Vertical platform lifts that raise a wheelchair from the ground up to a porch, deck, or doorway are often the perfect mobility solution for those unable to climb stairs. Even if you have equipped your home to age in place, you may be challenged when entering and leaving the home.
The Slippery Slope of Ramp Safety
For many homes, adding a ramp is a perfect solution to increasing access, but ramps have two main shortcomings:
- First, they must be the proper slope to be useful.
- Unless covered, they can easily become slippery and dangerous.
According to standards set down by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a wheelchair ramp must have a slope with a ratio of no more than 1 to 12, which means that the ramp must be one inch long for every inch of rise. This means a 20 foot ramp for a 20 inch rise. For home use, the standards are a bit less stringent but still require a 2 to 12 ratio for the ramp, which means a 10 foot ramp for a 20 inch rise. Ramps need plenty of space. To make the ramp end in a convenient location, such as near where a person would need to be to access the car, it is often necessary to form a maze with one or more turning platforms to keep the slope in line with the recommended specs. Making ramps practical takes plenty of land.
When constructed at home, an uncovered ramp can become a personal ski slope. When snow, ice, or even rain make the ramp too slippery, a person descending it in a wheelchair might pick up speed and be thrown from the chair or sent beyond where they wanted to stop. When trying to wheel up the ramp, the process can be even more dangerous.
Vertical Platform Lifts Provide a Safer Solution
For many homes, a more practical solution is to install a vertical platform lift, a type of self-contained elevator that has sides but no top. With an entry door on one level and another door on a second-level, a person in a wheelchair and another person can ride between levels. Vertical lifts are often used for transportation up to six feet off the ground. While the unit needs a footprint of about four foot by six foot for a three by four platform, the amount of space required is less and is confined to a smaller, more compact part of the yard. Especially when the distance from the home to the ground is more than 24 inches, a platform lift has a much smaller footprint.
Many vertical platform lifts can handle up to 600 pounds. Made of powder coated materials, they can be topped with a domed roof or other coverage to make them more weather resistant. The device is equipped with safety features for easy operation, even by someone in a wheelchair. To prevent crashing into an obstacle, the lift features safety sensors in the base that will stop the lift if there is something in the way. It is also covered by ASME safety standards.
More costly than ramps, vertical lifts often cost between $4,500 – $6,500 plus installation costs. By comparison, it cost less than half of installing an elevator inside the home. While this is a sizable investment, vertical platform lifts represent an investment that you can easily amortize over the extra years that you or a wheelchair-bound family member can live in the home.