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Using a Wheelchair Lift

Wheelchair lifts make entering a home convenient for a handicapped person and can make commercial buildings ADA compliant. In fact, adding a wheelchair lift to a home or commercial building is comparable to installing a ramp. What makes a wheelchair lift different from a ramp is the amount of space required. A ramp with 5 feet of rise takes up over 120 square feet. A wheelchair lift only occupies 20 square feet. In many cases, a wheelchair lift costs less than a ramp. With a metal frame, a home or commercial wheelchair lift typically has a 34 by 54 inch platform and 42-inch side guards around. A ramp, 16 inches or longer, is added for access to the platform. The metal platform and ramp, additionally, has an anti-skid surface.

When a wheelchair lift is being used, it operates by a screw-drive or hydraulic lift system. The controls are continuous pressure, which means the user must hold a button while the lift is moving. If the user lets go of the button, the lift stops immediately. Once the user is on the platform, he or she holds a button to get the lift to start and stop during travel. Depending upon the model, the platform will move at a speed of eight to 25 feet per minute and can support up to 750 pounds. In case of emergencies, a stop button and audible alarm are added to the setup.

All wheelchair lifts require a 42” high gate to be located at the top point of the lift to prevent a fall hazard. When the vertical travel distance exceeds 6 feet, an enclosed elevator shaft is required. In the case of the latter, up to 12 feet of travel and 3 stops are allowed. Some models of wheelchair lifts come with a metal or plexiglass shaft, while others need to have a shaft built into a building to operate. In all cases, the wheelchair lift operates the same way, but the only difference being the distance the wheelchair travels.

Although designs for wheelchair lifts vary, most take about two days to install into a home or commercial building to make ADA compliant. Those with elevator shafts may take a bit longer to add.

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