People who must use wheelchairs or power chairs can be severely limited in their own homes by a staircase. But even people who don't use chairs may be unable to climb an entire staircase. A variety of medications and physical conditions affect balance and vision, which can make even a small set of steps hazardous. When someone finds himself or herself unable to climb stairs for any reason, that can make a home feel small and isolating. The ability to get to the second floor or any level of the home is something most people take for granted, and something everyone can do with products like stair lifts and vertical platform lifts.
Each type of lift has a special purpose and can make mobility possible in multi-level homes, whether there are people present who use wheelchairs or who simply have difficulty climbing stairs. It's important to really consider the needs of the users when you're deciding which product is best for your home. In some cases, both are useful.
Vertical platform lifts are suitable for use by anyone in a wheelchair, power chair or scooter. These operate like elevators and are commonly used outside. Many people call them porch lifts because they're used to lift chairs onto the porch when it's high enough that a wheelchair ramp is impractical. It's important when purchasing a vertical platform lift for outside to make sure that the model is suitable for use outdoors, as some are designed for interiors only.
These lifts can be operated by the person in the wheelchair and so allow for more independence. The person never needs to get out of the chair, as is required with a stair lift. So for someone who cannot stand to transfer into another seat, a vertical platform lift is the best choice, for both indoor and outdoor staircases. Stair lifts offer the ability to go up and down a staircase, but are designed for people who don't need to stay in a wheelchair. Anyone can use a stair lift, so these are an option for anyone who has trouble climbing or descending stairs. Stair lifts can be used on outdoor stairs, too. Just make sure that the brand and model you choose is rated for outdoor use.
When choosing a stair lift, you also have to choose between battery-operated or electric. Both types must have an outlet nearby that they can be plugged into. The battery-operated models have a rechargeable battery that will allow the lift to work for a while without electricity. If the power goes out, the person with mobility problems will still be able to get up and down the steps several times.
The drawback to this is that the rechargeable batteries do wear out over time and need to be replaced, but the cost is about the same as a good car battery and not a huge burden. If the stair lift is used about 4 times a day to go up and back down the stairs, the battery will last about a year. One trip up and down per day should let the battery last 4 years, so don't let the idea of replacing the battery discourage you if a rechargeable model is something you're considering.
Stair lifts are also an option when there's nowhere to put a vertical platform lift or the renovation to add one would be too expensive. Keep in mind that some people who use wheelchairs will need help transferring in and out of a stair lift, and won't be able to use it independently.