Wheel chair lifts have been one of the most significant advances in disabled mobility since the wheel chair itself was invented. They play a supporting role. Certain kinds extend the range handicapped people can move about directly, by transporting them across the stairs that would otherwise hinder them.
Wheel chair lifts are designed to lift a person who needs to utilize such a device for mobility in an area where a person without one would ordinarily go by negotiating stairs or some other route that is difficult, hazardous, or impossible in a wheelchair. To safely and reliably lift both a person and the wheelchair he or she sits in, the lift must be quite powerful. Generally, these lifts consist of a platform that can be wheeled onto and a motor that raises the platform up or down to one or more different levels.
Before the invention of wheel chair lifts, buildings could only provide handicapped access through ramp systems. In some cases, ramps work perfectly well, and they are widely used to this day. Sometimes, however, a ramp is impractical for one reason or another, and in these cases, the lifts are employed instead. The most common reason for using a lift instead of a ramp is architectural. Sometimes there isn’t room to build a large ramp anywhere conveniently. Wheel chair lifts take up far less room than ramps, because they don’t entail any horizontal movement. In most cases, they move in a direct, vertical direction, just like an elevator. Ramps are also often impractical where stairs are prolonged or steep, because a gradual ramp would need to be dangerously steep or inconveniently large.
When wheel chair lifts were first implemented, they were often found in the private homes of those who were handicapped or who wished to accommodate handicapped guests. Houses rarely have room for ramps, especially if they were designed without this accommodation in mind. Since the staircases in houses rarely see heavy traffic, wheel chair lifts in private residences are often built directly over the stairs. In this case, they follow the path of the stairs, which means moving horizontally as well as vertically. The advantage of this system is that it saves space. The disadvantage is that when wheel chair lifts of this sort are in operation, it usually keeps others from using the staircase.
These lifts are important, not just for handicapped Americans, but for all Americans. The handicapped are better able to make their contributions to society when they have uninhibited access to all areas. In addition, providing equal access with ramps and wheel chair lifts supports the values that the United States was founded upon.
We believe in inalienable rights and dignity. We believe in opportunity, rather than privilege. We also believe in self-reliance. Rather than believing that certain people deserve or garner power over others, Americans believe that individuals naturally carry power and responsibility for themselves. Wheel chair lifts allow handicapped people to be independent, rather than reliant on others.
Wheel chair lifts have been important to disabled people and to supporters of equality since their invention decades ago and have gradually found service in more and more locations worldwide. Today, they are woven into the everyday lives of those who use wheel chairs. They have facilitated disabled people in ascending, literally and figuratively, to the stage and to the highest places in society. Upward mobility has never so gracefully emblemized itself.