Home Access

Rising to the Occasion

The value of vertical platform lifts is almost inestimable to the many mobility patients that use them. Whether because of landscaping or the architecture of the house, many patients cannot have home access ramps installed at their homes, and need to have a vertical platform lift installed.

VPLs are essential pieces of equipment that allow a wide range of mobility patients access to their homes and their world. Instead of a ramp stretching out from or around their home, a VPL lets them gain access to elevate porch or doorstep using a relatively small footprint of space. There are a number of scenarios where a VPL becomes the best option. Sometimes the need for a VPL can be a height issue, other times it might be an aesthetic issue; or the user might not have a power chair and using a ramp could be difficult and perhaps dangerous to ascent and descend; and in many cases it makes the most sense from a logistics standpoint because it takes up less space.

But VPLs are not a simple installation. Providers must have some special skills or partner with other professionals that have the necessary skills to ensure a VPL is properly installed, and they must obtain some special training from the manufacturer of their VPL before they can start installing VPLs, because a proper VPL installation doesn’t just afford patients accessibility, but ensure their safety, as well.

Moreover, a proper VPL installation requires the provider to survey a number of factors before it can launch into any job, because again, this isn’t about ensuring just a smooth installation, but also one that will ensure safety, as well as long-term reliability. So, the provider will want to set an appointment with the patient when staff can visit the home and start assessing where the patient needs to gain access to, and the surrounding architecture and landscaping to determine where and how best to site the VPL, as well as factors that could hamper the installation, or continued operation of the device. Let’s take a look some of the factors that go into that assessment of the home, as well as equipment:

Before starting the installation, get the right education. A VPL manufacturer should offer training courses in how to install, maintain and service their VPLs, and in fact many will not let a provider sell their offerings until their staff are certified in that vendor’s education programs. Moreover, A provider needs to be entirely familiar with local, state and national codes. Every jurisdiction is a little different, and a professional installation must adhere to those codes. So the provider must be an expert in what is needed for an installation. Here, too, a vendor can help. Some VPL makers have on-staff code experts who’s jobs are to be constantly aware of any and all changes in code ona nationwide basis, so that they can help direct providers.

Stay Grounded

The installation starts with a good foundation. The provider wants to review where the patient needs to gain access to the home and then start surveying where the VPL can sit, and that there will be ample room to lay a proper concrete “pad” on which the VPL will sit and be bolted down. That pad must be close enough to have access to standard electrical services, as well.

Mind the Gap

Also, there can be no shear points during the installation. There must be a specific gap in between the edge of the VPL platform and the landing. This is to prevent anyone falling or being injured from a gap, as well as to negate the possibility the platform ever running into something protruding from the home or porch structure and shearing it off. It’s also worth it to look at the threshold. The last thing a provider wants to do is install a VPL and then realize that the threshold is a barrier to entry.

Weathering the Storm

Durability is also something providers want to look at. VPLs are designed and manufactured to be weather and temperature resistant in order to ensure they hold up to the elements. That said, ideally a provider should be looking that VPLs that have the motor and controls are not in the tower or in the bottom of the tower, because that could be a problem in the case of flood or standing water.

Manual Control

And, of course, ensure that a VPL has a manual crank or other option to enable the device to be lowered in case the power goes out. No patient should ever be stranded because of a failed VPL. Moreover, that’s another good reason to have a VPL that has the motor and controls situated at the top of the VPL so that there is clear access to any manual control in the case of a power outage or other failure. And, in fact, there are many VPLs that offer backup batteries, as well, so that the patient doesn’t have to be stuck cranking away.

Points to take away:

  • A provider needs to get proper education from the VPL manufacturer, and also be fully aware of all local, state and national building codes.
  • The VPL installation must sited in an area that will accommodate a proper concrete pad and be close enough to electrical services.
  • There can be no gaps between platform and landing in order to ensure the patient’s safety as well as to prevent a situation where there could be shear.
  • VPLs must be durable so that they can stand up to the elements. Look for not only weatherized construction, but VPLs that keep the motor and the controls away from and flooding or standing water.
  • And of course, make sure that the VPL has all the necessary manual lowering mechanism in the rare even that the power goes out.

Learn More:

To gain more expertise in home access, consider a Certified Environmental Access Consultant (CEAC) certification. The VGM Group’s Accessible Home Improvement of America created the CEAC to ensure its bearers are formally educated using a standardized curriculum and are thusly credible providers of home access services. Learn more at www.accesshomeamerica.com.

This article originally appeared in the June 2012 issue of HME Business.

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