Tools for Medical Modifications Series: Part 3 of 3
Easy Does It, Stairway Access – Stairways and the rooms they provide access to, can be a big problem for a person who has encountered some type of mobility impairment. Often the bedrooms and bathrooms are at the top of stairs thus preventing normal use of the whole house, living areas downstairs and bedroom bathroom areas at the top. But it can be solved inexpensively with a ‘Stair Glide’ and provide access for the mobility impaired. Of course the configuration of the stair, stairwell and adjacent hallways at the top and bottom will dictate how extensive the device and installation must be, but practically any home can be fitted with this device by professionals. The glides can accommodate 25 degree to 50 degree slopes and access ‘L’ shaped stairway configurations. This is an alternative to elevators that are expensive and very difficult to install in existing homes.
The most basic glide of this kind consists of a chair in which you sit, and then the chair is moved along, up or down the existing stair slope on a track until the chair is positioned at the top or bottom of the stairway and you exit. The chair remains where you exited, top or bottom, or if there is more than one user it can be summoned to the top or bottom by remote control. The stair glide devices have battery backup for emergency situations and total safety of access. The installation of the stair glide track does not impact the existing wall structure as the track is installed over the edges of the stair treads and controls and power for the device are obtained from a common wall outlet at the top or bottom.
A number of considerations must be taken into account in the design of a stair glide. The height and weight of the person using the chair will dictate the chair dimensions and height from the floor. As indicated the device does not mount on the wall but set out from the wall about 12 to 15” with the chair folded up (most device chairs fold to free up the stairway access width). Existing total stair width should be a minimum of 38 to 40” before installation to allow a minimum passage of 24” with the chair in the folded position for access by other stair users. The flat metal chair track is mounted about 5 to 6” from the wall resting only on the noses of the stair treads. The track bends at the top and bottom to allow the chair to get past the last stair tread and flatten out. The chairs normally swivel slightly to allow an easy access to the landing top or bottom of the stair. These stair access devices can be elaborate and go around corners but with steeply increasing expense. The stair glide devices can also have platforms for wheel chair roll-on or a carriage mechanism that engages the wheel chair and raises or lowers the occupied chair to another level eliminating the necessity to transfer to a separate chair.
In most cities the installation of a stair glide requires a building permit, fire permit and a licensed electrician and contractor for installation. Additionally there will a yearly inspection of the stair glide and license fee.
These stair glide inspections are simply safety measures and not burdensome when seen as an exchange for the convenience of this devise. Access to the entire house for the mobility impaired gives a real sense of independence to an individual.