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Wheelchair Lifts - The Main Types and Their Functions

Updated on October 30, 2010

Whenever we walk, run or simply stand, we should remember that there are people in this world who are not given the same privilege. A disabled person’s life is full of difficulties, challenges and frustrations. However, they manage to be more optimistic and full of life than the majority of us. How is this possible? Maybe because only those who have experienced real suffering can truly appreciate the beauty of life!

Wheelchairs - The First Step Towards Freedom of Movement

The biggest problem a disabled person is facing every day is the impossibility to move freely. Life without freedom of movement is extremely hard - that’s why deprivation of freedom is the most common form of punishment. However, people who are disabled as a consequence of a severe accident or an innate dysfunction did not commit any crimes. They deserve to be free and happy as the rest of us.

Wheelchairs were created for this purpose - to provide as much freedom of movement as possible to those whose legs are not functional anymore. Unfortunately, wheelchairs cannot overcome vertical obstacles. Being wheeled mechanisms, they can only function on straight, horizontal surfaces.

How can wheelchair-bound people climb a staircase or get in their car? Of course, their friends or relatives can carry them to the desired destination. However, this can be extremely humiliating to a disabled person, making him or her feel like a burden, no matter how much we love them and want to help. The more they depend on us, the lower their self-esteem will be. A negative, pessimistic attitude will dramatically decrease their chances of recuperation, complicating their lives even more.


Wheelchair Lifts - Overcoming Vertical Obstacles

In order to help disabled people overcome vertical barriers, different mechanisms were invented. Ramps are the most common solution to this dilemma. However, they can be used only for small obstacles - several steps, a low platform or a small stage. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to install wheelchair ramps on big staircases or higher vertical obstacles. For these purposes, wheelchair lifts are the most reasonable way out.

These devices operate by raising and lowering the wheelchair and the person sitting in it. This way, disabled people can easily overcome vertical barriers without any external help. With just a push of a button, they can climb the stairs of their home, get in their car or on a stage. Wheelchair lifts will considerably increase their freedom of movement, making them feel more independent.

However, when it comes to choosing a wheelchair lift, the wide range of models present on the market can be overwhelming. How to be sure that you’re installing the right one? Actually, making the right choice is easier than it might seem. For a better understanding of your options, let’s make a quick review of the main types and their functions.


First of all, wheelchair lifts can be divided into indoor and outdoor models. Outdoor wheelchair lifts (usually the vertical platform type) are useful for houses and cottages which have a separate entrance for the second floor.

Indoor lifts are placed inside of the house, allowing the wheelchair-bound to reach elevated areas and higher floors.

There are many types of indoor wheelchair lifts. The most common one is probably the vertical platform lift. In fact, it is a special elevator especially created for raising and lowering a wheelchair from one floor of the house to another. It has special safety features, being extremely convenient both for the disabled and his/her family. There are two main disadvantages, though. First of all, the installment of such a lift requires many modifications in the interior of the house - there should be enough space for creating the shaft of the elevator. Secondly, such a lift is very expensive, being available only to those fortunate enough to have a serious budget at their disposal.


The stair lift is another common type of indoor wheelchair lifts. Installed directly on the staircase, it gradually raises and lowers a chair or a small platform along the stairs. The stair lift can be installed on a straight rail or on a curved one. In the second case, the manufacturers have to make some measurements prior to the installment - after all, each curved staircase is unique and the lift has to fit exactly. The stair lifts are also called inclined platform lifts, because the platform is moving on an inclined trajectory, along the stairs.

Stair lifts are not as expensive as the vertical models. However, installing such a device can somehow incommodate the other inhabitants of the house by blocking partially the staircase. Some lifts for stairs have a special chair incorporated, while others have a small platform that can accommodate the wheelchair.

Lately, in many public buildings started to appear portable wheelchair lifts. Since these buildings have too many elevated areas, it’s impossible to install a separate lift for each one. Portable lifts are extremely versatile - being wheeled, they can be easily moved to the desired destination - may it be a staircase, a platform, a stage or a simple step.


Besides the wheelchair lifts used inside and outside of buildings, there are also special lifts created for helping the disabled to get in their car, van or truck. There are two main models of wheelchair lifts for cars: the platform lift and the rotary lift. The platform lift is suitable for vans and trucks, requiring certain modifications of the vehicle interior. The rotary lift, on the other hand, is more appropriate for smaller cars - they will allow lifting the wheelchair and storing it in the truck of the automobile.

Wheelchair lifts can be powered by electricity or by hydraulics. They are the best compromise available nowadays for making the life of wheelchair-bound persons more comfortable and independent. After all, the freedom of movement most of the time makes all the difference between pessimism and optimism, sadness and joy.


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      7 years ago

      I really appreciated your post, this would really provide the great information .Thanks for sharing.



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