Wheelchairs provide much-needed mobility to people with injuries or disabilities and may become necessary if you plan on aging in place. Whether you currently use a wheelchair or believe you’ll need one as part of your aging-in-place modifications, a wheelchair elevator provides access to all levels of your home.
How Does a Wheelchair Lift Work?
A traditional home elevator includes an enclosed car raised and lowered by cables attached to a pulley system. The elevator car is housed in an enclosed shaft and may have sufficient room for a wheelchair or two to three people.
The anatomy of a wheelchair elevator, in comparison, is very different. Most wheelchair elevators for homes are powered by a hydraulic drive that raises or lowers the elevator platform. While home elevators can serve more than two floors, a wheelchair lift is typically used for shorter height transitions. Four to six feet elevations generally are enough to allow access to patios, front steps, and the equivalent of a short flight of stairs. The maximum transition for a residential wheelchair lift is fourteen feet.
Buttons control both home elevators and wheelchair lifts. Unlike elevators, where a single button press transports car occupants to their selected destination, wheelchair lift buttons must be depressed during operation, or the lift comes to a stop.
Installing Home Wheelchair Elevators
It is fairly simple to have a wheelchair elevator installed in any home and customized to meet your needs. In addition to the standard requirements for home elevators, there are specific things that you should consider before purchase.
Size and Style of the Wheelchair
The current and future size of the wheelchair is an important consideration when planning your personal elevator. A wheelchair can be a short or long-term mobility device. Some wheelchairs are designed simply to aid in movement with the assistance of another person, while other models allow for leg- or arm-powered movement. Still, others are designed for individuals with little to no use of their limbs.
Some wheelchairs can stand up, while others recline. These different styles of wheelchairs require different floor spaces and turning radii, which influences the size of your home wheelchair elevator. Once you have considered the size of the current wheelchair, do not forget the wheelchair style you need may change in the future. For instance, you may currently require a small, arm-powered wheelchair, but if your mobility deteriorates, an electric wheelchair may be necessary for the future. These are critical considerations if you plan on aging in place.
Home Elevator Configuration
The best way to determine the location and configuration of a wheelchair elevator in your home is to understand the nuances of the wheelchair and design around them. The elevator must fit into the residence both physically and aesthetically and consider the space required for the wheelchair.
- The entrance to the elevator must be wide enough for the wheelchair to pass through.
- The floor space of the elevator must be large enough to contain the wheelchair user and sometimes an attendant.
- The exit configuration of the elevator should be considered. The conventional exit configuration for a residential elevator is to enter and exit from the same side. For a wheelchair user, this means they will either back on or back off the elevator. The best solution for a wheelchair user is to enter on one side and exit the opposite. Due to the turning radius of the wheelchair, exiting 90 degrees from the entrance is not advisable.
Customizing Your Home Elevator
To create the most appropriate elevator for your individual needs, contact your local home elevator company. Prior to your consultation, take the items on the Wheelchair Accessible Elevator Planning Guide into consideration. With this information in hand, your home elevator company can assist you in the planning and creation of an elevator that will work best for your current and future situation.