Home Visiting Advice on Stairlifts
Stairlifts are useful devices for people who have difficulty climbing or descending stairs. Most stairlift users still possess some walking capability over level ground, but the assistance provided by a stairlift will avoid the problem of being confined downstairs or even having to move house, making it a practical and economical solution.
A stairlift – sometimes also known as a chair lift or stair glider – is a powered lift comprising a seat, usually with armrests and footrest, that travels on aluminium or steel rails attached either to the stair treads or the walls. Stairlifts for straight staircases are the most common, yet curved and spiral stairs can also have them installed. However, since these need to be tailored to particular premises, they are more expensive than straight stairlifts.
Electrically powered cables, chains or rack and pinion systems pull the lift along the rails. Installation of a stairlift can normally be achieved in a few hours, depending on the complexity, with no or minimal building alteration required. Likewise, a stairlift that is no longer needed can be quickly removed with little trace.
The seat is controlled by a push button, joystick or toggle switch located on an armrest. Some lifts have one or two remote controls that either the user or an assistant can operate; others have a wander lead allowing the occupant to control the chair from the most comfortable position. The chair tends to start slowly and smoothly to prevent jolting, before speeding up to a rate of between 70 and 150cm per second. Some models have an audible signal that lets the visually impaired know when the chair reaches the top or bottom of the stairs. Many companies offer chairs in a choice of colours and décor to match existing furnishing.
Traditionally, straight stairlifts are powered from the mains but also have a battery back-up in the event of a power failure. This prevents the user from becoming stranded half way up or down the stairs. Additionally, most stairlifts incorporate some kind of emergency stop system, such as sensors that will stop the chair should it encounter an obstacle. Most curved stairlifts employ rechargeable batteries that are continually topped up from charging points at the top and bottom of the chair’s journey. This system is increasingly being used for all types of stairlift.
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