Stairlift types have grown into very distinct types of lifts for specific uses, because of the nature of where stairlifts are used most. In the early days, stairlifts were restricted by their width and could only be installed on staircases with a minimum width. Because of this, slimmer chairs were developed.
Another thing in common across all types, is that they enable people with reduced mobility the opportunity to free up their homes. They allow people remain in the home they love and avoid the additional stress of moving home when confronted with a long term illness.
Generally, stairlifts perform one purpose that can be defined as follows “to take a user safely up or down their stairs in safety and comfort.”
Stairlifts vary in their design and features, not all stairlifts are the same. Many will take you up and down the stairs in a degree of comfort.
Stairlifts fall into three main categories to suit particular staircases or areas needing a lift. They are Straight, Curved and Outdoor.
All these types of lift can be customised to suit certain situations these include:
- Perched seating (used on narrower stairs)
- Seated or stand whilst riding
- Weather-proofing for outdoor
- Powered or manual hinged rail*
* Can be used on straight and curved stair lifts, when they cross an entrance, to lift the rail out of the way when not in use.
Stairlift safety features
All stairlifts should come with a range of safety features as standard, these should include:
- Secure safety belt; ensures safer user travel
- Secure key operation; the lift can be deactivated avoiding misuse
- Obstruction sensors; these stop the lift if a collision is likely to occur
The features below may not jump out as integral to safety of the lift, but safety is something that needs to be taken seriously. Today’s modern day stairlifts use complex diagnostics and safety features to keep you and those around you safe. Safe operation is paramount, after all you have had the lift installed to aid and assist you, not to bring harm your way.
If you are choosing a stairlift check it has at least some of the safety features below or “ticks all of the boxes” before deciding to have it installed. Essential safety features are named that way for reason that they meet the minimum lift operating standard.
A seat belt that goes around the waist; the stairlift should not be used if this is showing any signs of damage. This type of belt should be the same as a belt which is used in cars. Belts should carry a recognised safety mark.
Special sensor points on the stairlift that detect the slightest pressure, these cut the power and stop the lift if it’s going to collide with an object. This feature keeps you, other people and even pets safe around the stairlift.
Going back to the definition, as described above, comfort is an essential ingredient. This feature will be more desirable to people who are suffering with a condition which causes pain under a jolt, when the chair reaches the top or the bottom of the stairs. To achieve this, a soft start and stop is a must.
Limit sensors; these are in addition to sensors that stop the lift colliding with objects around it. Limit sensors attach to the bottom and top of the travel rail. They make sure the chair on the rail does not go over the rail and it stops at the right position.
A key for the lift; similar to that of a car, means you can control who and when anyone uses the lift. Controlling access ensures no one gets the chance to use the stairlift and misbehave on it.
If the stairlift stops working in mid-use, two essential safety mechanisms need to be activated to avoid potential problems. This first is an electrical braking system that instinctively cuts the power. The second is a mechanical system that stops the chair moving down the rail with no control.
Perhaps the most dangerous time to use a stairlift is when you exit the lift at the foot of the stairs and with considerably more risk, exiting from the top. Choosing a stairlift with a swivel chair that locks, greatly reduces the risk of injury. When the chair is swivelled in its lock position at the top of the stairs, it acts a barrier to falling.
All stairlifts must be manufactured to relevant safety directives and they must pass through testing of these in the country they are being resold in.
Reputable manufacturers will always try to exceed the requirements set out to them and will hold relevant testing certificates and mark their products accordingly.
Stairlift users need easy to use features and controls; many hours of research to gain an understanding of users’ needs has gone into the development of the shape, size and ergonomics of stairlift controls.
It’s pointless to manufacture a medical apparatus that is not easy to use and cannot be controlled by a broad range of users.
For users who have suffered a medical condition which has caused a lack of mobility. Different types of controls can make a big difference. Stairlifts have a range of controller types; from joysticks to paddle controls. Most have a soft resistance when used and easy to hold grips.
Stairlift remote controls have big clear buttons to call the lift up or down the stairs.
Seatbelts and safety bars have large comfortable, ergonomic handrails and big, clear buttons to unclick.
Getting on and off a stairlift
All stairlifts must come with chair arms, foot plate and a safety belt.
One of the most critical points of stairlift use is exiting the lift at the top of the stairs. At this point, it is crucial the user is kept safe from the risk of fall.
A swivel seat that is easily turned and locked serves not only as an easier way to exit the lift’s chair, but also an extra safety barrier.
Depending on the location and type of stairs, it may also be prudent to install an additional handrail or platform.
If initially, or over time, it is found that getting on or off the lift is proving difficult or could be made better in some way. A good idea is to have a second user assessment before and after use.