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Wheelchair Lifts Information and Costs

Basic things to know about wheelchair lifts

A wheelchair lift may also be referred to as a vertical platform lift (VPL), an inclined platform lift (IPL) or an accessibility lift or handicap lift.

Types of Wheelchair Lifts

Vertical Wheelchair Lifts | Inclined Wheelchair Lifts | illustrations by Silver CrossWheelchair lifts for buildings are offered in two basic types: vertical platforms and inclined platforms. Vertical platform lifts travel straight up and down. Inclined platform lifts travel on an angle that follows the path of the barrier (the stairs).

Most often, wheelchair lifts are permanently installed inside or outside a building or home to provide access, but there are also portable or mobile wheelchair lift models that can be moved to provide accessibility on a temporary basis wherever the lift is needed.

Lifts for vehicles generally operate on hydraulic systems and are customized to the particular vehicle.

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Wheelchair Lifts Features

Wheelchair lifts operate using constant pressure controls. The user or attendant must press a button to move the lift, and release the pressure to stop it.

Omega | Inclined Platform Lift Fold-Up Platform | Silver Cross

Inclined platform lift fold-up platform.

Vertical platform lifts may be installed as an “open” system, meaning that they feature a platform that is not enclosed. They may also be installed inside a shaft-way or hoist-way, similar to an elevator. Lifts may also include an enclosure which is a customized structure for the unit to travel inside. A enclosure is often used for outdoor applications to protect the lift and rider from weather.

Inclined platform lifts are generally installed onto the stairs, or on support posts installed on the stairs and wall beside the stairs. These units usually have platforms that fold up keeping the lift out of the way when not in use.

Vertical platform lifts usually incorporate a tower that houses the operating system and mechanics. The tower also houses the rail on which the platform travels. The entire lift must be secured to the floor or ground, or it may be installed using a pit underneath it, similar to an elevator. It is important that building codes are observed and followed when installing a wheelchair lift to ensure that walls and floors can support the weight of the unit with passenger(s) and mobility equipment (capacity). Wheelchair lifts should be installed by certified installers, and requirements for installers vary by region.

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 or a rope sprocket system. These systems pull the platform up and down the rail that follows the path of the stairs. Inclined lifts are offered for a single flight of straight stairs (straight inclined lifts), or for stairs with curves, turns or multiple levels (curved inclined lifts).

All wheelchair platform lifts should include safety features. A sensor system ensures that the unit will stop when it meets an obstacle. For example, an underpan sensor is a set of sensors on the bottom of a lift to stop the unit when obstructions are met underneath it.

Other safety features may include an emergency stop button and electro-mechanical locks for gates or doors that prevent the door from opening when the unit is in operation. Lifts may feature a manual or battery-powered lowering feature so the unit may be lowered even when there is a power failure.