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Features » Habitat

Updated: October 28, 2011 18:19 IST

Stairlifts to overcome a mobility hurdle

MITHOSH JOSEPH
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Climb stairs confdently: A stairlift in use in a house in Thrissur.
Photo: K.C. Sowmish Climb stairs confdently: A stairlift in use in a house in Thrissur.

A stairlift can make climbing of stairs a breezy affair for senior citizens who face mobility problems and those physically challenged. The contraption has entered the elevator market in Kerala.

Mounted on a specially fitted rail on the side of the staircase, the chair-like device moves up the steps on commands given through a hand-held remote control or buttons fitted on the armrest. The gliding chair, with a comfortable and simple design, mainly targets domestic clients.

Stairlifts do not require an alternative-current (AC) supply. With a 24-volt direct-current (DC) input, the device can carry a maximum load of 127 kg. The select few dealers in the State stock both indoor and outdoor types.

The imported stairlifts now being supplied can function on a 12-metre rail, mounted on the side of staircases. Most of the body components are either made of aluminium or steel. The plastic parts used in some portions for seating arrangements are heat- and UV-resistant, protecting the stairlift from colour fade and heat damage.

The padded seat with its chic folding arms, footrest, and headrest allow smooth and comfortable access to the stairway. The swivel seat helps to get on and off easily without twisting the body. On moving, the diagnostic digital display gives various pieces of information on its screen. As the ascent and descent are controlled with the use of sensors, it is a “soft stop” rather than a “crash-landing” always.

Five safety sensors on the footrest stop the carriage automatically on encountering any obstruction on the way. For extra security, a stairlift can be fitted with separate lap and shoulder harnesses. After use, the user can easily lock the switch pad, preventing children from misusing it.

At present, the stairlift trade in Kerala is dominated by a German company named Acorn. Although full-fledged showrooms are yet to be opened, the company has a State-wide network to meet demand from potential clients.

Dealers say the cost, including of installation, comes to around Rs.2.5 lakh. They offer free service for three years.

M.T. Geevarghese, manager of a leading elevator company which deals in Acorn products, says people are yet to be aware of the utility of the comparatively new product. Compared with elevators, the stairlifts are inexpensive and more suitable for domestic use, he adds.

Sales representatives are now busy attending fairs across the State to popularise the product and explain its utility to the clients. They have started approaching owners of apartments to make them aware of the possibilities of installing stairlifts. At present, products to suit ornamental varieties of stairs, including spiral and curved designs, are not common in Kerala, as they are too expensive.

Dealers are now focussing on selling indoor stairlifts which can be fitted to ordinary staircases.

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