Home stair lifts were originally designed and invented for older folk to help them ascend and descend their stairs. The oldest recorded stair lift was actually a design for King Henry VIII who was a pretty big guy, even by today's standards. Now, old Henry, being a King and all back in the day of yore, had to do a little jousting in his time and unfortunately, he was injured in one of his tournaments. Poor fellow developed himself quite a limp. Luckily, as befits a King, he had a little spare capital and invested in a manual stairway chair lift to help him up and down the glorious stairways at Whitehall Palace in London. Maybe it was more of a stairway throne lift than a stairway chair lift, but anyway, the fact remains that he has the oldest recorded mobility device which was a "chair....that goeth up and down" his stairs. His, of course was pulled by a bunch of servants using a nice block and tackle system, which obviously isn't going to go down well in today's day and age.
Anyway, fast forward to the 1920s when one C.C. Crispen - an amateur self-taught engineer - took it upon himself to help out a friend who was disabled but still lived in a two story house. Now, our Mr Crispen, it must be said, saw a small market for a device to help the disabled. He formed a company and started selling what he termed the Inclinator. Polio is possibly as much to blame as old age for the initial take up of the Inclinator since in the early and mid 1900s, the disease was much more common than it is today because up until the 1950s there was no effective vaccine against the disease.
Polio is a viral infection, very acute and basically is an inflammation of the spinal cord. Though many people who are infected show no symptoms at all, about 1% of people who do get Polio get it really badly. In these cases, the virus manages to enter the central nervous system and it infects and destroys the motor neurons. In plain and simple language, this means that people are left in various states of disability and paralysis. In fact, spinal Polio is the most common form of the disease and it often leaves people with asymmetric paralysis (meaning only one side of the body is affected), particularly of the legs. Prime candidates, as harsh as it sounds, for purchasing an Inclinator or Stairway Chair Lift.
From the humble beginnings, the home stair lift has become an indispensable aid to those who have difficulties walking up and down stairs be it from old age and simply being a little unstable on their feet to having disabilities that make it impossible to climb stairs unaided.
There are now many companies that manufacture home stair lifts or stairway chair lifts. Stannah Stair Lifts, Sabre Stair Lifts, Dolphin Lifts and the original Inclinator Company of America to name but a few. The original advert for the Inclinator is interesting and still almost just as relevant today as it was back in the mid 1950s. The caption reads “To make Life Easier for polios and other handicapped people” with a longer piece of text that reads “Stair-climbing presents serious hazards to all who are afflicted with “polio”, impaired heart action, arthritis, and the infimities of age. Where physical disabilities make stair-cilming distressing or tiresome these modern conveniences are a necessity, permitting the invalid to avoid painful and fatiguing efforts.”
That pretty much says it all. But we have come a long way and these days, home stair lifts come in a variety of shapes and sizes and can be installed on straight stairways, curved stairways and even on spiral stairways. Most home stair lifts these days are battery operated and need recharging. The runners on which the stair lift actually sits and glides are usually installed onto the stairs themselves so that you don't have to worry about damage to your walls. This also has the added advantage of allowing the stair lift to be fitted on either side of a stairway – against the wall or against the bannister. The footrests on some home stair lifts are often equpped with pressure sensitive surrounds to stop the chair from moving if it should come into contact with anything or get stuck at any point and there is always a safety brake which makes sure that the lifts do not travel too fast on the decent. Obviously safety is paramount for these devices and you will probably have a swivel chair fitted which allows you to easily get in and out of your chair. The chair will swivel so you are not facing down or up the stairs but are at a right angle – this is again a safety feature to make sure you don't fall off the chair.
Purchasing a home stair lift is a big investment for anyone but one that will pay you back time and time again in safety and convenience.