Today, stairlifts are well recognized as essential aids for people with a range of mobility problems which cause difficulties when climbing stairs and indeed are provided not only in domestic settings, but in public facilities where accessibility is both recognized and supported.
The invention of the stairlift is generally attributed to C.C.Crispen, an entrepreneur from Pennsylvania, USA, who wanted to help his ailing friends move from floor to floor. A self taught engineer, he created his first prototype and called it the In-Clinator - an inclining chair mounted on rails and powered by electricity. In the 1930s, The Inclinator Company of America commercially produced, advertised and sold their stairlift primarily to victims of the polio epidemic which swept the country at that time.
However, an earlier reference was found in 2009 by historian Doctor David Starkey whilst searching through the archives of King Henry VIII. Following a jousting injury, the king, weighing some 30 stone, was hauled up and down stairs by servants at Whitehall Palace in London on a reinforced chair using a block and tackle system.
Today, stairlifts are known variously as stair lifts, stair-lifts, chair lifts, stair gliders and are manufactured by a range of major companies including Acorn, Bison, Brooks, Churchill, Minivator and Stannah.
The modern day stairlift now boasts a range of features focusing on safety, convenience and comfort including seat height adjustment, flip up safety rail and seat belt, soft start and stop, folding steps, key switch, battery isolation and telephone station.
DC rechargeable battery systems are used to power the stairlift drivetrain to ensure continuity of use in the event of a mains power failure.
Conventionally, the standard layout for a domestic stairlift is for the seat to be at right angles to the rail so the user travels side saddle. Either manually or powered, the seat swivels at both bottom and top of the staircase to provide comfortable and safe entry and exit with a safety switch or locking device to prevent accidental movement. Special models are available to cater for a wide range of mobility problems. These range from the perch seat, a stand on platform to models with seats facing the bottom of the staircase for users whose condition prevents use of the conventional seat layout. Obviously, landing space needs to be sufficient to accommodate these special models. In addition, stairlifts which can accommodate a wheelchair are widely available and incorporate a platform, access ramp and locking system for the wheelchair.
Controlled using either a switch or toggle on the stairlift's arm or via remote control, modern day stairlifts incorporate safety cut off switches connected to safety edges to ensure that, on meeting any obstruction, the stairlift will automatically stop and only travel away from the obstruction.
With rail systems designed either as straight or curved rail, any staircase type can be accommodated although curved rail stairlifts require more design and customization, including seat incliners to avoid uncomfortable or hazardous travel angles for the user.
Thanks largely to the imagination and engineering efforts of CC Crispen with some earlier inspiration perhaps from King Henry, the stairlift has rightly found it's place as a convenient, safe, reliable and comfortable aid to those of us with mobility problems offering a freedom to move around the home or building which otherwise might be denied or at best be exceedingly difficult.
Manufacturers and installers have offered an extended warranty, rather like those available for domestic white goods and brown goods.
Mobility Consultant: Leodis stairlifts The premier supplier of stairlifts to assist with mobility problems in Yorkshire and Humberside