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Preparation for a Commercial Wheelchair lift

Commercial Wheelchair Lift

The most important task for the installation of any type of handicap wheelchair elevator lift is planning. What makes that task difficult is gathering all the facts that must be considered in order to properly install a lift to meet commercial code. Most of the calls we receive are from contractors or architects that know only that they need to reach a certain height. It would seem simple enough, but there are many considerations when attempting to plan for all contingencies. Here is a list along with short explanations of many of the common subjects you will want to consider when planning to install any wheelchair lift:

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  1. Measuring the height you need to reach – Standard wheelchair elevator lifts are sold in heights beginning at 24 inches, then 52 inches, and two foot intervals at 8 feet, 10 feet, 12 feet, and 14 feet. The proper height you need to  measure is from the floor at the bottom to the top edge of the upper floor or deck. If your measured height reaches 99 inches for example, you will need a 120 inch vertical lift since the 96 inch model will not reach, and the next lift height is 120 inches. If you are building an enclosed elevator shaft, the height of the enclosure will most likely go all the way to the ceiling of the upper level. In some cases the upper level is a balcony, in which case the height of the shaft must reach at least the height of the wheelchair lift rails when stopped at the upper level.
  2. A note about measuring for recessing – All commercial wheelchair elevator lifts will have a support structure immediately below the lift platform. This structure is usually comprised of two rails that are 1.75 inches in height on most models. What this means is that the actual lift platform will sit 1.75 inches above ground level. In order to easily wheel onto the elevated platform, elevator lifts must employ a stationary ramp. If you have not constructed your space yet you may choose to recess the elevator shaft 1.75 to 2 inches in order to eliminate the need for a ramp. If you recess the shaft floor you must measure from the bottom of the recessed floor to get the proper height of your lift. For example, if the required height is exactly 120 inches, plus 2 inches for the recess, you will need to acquire the next highest lift of 144 inches or otherwise you will be 2 inches short of your required height.

  3. Other considerations when recessing your lift – A stationary wheelchair ramp is usually 18 inches in length, 1 ¾ inches high, and placed in front of the platform to facilitate entry upon the raised floor. If the floor is not recessed the only choice is to use a stationary ramp as described above. The stationary ramp must be installed below the elevator door if you do not recess the shaft, so the elevator door must be raised 1.75 inches above ground level to accommodate the ramp.

    If you have made the decision to recess the floor of your elevator lift enclosure, you may consider drainage. There is always the possibility of spillage or water accumulation at ground level, so installing a drain in a recessed shaft may be a consideration.

  4. Measuring the width and depth required – There are two major configurations of commercial wheelchair lifts, a straight through access, and an adjacent access. The footprint on each of these vertical wheelchair lifts is different. The adjacent access wheelchair lift is wider across the platform than a straight through access model due to the extra room required for entry when the lift is at the upper level. If you are building a shaft enclosure, the shaft will have to be wider for an adjacent access lift than a straight through access. Since each lift’s space requirement is different, based upon the manufacturer, we highly recommend that you allow us to provide you with a shaft drawing showing the dimensions of the enclosure required. By incorporating our drawings into your plans all of the sub-contractors will be on the same page and it will simplify your task going forward.

  5. Same side entry and exit lifts – The footprint for this type lift is the same as that for straight through access. Although the footprint is the same, the measurements for an enclosure will be different due to the handrails across the back of the platform lift carriage. This is just one more illustration of how subtle changes can make a difference in planning. We strongly suggest you contact our specialists for your personal drawing with dimensions, and any other assistance or information before purchasing.

  6. ADA specifications and government specifications (code) for commercial wheelchair lifts – We receive inquiries all the time asking if our products meet ADA code requirements.The American Disabilities Act of 1990 does not approve elevator lifts.  It simply stipulates handicap space requirements, and items of significance that apply to handicap space, such as handrails. You may read the information provided by the Department Of Justice, and we draw your attention to one of their video productions entitled, “Ten Small Business Mistakes.”

    All of our products can be configured to meet all ADA requirements. In addition, our wheelchair elevator lifts can be designed to meet any code requirements including local, state, and national. We actually contact your inspector at your request or suggest that the inspector contact us about your requirements. We then proceed to incorporate code requirements in to our specifications and re-price your proposal accordingly. This process may be repeated several times until everyone involved in the process is satisfied. We think it is better to confront these subjects up front rather than to address them after the fact when the outcome is almost always disappointing.

  7. Custom size lift platforms – On rare occasions your available space just doesn’t seem to work. Before you give up on an elevator lift, consider that we offer custom made handicap lifts. Handicap lifts can be made with custom size platforms that can meet both code, and your space requirements in most cases. Let us know what the dimensions of your space are and we will provide you with a proposal for a lift approved for a handicap space that meets your needs.

  8. Building the elevator lift enclosure – Enclosures are almost never exactly alike due to the surrounding space and access selections. This means that any lift that you order requires careful planning for placement in your enclosure. Since tall tower commercial lifts can weigh up to 1800 pounds, this is no small task. The best approach is to plan the step by step construction of your enclosure to accommodate the delivery and placement of the lift.

    How will the lift be brought to the site? The towers can be up to 18 feet in length making them impossible to get around corners, and difficult to raise upright. You may have to use block and tackle or heavy equipment in some cases. Another subtle concern is that each commercial lift is driven by a worm, or screw drive. These drives must be straight when installed and can easily be warped, making the raising of the tower to an upright position a careful task. This one feature alone means that planning for installation and delivery is critical.

  9. Enclosure wiring and pre-wiring – Wiring an enclosure in preparation for the delivery of the lift is very similar to the wiring of a typical drywall space. Install your wiring prior to setting the lift, and the drywall. An explanation of interlocks appears below this section. Interlocks are usually recessed mounts allowing the wires to run to a control box at the bottom of the control tower. As part of our service we attempt to time the shipment of interlocks to coincide with the construction of the enclosure walls. This allows you to mount the locks prior to the delivery of the wheelchair lift, thereby allowing construction to continue uninterrupted. We provide a step by step process for preparation of installation, which includes wiring diagrams, and drawings with measurements for pre-installed components.

  10. An explanation of interlocks and why they are required equipment - Interlocks are best described as automatic dead bolts. When the lift begins travel up or down, the interlocks engage to prevent the upper and lower enclosure doors or gates from opening. Once the carriage reaches its destination, the interlock, at that level only, disengages to allow exit. The interlocks on all other doors remain in the locked position.

    We get frequent requests to provide a variety of lifts without interlocks. You simply cannot purchase a lift without interlocks. The interlock is essential for the safety of the lift, and must be installed in all commercial settings.

  11. Enclosure access to the emergency manual cranks – When planning the construction for any elevator lift enclosure, it is essential to consider what happens if there is a power outage. All commercial handicap lifts are manufactured with manual cranks, even if they are ordered with a battery backup. A manual crank is viewed as essential safety equipment of last resort. The only reason we mention it here is to remind you to allow for access through the elevator shaft to the crank. On one of our most popular wheelchair lifts, the manual crank access is at the upper right corner of the control tower. Since the tower is ordinarily off to one side of an enclosure, it is not accessible from the inside. Accordingly, a small access door must be placed in the shaft enclosure immediately in front of the manual crank access. This requires careful measurements, but is otherwise a simple procedure.

  12. Handrail Sizes – Many states have different requirements for handrail length. One example is California which requires a 48 inch handrail. We will propose the correct size handrail for your state, but it is important to understand this, and other unique regional requirements.

  13. Constructing the space above the door to the elevator shaft – An often overlooked feature of lift enclosures is the inside area across the top of the enclosure doors. When a the lift moves up or down inside an enclosure, the space between the edge of the carriage and the wall is only a few inches. A straight edge across the top of the door opening would create what we call a “pinch point”, endangering fingers, hands, or objects in transit. Commercial code requires that the top of a door be angled at 45 degrees toward the top to eliminate the potential for a "pinch point" type injury.

  14. How to plan for delivery – Most wheelchair lift towers above 4 feet will be shipped in a horizontal position, secured in a wooden reinforced crate, and tagged with a colored shipping packet. The colored shipping packet will change colors if the crate has been moved from the horizontal position. If you inspect the color packet upon delivery and the color has changed you should refuse delivery pending an inspection of the elevator drive shaft. The drive shaft inside the control tower is a simple screw type drive that must remain straight to prevent warping, so there are brackets at the top for lifting it into position once it is ready for placement.

    Almost all wheel chair lift towers are heavy. The tallest ones may weight 1800 pounds or more. They are delivered in large trucks that have special size forklifts to move the crate in its horizontal position. Generally, the lift will be taken to the nearest freight terminal in your area that has the facilities to handle odd shaped, delicate crates. If you do not have the lift delivered to your site you will need to have a flat bed trailer or truck large enough to carry the length and weight of the crate, which will be loaded onto your vehicle at the freight terminal. Be sure to ask your specialist for the sizes of the crates to be delivered so you can plan accordingly.


Call Our Commercial Wheelchair Lift Specialist Today For ADA Assistance - 1-800-470-8940



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