When Is a Lift A Better Choice?

Ramp rise

Ramps are common fixtures in most communities, appearing alongside shorter spans of steps or stairs at the entrances to buildings, and used not only by consumers in wheelchairs, but by parents pushing strollers, delivery workers pushing carts, and by pedestrians who simply prefer a more gradual ascent or descent.

Bruno Vertical Platform Lift

Bruno Independent Living Aids’ Vertical Platform Lift (bruno.com)

Harmar Vertical Platform Lift

Harmar’s Highlander Vertical Platform Lift (harmar.com)

But in some situations, ramps aren’t as practical — for instance, when space is tight. Or when the height from the ground to where the ramp is going to end — called the rise in the accessibility industry — is too high.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards call for ramps to be 12 inches in length for every 1 inch of rise for use by an occupied wheelchair or scooter. So if a ramp needs to rise 20 inches, ADA standards say the ramp must be at least 20 feet long. Those standards help to ensure that the slope of a ramp — i.e., the degree of its slant — enables wheelchair users to go up and down the ramp safely.

Vertical platform lifts — sometimes called porch lifts — are similar to elevators in the function they perform. Wheelchair or scooter users drive onto the platform, and the platform raises or lowers. When the lift stops, the wheelchair or scooter user can drive off the platform.

Vertical platform lifts typically have much smaller footprints than ramps do, and can rise up to 14 feet in height to transfer wheelchair and scooter users to raised porches or decks. While vertical platform lifts are often used outdoors, they can also work indoors to reach upper levels of a home.

Today’s lifts include a range of safety features to ensure, for instance, that wheelchairs or scooters are safely contained during the ride, and that the lift can be quickly stopped. Lift controls are designed to be easy to use and understand.

Whether you’re considering a ramp or a vertical platform lift, be sure to check your community’s requirements before purchasing or installing any equipment. To learn more about how to get started or to find a professional who specializes in home modifications, visit:

This article originally appeared in the Consumer Edition 2012 issue of Mobility Management.

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