Wheelchair lifts, also referred to as platform lifts, are vertical elevating systems with a platform designed to transport a single passenger between floor levels. Some manufacturers provide units that can travel up to a maximum of 14 feet, but shorter vertical distances (less than one floor) are typical. Wheelchair lifts are typically provided as a prefabricated, self-contained system that can be located indoors or outdoors. They can be installed in an enclosed vertical shaft to provide weather protection, if necessary, or they can be left unenclosed. Like traditional passenger elevators, the wheelchair lift system must meet all the requirements of the ADA.
The major advantage of installing a wheelchair lift is that it is more cost effective than a typical commercial passenger elevator. State inspections and scheduled maintenance for vertical lifts are less frequent than those required for commercial elevators. Additionally, there is no machine room required. Wheelchair lifts must comply with the requirements of ASME A18.1, “Safety Standards for Platform Lifts and Stairway Chair Lifts.” This standard covers the design, construction, installation, operation, inspection, testing, maintenance, and repair of inclined stairway chairlifts and inclined and vertical platform lifts intended for transportation of a mobility impaired person only. Wheelchair lift equipment requires a permit for installation and must be reviewed and inspected to ensure that all code requirements are met.
Available in a straight-through platform design or in a 90-degree configuration, wheelchair lift systems provide users ease of maneuvering. System components generally consist of a drive system (screw drive or hydraulic), a platform, doors and gates, a door interlock with operator controls, and platform/call station controls. These systems can be installed directly to the floor surface, which will require the addition of an access ramp, or the system components can be located in a slightly recessed pit, usually three inches.
Commercial lift weight limitations are generally up to 750 lbs. with a platform deck measuring 36" x 60". With smaller platforms, the weight limitation may be slightly lower. Most manufacturers offer battery operated motors that are rechargeable when connected to the building electrical system. Speeds can range from 9 feet/minute (fpm) to 21 fpm.