Choosing a stair climber for a disabled person in a wheelchair is never an easy task. A number of different factors need to be taken into account in order to make the right choice. Ordinary stairs are a serious architectural barrier to disabled people, to the extent that they can prevent them from entering or leaving their homes. Many disabled people are only able to get around in a wheelchair. A stair climber, which enables a disabled person in a wheelchair to move up and down stairs, is therefore a vitally important piece of equipment for them.
There are many different types of stair climbers for disabled people in a wheelchair on the market. They fall into two main categories:
- Fixed stair climbers: stairlifts or lifts/elevators
- Portable stair climbers for wheelchairs
Fixed stair climbers for disabled people are domestic lifts (or elevators) and stair climbers also known as stairlifts. These are made up of a seat anchored to the wall or to the banisters. The stairlift runs above the stairs on fixed “rails” installed on the staircase. To use it, a disabled person must travel up and down the stairs without a wheelchair or the aid of another person.
Portable stair climbers for wheelchairs, on the other hand, also come in a variety of types, and again fall in two main categories:
- Stair climbers with wheels, manual or electric
- Stair climbers with tracks, almost always electric-powered
Wheeled stair climbers may be manually operated or electrically powered, whereas tracked stair climbers are all electric. Some wheeled stair climbers enable the disabled person to be transported in a wheelchair, and are therefore called wheelchair stair climbers. Others have a seat and are solely for moving the disabled person.
Differences between Portable Stair Climbers, Stairlifts and Lifts (or Elevators)
There are considerable differences between fixed stair climbers, i.e. lifts (elevators) and stairlifts, and portable stair climbers for wheelchairs.
Lifts and stairlifts both enable the disabled person (often an elderly person with motor difficulties) to go up and down the stairs independently, without the help of an operator. They are fixed devices which do not travel on the stairs themselves, and are therefore usually very comfortable and safe. The biggest problem with domestic lifts and stairlifts is that they can only be used on a single staircase. This means they only offer mobility to the disabled or elderly person within the home.
Furthermore, when a disabled person uses the stairlift, their wheelchair has to be left behind on the landing, so there needs to be another wheelchair on the floor to which they are travelling (upstairs or downstairs). Another downside to stairlifts is that they considerably restrict the usability of the staircase onto which they are installed, as they reduce both its width and its capacity. Installing a stairlift normally involves work on the wall of the staircase, which makes it hard to remove once it has been installed. Finally, a good-quality stairlift is normally very costly. Prices start at around €6,000.
Portable stair climbers for disabled people in a wheelchair are another matter. Fitted with tracks or wheels, their main advantage is that they can be used on more than one staircase, including in the same building. They are portable and so they can be transported by car. This considerably reduces the restrictions to the movement of a person in a wheelchair. However, as we will see, there are significant differences between the various types and models of mobile stair climbers.
The cost of portable stair climbers varies considerably, and is generally less than that of fixed stair climbers.
Carrying Disabled People on Stairs using a Wheeled Stair Climber
Stair climbers with wheels enable disabled people to be moved on stairs both inside and outside the home. These stair climbers may be manually or electrically operated. However, not all wheeled stair climbers can carry wheelchairs. Some models have a seat for carrying elderly or disabled people.
Unlike fixed stair climbers, wheeled stair climbers for the disabled always require an operator, whose skills and physical strength are essential pre-requisites for ensuring the passenger’s safety.
In fact, a wheeled stair climber requires considerable interaction between the operator and the disabled person carried on the stairs, who needs to be kept balanced while they are moved. The problem of maintaining balance is extremely demanding for the operator of a manual stair climber with wheels.
This is why manually operated wheeled stair climbers are only suitable for transport on short flights of stairs without a steep slope.
Even if modern electric wheeled stair climbers are fitted with safety mechanisms that make the operator’s job easier, they still require more physical strength to operate than tracked stair climbers. The disabled person’s safety is entirely dependent on the operator’s skill and physical strength. This is the main disadvantage of wheeled stair climbers.
The wide variety of stair climbers is also reflected in their price. A manual stair climber with wheels can cost less than €1,000, whereas the price of an electric stair climber with a seat starts at around €2,500.
Tracked Stair Climbers – a Combination of Mobility and Safety, but Quality Counts
Stair climbers for disabled with tracks are safer than stair climbers with wheels. The reason is that the weight of the load – in this case the weight of the disabled person, plus the weight of the wheelchair – is transferred to the staircase. It is therefore far less effort for the operator to move the wheelchair than when using a wheeled stair climber. This is because there is no need for the operator to keep the wheelchair balanced for the entire time it is being moved up or down the stairs.
There are many different types of tracked stair climbers on the market, and prices range from €1,800 to €9,000. However, at the lower end of the price range most of the products are imported from Asia and of inferior quality.
The difference in price between tracked stair climbers reflects different levels of passenger comfort, safety is transporting disabled people, load capacity and handling of the stair climber.
Economical tracked stair climbers – which rarely cost more than €4,000 – are generally safer than wheeled stair climbers. However they only allow limited freedom of movement because the tracks only move backwards and forwards.
With this type of stair climber it is not possible, or at least it is very difficult, to rotate the wheelchair on the staircase.
Moreover, the wheelchair must be tilted before starting the ascent (or descent) and the angle at which it is tilted cannot be altered if circumstances should require.
Tracked stair climbers for disabled people in a wheelchair in the higher price range are decidedly more comfortable, guarantee greater safety during movement and are easier to handle.
Zonzini Tracked Stair Climbers for Disabled People – Domino People and Domino People Slim
The Zonzini stair climbers for disabled people – Domino People and Domino People Slim – are fitted with tracks and a twin electric motor.
These stair climbers have a load capacity of up to 400 Kg and are also able to carry motorized wheelchairs. Both Domino People and Domino People Slim use cutting-edge technology, which ensures they stand apart from the typical tracked stair climbers currently available on the market.
The following are some of their distinctive features
- Automatic wheelchair tilting mechanism while carrying disabled people on stairs
- Wheelchair angle that can be changed at any time while the disabled person is travelling up or down the stairs
- Up to 360° rotation on the stairs thanks to the two independent traction motors that power the tracks
- The twin electric motors also enable disabled people to be moved up and down spiral staircases
- They enable disabled people to be carried in their wheelchairs on stairs at an angle of up to 45 degrees, compared with the majority of traditional tracked or wheeled stair climbers that can travel up and down stairs with a maximum angle of 35 degrees
Discover our tracked stair climbers for disabled people in wheelchairs:
Conclusions – How do I choose the right Stair Climber for a Disabled Person in a Wheelchair
As we have seen, there are major differences between fixed stair climbers, such as stairlifts and domestic lifts (elevators), and mobile stair climbers. Fixed stair climbers ensure maximum comfort for disabled people, as they resolve the problem of having to go up and down stairs. They also do not require an operator to move the disabled person in a wheelchair on the stairs. On the other hand, this type of stair climber can only be used within the home. Also, they require structural alterations for their installation, which are not easily reversible. A further disadvantage is that fixed stair climbers are generally very expensive.
The main advantage that all types of manual stair climbers share, whether tracked or wheeled, is that they can be moved from one set of stairs or steps to another. They therefore offer the maximum possible mobility to disabled people.
However, as we have seen, there are considerable differences between stair climbers with wheels and stair climbers with tracks. The difference in terms of safety, comfort and capacity is reflected in their price, although this is normally far lower than the price of a fixed stair climber.
It should also be mentioned that fixed and mobile stair climbers are not necessarily alternative choices. It is perfectly possible for both to coexist, depending on the specific circumstances of the disabled person, the type of building and stairs, and of course the family’s financial resources.
Generally speaking, when the person suffering from a motor disability is young, being able to overcome architectural barriers is of crucial importance to their quality of life. However, it would be a mistake to assume that mobility is not an important factor in the quality of life of an elderly person in a wheelchair, even if they are no longer working and they leave the house less frequently than a younger person. To be elderly and alone, confined to the house because of motor difficulties is a cause of loneliness in the elderly, as they cannot take part in social activities.
A Zonzini stair climber cannot be the solution to such a serious problem, but it can certainly be a major help to overcoming the biggest architectural barrier for disabled people, in other words, stairs.