Platform lifts allow less able peopleto move independently around buildings, overcoming obstacles such as small floor level changes and steep staircases. Companies use them to make premises, goods and services accessible to people with mobility problems; thus complying with the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) introduced in 1995.
Misapplied platform lifts can prove expensive and time-consuming to rectify, so careful selection is essential. Some companies task this to an experienced building contractor, which may be economical if the unit is part of a bigger project (e.g. a refurbishment). However, for standalone lift jobs it can be more cost effective to deal directly with manufacturers.
Choosing the right platform lift can be daunting. There are many factors to consider and a bad decision can have disastrous implications. Fortunately, most manufacturers offer free advice and assistance to their customers – from an early consultation right through to design and installation.
Many people who require platform lifts ask the same initial questions. The top ten are:
1. How do platform lifts differ to conventional passenger lifts?
Operator controls are one of the main differences between platform lifts and passenger lifts. Push buttons on a platform lift carriage should require continuous pressure to function, a restriction that does not apply to traditional passenger lifts.
Another significant difference is that platform lifts are limited to a maximum travel speed of 0.15 metres per second, which means a typical unit will take approximately twenty seconds to travel to a height of three metres. In addition, platform lifts do not have an enclosed cabin and must have a peripheral safety edge, which halts the platform if it encounters an object or person.
2. What types of platform lift are available?
There are many different lift models of varying dimensions, something to suit even the most demanding of requirements. Some travel vertically, while inclined versions have folding platforms on straight or curved rails to transport wheelchair users up flights of stairs.
3. When is a platform lift appropriate?
Platform lifts are compact, easy to install and cost-effective. This makes them ideal for less-intensive scenarios that do not warrant a traditional passenger lift.
Many wheelchair lifts are self-contained and do not require a supporting wall. This makes them ideal for listed buildings, which are subject to laws that protect historical integrity and restrict physical changes.
4. When do you specify a platform lift instead of a ramp?
Ramps are a simple access solution and can save a lot of the money and building work associated with installing a platform lift. However, there are times when a ramp simply is not suitable.
Ramps often have to stretch a long way to provide a slope gentle enough for wheelchair users to travel up without assistance, and the space requirements often rule them out of internal projects.
Platform lifts are an excellent choice for applications with limited space or demanding access requirements. Obviously, if there were only one small step or gap to overcome, then a ramp would be more cost effective.
5. How much do platform lifts cost?
A platform lift's cost is dependent on a series of variables, which include lift model, travel distance, load capacity, dimensions, necessary building work, appearance, and accessories. A good manufacturer will listen to the customer's individual requirements before producing a detailed quote.
6. Do platform lifts require a pit or supporting wall?
This depends on the model and the manufacturer. Some platform lifts do not require a pit or supporting wall, yet travel to considerable heights. Freestanding units are a popular choice because they keep building work and associated costs to a minimum.
Other disabled lifts do require a supporting wall and/or a pit. In these cases, companies should test supporting walls to make sure they are strong enough. It is best to discuss the application with a manufacturer, which can then recommend a suitable model.
7. What safety devices are platform lifts fitted with?
Platform lifts must have a variety of safety features. These include the aforementioned peripheral safety edge, hand winding and emergency battery lowering systems in case of power failure, carriage alarms, devices that protect the lift against overloading, and doors/landing gates that lock automatically when the platform is in motion to prevent people entering the shaft/lift area.
8. What is the minimum\maximum travel height?
Standard platform lifts are available with differing travel heights, ranging from just a few inches to many metres. Many manufacturers also offer custom-built units for customers with non-standard requirements.
9. How much can platform lifts carry?
This depends on the model. There are small units that lift 300kg - more than enough to carry a wheelchair user up a short flight of stairs. Others have large platforms that accommodate a wheelchair plus a carer. These often travel much further, over three storeys in some cases, and carry loads of 400kg-1000kg.
10. Are there platform lifts suitable for external use?
Yes. Using platform lifts outside is common and most manufacturers offer units for indoor and outdoor applications.