier such as stairs. Wheelchair lifts are made for installation indoors or outside, and specialized versions are available for use in transportation such as buses.

A residential wheelchair lift is securely mounted or installed outside the home in order to travel from ground level to the door of the home, or they can also be installed inside a home using several methods.

Types of Wheelchair Lifts

There are two basic types of wheelchair platform lifts: vertical platform lifts and inclined platform lifts.

Wheelchair vertical platform lift porch installation
A porch lift provides easy access from the ground level into the main level of this home.
Inclined wheelchair lift installation on stair case
An inclined platform is mounted over the stairs to carry a wheelchair user on the folding platform.

Inclined platform lifts are installed to travel over the stairs, following the angle of the stairs. In this way, an inclined lift is similar to a stair lift, but the inclined lift features a platform capable of carrying a wheelchair. There are also inclined platform lifts that are custom fabricated for curved or turning stairs. These are typically used in commercial or public buildings.

A vertical platform lift moves straight up and down so it can be located away from the stairs, or beside the stairs depending upon the space available. This type of lift is offered as a standard unenclosed lift, or with a factory-built enclosure, or it can be installed into a constructed hoistway inside a home.

Most vertical platform lifts can be installed outside, and some incline platform lifts are suitable for outdoor use depending on the climate. A vertical platform lift for home is often called a deck lift, or porch lift. It may also be referred to as a “VPL”, short for vertical platform lift.

How a Wheelchair Lift Works

Wheelchair lifts must use constant pressure operation, meaning that the user must hold down a button constantly for the lift to move and the lift will stop when the button is not pressed. This is a safety feature of wheelchair platform lifts.

Wheelchair platform lifts can operate with different types of drive systems. A screw drive features a large screw and nut turned by a motor to move the platform up and down.

A hydraulic drive pumps hydraulic fluid in and out of a cylinder with a reservoir to move the platform. Hydraulic drive lifts are known to provide a smoother and quieter ride in comparison to a screw drive. They are more costly to build.

Inclined platform lifts usually operate on a rack and pinion system, rope sprocket or wire haul system. These systems pull the platform up and down the rail that follows the path of the stairs.

wheelchair platform lifts
All wheelchair lifts work using constant pressure, meaning that the user holds down a button to move it.