Putting it Together

Most platform lifts come custom built for each situation: the position of the entrance, the direction a gate opens, etc.

To demonstrate how a lift comes together, below is a quick review of 11 common parts, features and options that are available when choosing a platform lift. For further terminology see our glossary.

Safety Features

Under-Platform Safety Pan: under-platform safety pans operate as an emergency stop precaution. When contacting an object underneath the lift, the safety-pan automatically halts the descent of the platform lift.

Constant Pressure Operating Switches: Constant-pressure operating switches enable a rider to easily stop the platform in an emergency. These switches require a rider to hold down the switch or button in order for the lift to move. This feature does away with the need to locate emergency stop buttons or other switches in an emergency.

Backup Power: Many locations require a lift to have a backup power source for operation in the event of a power outage. In addition, most lifts include a means of manually lowering the lift. Such methods include: a hand pump, a release valve, or a hand-crank.

Installation Characteristics

Installation Pits: Installation pits allow floor-level access into and out of a lift  (i.e., without requiring the use of an entry ramp). In renovation projects, the construction of an installation pit will generally require the demolition of the preexisting flooring. Due to this, pits are unfavorable for historic renovations and similar projects.

Outdoor Use Packages: Many wheelchair lifts provide outdoor access to porches or entrance ways. As such, manufacturers will often offer weather proofing options for their lifts. Such options may include: stainless steel components, weather proofed electrical components, and, if the lift features a hydraulic drive system, cold temperature hydraulic fluid.

Aesthetic Features

Machine Towers: Machine towers house the lifting mechanisms of a wheelchair lift and directly connect to the lifting platform. As such, machine towers commonly install along an existing wall, shaftway, or are occasionally unsupported. Due to the nature of the lifting mechanism and the height that a wheelchair lift must reach, a machine tower will often take up a large amount of vertical space and may be visually obtrusive.

Low Profile Design: Some higher-end lifts are available without a machine tower. Aside from the aesthetic benefits, towerless lifts are also more compact and therefore able to operate in smaller spaces.

Enclosure and Shaftway Models: A wheelchair lift may require an enclosure due to code or safety requirements. An enclosure is commonly a steel or aluminum framework that contains Plexiglas or laminated glass panels and surrounds the lift, typically outdoors. Rather than installing a separate enclosure, some lifts install into shaftways constructed by a third party. This causes some confusion as they look similar to elevators. In contrast to enclosed lifts, shaftway are more common indoors. As such, walls of a shaftway lift integrate into the surrounding structure, making them thicker than those of an enclosure.

Operating Characteristics

Entry Ramps: Due to under-platform safety pans or structural supports, most wheelchair lifts don’t sit flush on the ground. As such, unless using an installation pit, most wheelchair lifts tend to rest at least 3” above floor level and; therefore, require a small ramp in order to facilitate easy access into and out of the lift for wheelchair users or others with mobility impairments.

Portable Models: Portable lifts are widely used in colleges, community centers, and religious centers where events are continually changing. Easy to setup, use, and tear down, portable lifts push into place and wheel back for storage or another event. As such, a lift may provide access to a graduation stage, bleachers, and a conference room all in one day.

Drive Train & Noise Level: The drive train is the type of mechanism used to lift the platform (e.g., ASME screw drive, direct-acting hydraulic, etc.), all of which generate noise during operation. Due to the widely varied locations a platform lift are required, drivetrain noise is often an important factor in the purchasing decision. For example, a portable lift used in a theater for accessing a stage or in an orchestra pit would need to be quiet so as not to interrupt performances. However, a lift that is used for a private porch may be noisier without any negative consequences.

For further information about platform lift features, see our lift comparison page, or contact a product specialist for specific details.

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