What is a Wheelchair Lift and How Does it Work?

A wheelchair lift also known as Vertical Platform Lift (VPL), is available in two basic styles: vertical and incline. Your home or building space will determine what type of lift is best. Our experienced lift team will help you make that determination. A home wheelchair lift will allow you to safely enter and exit your home or a building, or move between levels. A vertical platform lift (VPL), has a non-skid platform that lifts a wheelchair or mobility scooter from one level to another inside or outside. Since a wheelchair lift safely moves a person between short distances, it is a great solution for navigating small stairways, stages. porches or decks. In addition, some wheelchair lifts have a maximum lifting range of up to fourteen feet, so they can be used to access different floors in a building.

How is an inclined wheelchair lift installed?

Inclined wheelchair lifts are supported by the wall or embedded stanchions. These support the lift which cantilevers out from these mounting structures.

Do I need a permit for the installation of an inclined wheelchair lift?

How much room does a vertical platform lift require?

The space needed for installation can vary with platform size changes and the use of ramps or pits. A standard wheelchair lift will take up 4.5′ x 5′.

What is the maximum height that a wheelchair lift can reach?

A residential VPL can rise up to 14 ft. and a commercial wheelchair lift generally can lift up to 4ft., but higher levels are also possible.

What is the weight capacity of a vertical platform lift?

Both home and business wheelchair lifts can hold up to 750 lbs.

What is the difference between Vertical Platform Lifts and Incline Platform Lifts?

  • Vertical Platform Lifts (VPL), or Wheelchair Lifts, transport their passengers straight up and down on a platform large enough to safely accommodate a wheelchair. VPLs are available in both permanent and portable configurations, making them an ideal choice for schools, venues, churches, retail or office buildings, as well as any other facility which may have a need to transport persons over stairs, walls, or other architectural barriers.
  • An Inclined Platform Lift (IPL) travels on a railing installed parallel to a barrier. The weight capacity for IPLs is sometimes more restrictive than that of VPLs due to the surrounding structure supporting the railing

What is the difference between wheelchair lifts and elevators? Wheelchair lifts specifically assist persons with disabilities. Wheelchair lifts are smaller than elevators and can be portable or permanent, making them ideal for assisting a diverse community with varying accessibility needs. Comparatively, elevators frequently transport all individuals and cargo within a building or structure. As opposed to the compact construction of wheelchair lifts, elevators require far more space to install and operate.

What is an installation pit?

The components used in the operation of platform lifts can be bulky and often require an installation pit to accommodate the lifting mechanism. When necessary, an installation pit is dug out of the floor or ground, typically 3”-6” deep. Otherwise, the lift may sit 3”-6” above the floor, thus requiring an entry ramp. However, there are wheelchair lifts that feature floor level access and effectively do away with the need for both an installation pit as well as an entry ramp. For a list of manufacturers and their products with floor level access, check out our linkhere.

What is an entry ramp?

An entry ramp, or access ramp, is a short inclined pathway a person must go up to enter the lift. An installation pit may do away with the need for an entry ramp. Accessibility Solutions does not sell, install, or service wheelchair entry ramps.

Why is it important to have a wheelchair lift in public spaces?

By law, public space must be ADA compliant / physically accessible to all individuals. If stairs or other architectural obstacles hinder access to any part of your facility, it may be in your best interest to consider installing a wheelchair lift. For residential use, a wheelchair lift may be able to help if you have difficulty negotiating aspects of your home, such as stairs or porches.

I don’t use a wheelchair, do I still need/can I use a wheelchair lift?

If you have trouble negotiating stairs, ramps, etc. for any reason, you may still find a wheelchair lift useful.

How much weight is a wheelchair lift capable of carrying?

Weight capacity varies depending on the manufacturer and model of the lift. In general, the maximum load ranges between 500 and 750 pounds, though a few are capable of 900 pounds. Check with a manufacturer directly to find a lift that fits your needs best.

How do I know if I need a wheelchair lift?

If you are the owner or operator of a facility such as a school, convention center, concert hall or other public space, look at your patron demographic. How do visitors get around any steps, ramps, stages, or other platforms? Do you host graduations, parties, or weddings on a regular basis? For home applications, do you have difficulty using stairs or getting onto a porch? What type of space restrictions do you have? These are some questions you can ask yourself to decide if you need a wheelchair lift.

Where and when can I use a Vertical Platform Lift (VPL) or wheelchair lift?

Lifts tend to be most used at event-driven venues, such as concert halls or stages. Your local building codes dictate where a lift is used, as well as what type of lift and any additional requirements placed on the lift.

What are the differences between commercial and residential lifts?

There are different code requirements separating residential and commercial lifts, as well as design standards, such as enclosures, gates, and other safety features. As such, consult a wheelchair lift product specialist and your local building code authority for information about what is required in your specific situation.

How loud are wheelchair lifts?

Noise is a byproduct of the drivetrain’s operation, which varies depending on manufacturer and model. Some common drive systems include ACME Screw, Ball Screw, and Direct-Plunger Hydraulic. Of the drive systems listed above, hydraulic is the quietest.