A Step in the Right Direction

October 29, 2021

Stairs, they are often used as metaphorical references to life's ups and downs. Everyone relates to songs, movies and stories that romanticize going up the stairs as positive motion or going down the stairs as a stumble in life. But the reality of stairs is that they are found in almost every building and are not accessible for all abilities.

For those with mobility challenges, stairs are literally an obstacle to overcome. In commercial and public buildings, government standards are in place to ensure there are accessible alternatives to stairs, but standard homes are typically built with stairs as the only option to move between levels. Whether the home is 2 stories, has a basement, or has just a 3-step entrance to a bungalow, there is a requirement to take a step up or down.

If your current space presents the challenge of making a set of stairs accessible for you or your loved one, you may want to consider the following solutions.

Solutions to Consider:


Internally, the ideal solution is to bypass stairs altogether by installing an elevator. This may not be practical for everyone; elevators can be a major investment structurally and financially. But if this is the right solution for you, do your research! Along with the assistance of you contractor you will probably have to engage an architect or engineer to ensure structure stability.


Ramps creates a smooth and elevated path for wheelchairs, walkers or other mobility aids. There are many options for pre made ramps in various materials or you can consider having a customized ramp built for your structural and style preferences.

Externally, the type of ramp you use will be determined by the number of stairs and the slope they present. For instance, if you have an external entrance that has six or more stairs, the slope can be too steep to navigate independently. If this is the case, the ramp will need to be broken down into manageable pieces like a switchback style.

Internally, ramps can easily replace stairs in the architectural design of a new built home. If you are considering a ramp to replace your current staircase in an existing home, it will depend on how steep the slope is due to the number of stairs. If the slope is too steep and space is a constraint, a ramp may not be the ideal solution.

Vertical Platform Lifts (VPSs)

VPLs have a platform base that is powered by a drive mechanism that moves in a straight up and down position much like an elevator. Where an elevator solution may not be practical, this may be the alternative solution. Most VPL's are designed to move between 2 floors internally or externally. A platform lift is ideal for individuals who need to remain in a wheelchair or use another mobility device as they can operate the device independently. There are various types to choose from to accommodate different needs and budgets.

Stair Lifts

Stair lifts are typically attached directly to your stair treads. The stair chair folds out of the way when not in use, leaving plenty of open space for other family members. Stair lifts can be curved or straight or even customer designed for any unique staircase. There is no wheelchair accessibility for stair lifts, those who need to remain in a wheelchair or use another mobility device may need assistance getting on the stair lift safely and operating the device.

Stair climbers

Stair climbers are specifically built for wheelchairs. These devices have mechanical lifting arms that are attached to the wheelchair frame. The device is assisted by an attendant to guide the unit. The stair climbers work on curved, angled, or straight staircases and work internally and externally. Stair climbers are made for most stair structures but it's best to ensure the staircase in your home is stable enough to handle this device.

Grab bars or handrails

All staircases should have a handrail on at least on side but preferably both sides regardless of the mobility assisted devices attached. Even if you have a one or two step incline, a handrail provides extra stability and support.

Finally, we strongly recommend you consult a professional contractor to assist you in determining the best solution. Experienced contractors will ensure you are not installing an expensive solution that is beyond your needs but rather, they will find the right solution to meet your needs within your budget. And most importantly of all, they are obligated to ensure your solution is safe.

"If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away."

-Henry David Thoreau


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