Vertical vs Inclined Platform Lifts: What’s the Difference?

Have you wondered why you don’t see more people using wheelchairs in public? Worldwide, roughly 75 million people need a wheelchair for daily mobility. The issue many wheelchair users face is access.

If a person doesn’t have a way to move from the house to their vehicle, they tend to stay at home. That often results in missed medical appointments, difficulty getting necessities, and limited social interaction.

A platform lift can be a blessing to people with mobility issues.

Explore vertical vs. inclined platform lifts here—understanding the differences before you start shopping helps make you more confident in your final decision. You’ll have the information needed to make an educated decision about which platform lift will work best for you.

What Is a Vertical Platform Lift?

Sometimes called a porch or deck lift, vertical platform lifts are like mini-elevators. For a person who spends most of their day in a wheelchair, installing a platform lift means freedom.

Vertical platform lifts at their most basic level use an open platform and a drive mechanism. The drive mechanism powers the lift up and down.

These lifts work indoors and outdoors—anywhere you need to access an elevated entrance to your home.

You can install a basic platform lift with an open platform and a ramp. Or, depending on the location and space you have available, you could select a vertical platform lift with an enclosure.

The most complex design fits inside a shaft-way, hence, the elevator reference. If you choose this type of platform lift, you’ll need to work with a contractor who can build the enclosure.

What Is an Inclined Platform Lift?

While a vertical platform lift works well in a variety of spaces, it cannot traverse a staircase. Similar to a stair lift, an inclined platform lift transports a person up and down stairs. The difference is that instead of sitting in a swivel seat, the person remains seated in their manual wheelchair. It is important to note an incline platform lift can only accommodate manual wheelchairs.

The inclined platform lift works by moving along the angle of the stairs.

For a home with one straight staircase, the lift travels in a straight line and stops at the top and bottom of the flight of stairs. Homes with more than one flight need the rail on the lift to bend with the angle of the stairs. A curved inclined platform lift offers the best solution.

Who Benefits Most from Platform Lifts?

Certainly, people who rely on wheelchairs can gain independence when they install a platform lift. There’s no need to have an aid or family member around at all times to help with accessing stairs or the outdoors.

Platform lifts bring a higher level of freedom for individuals who use other mobility devices, such as scooters or rollators. Even a person who needs a cane when walking will benefit from a platform lift.

Families with children in wheelchairs love the convenience and safety a platform lift offers. Attempting to carry a disabled child up and down stairs poses a safety risk for the child and the caregiver. Then, you have the job of carrying the wheelchair up and down too, unless you keep a wheelchair on each floor.

Finally, a platform lift can save a person’s back and arms. These lifts can carry groceries, packages, and laundry baskets, to name a few things. Depending on the model and its weight limit, you may even be able to fit the wheelchair and the groceries on the same trip.

A Few Points about Space

When looking at vertical vs. inclined platform lifts, one critical deciding factor is space. You’ll need to do a space assessment before you make your purchase.

Vertical Platform Lift Space Considerations

Basic vertical platform lifts have an ‘L’ shaped platform. The platform moves up and down. If you install this type of lift indoors, it will move in either an open shaft or enclosed space. Outdoor platform lifts typically move between much smaller vertical spaces, meaning they don’t need a shaft.

Although platform lifts don’t have a huge footprint, you’ll still need to consider the user space. The floor space and platform need to accommodate the size of the user’s wheelchair.

Inclined Platform Lift Sizing Requirements

Before you buy an inclined platform lift, you’ll need to take a look at how much space you have available in the staircase area. Look at the whole picture, taking into consideration space at the top and bottom landings as well as the stairs themselves.

Specifically, measure the width of the stairs, then measure the landing zone. Accurate measurements help your dealer determine the size platform you need.

You must be able to navigate the lift platform to get on and off in the manual wheelchair.

Best Practices When Selecting Platform Lifts

In addition to making sure your wheelchair will fit inside the platform lift, there are several other things to factor in when choosing the model that will best fit your situation.

Lifting Height

We talked about calculating the width of the staircase, but what about the height of the building? Lifting height takes into account the floor-to-ceiling measurement in the building where you’ll install the platform lift.

For an outdoor installation, you’ll need to measure one of two things: floor height or vertical stair height.

Tip: Your local platform lift dealer should come to your home and perform a space assessment. Make sure to inquire about this when you contact them.

Safety features

If you’ve seen stair lifts installed in someone’s home or a commercial building, you’ve likely noticed a safety belt. Platform lifts, regardless of whether it’s a vertical or inclined model, also come with a variety of safety features.

Ask your lift dealer to go over safety features with you and look for the following:

  • Non-skid platform
  • Safety flaps on the side
  • Sensor system
  • Safety door
  • Remote and manual controls
  • Emergency stop button

The whole point of installing a lift is to make life more convenient. You won’t have to sacrifice your safety to gain independence. Work with your dealer to make sure you understand the safety features included with your platform lift.

Need Help Deciding on Vertical vs. Inclined Platform Lifts?

We’ve covered quite a bit of information in a small space. Buying the right platform lift shouldn’t be a difficult decision, but it’s critical to buy the one that not only fits your needs but fits into your space.

If you’re ready to enjoy more freedom with mobility, Harmar specializes in platform lifts! We’ll help you find a local dealer who can show you the differences between vertical vs. inclined platform lifts.

Contact our team today!