Inside a church or other place of worship, there are a number of areas where accessibility is critical. While it may seem like a difficult task, providing access to those that are mobility impaired is not as complicated as it may sound and there are a number of options available.
6 Accessibility Options for a Church
There are several options available to provide accessibility in a church or other house of worship. Each provides its own advantages and disadvantages.
Ramps are a common solution for accessibility because they are inexpensive and easy to install. The downfall of ramps is that for every one inch of rise, there needs to be a run of 12 inches. This means that if your speaker’s platform is 24 inches above the auditorium floor, a minimum 24 foot long ramp is required.
- Stair Lift
Another possible solution is a called a stair lift. Stair lifts are easy to install and typically cost-effective. A stair lift is track mounted to a set of stairs, with a chair that is powered and will run up or down the staircase. Stair lifts are intended for semi-ambulatory people who do not use a wheelchair. The users will most likely use canes, walkers or crutches. The transfer to the stair lift can be uncomfortable, and the transfer of walking aids from one level to the next may need to be done by another individual.
- Inclined Platform Lift
Inclined platform lifts (IPLs) are similar to stair lifts; however, they are intended for wheelchair users. With an IPL, the track is normally mounted to a wall which will need to be reinforced to prevent the weight of the platform and user from pulling the lift off of the wall. When not in use, an IPL is normally folded up to keep the staircase clear of obstructions. IPLs can come with a seat for ambulatory users. Because IPLs are a platform lift, and must maintain a minimum 30” x 48” clear platform, they often will not fit in existing staircase widths, and the staircase will be at least partially obstructed while the IPL is deployed. IPLs are normally a very expensive device because they must be designed to fit the staircase, and there are many moving parts. Because of this, maintenance costs are normally high, and IPLs are not a fit for all applications.
- Vertical Platform Lift
Vertical platform lifts (VPLs) have a platform that travels straight up and down which reduces the required number of moving parts. VPLs can be used indoors or out with travel heights up to 14 feet without variance. If the travel is 60 inches or less, VPLs can be installed without a hoistway of any kind, which will greatly reduce the cost of the lift. For travel distances greater than 60 inches, the lift must be installed either in a shaftway, or in an enclosure. It is good to understand the difference between shaftway and enclosure models. Both models are installed in an enclosure. A shaftway model is installed in an enclosure that is integral to the building, while an enclosure lift has the enclosure provided by the lift manufacturer. The benefit of the enclosure lift is that the manufacturer has designed and built the lift to meet certain code requirements, removing the need for site adjustments to bring the lift into compliance. The benefit of a shaftway lift is that the lift enclosure can be made to blend into the environment, removing visual distractions.
- Hybrid Lift
Another style of VPL is the hybrid lift. Hybrid lifts are similar in appearance to a residential elevator. The lift is installed in a shaft with swing doors on each landing, no gates on the car, and the ceiling is not load bearing. The controls of the hybrid lift are constant pressure, so the user has complete control of the car’s movement.
- Limited Use/Limited Application Elevator
Limited Use/Limited Application (LULA) elevators are designed to provide accessibility. This type of elevator is very similar to a commercial elevator; however, it is intended for low use, and is restricted to 25 feet of travel without variance, a speed not to exceed 30 feet per minute, capacity of 1,400 pounds, and a floor space not to exceed 18 square feet.
Church Elevator Installation
Providing access to your church or house of worship is of upmost importance. There are a variety of suitable options available and each situation is a little bit different. Talk to your local elevator contractor to determine which solution is the most appropriate for your project.